By Jacque Estes
For Hometown News
Standing inside the paneled walls and arched ceiling of the Union Congregational Church on Daytona Avenue in Holly Hill, it is easy to imagine the founding members, as they attended their first service on Jan. 4, 1914.
The initial church was a one-room sanctuary, with no chancel, and a basement. Initially, the United Church of Christ (Union Congregational) Holly Hill, was organized as Holly Hill Union Church under the Rev. S. L. Jackson, 100 years ago.
"Apparently, there was no church in Holly Hill at the time," said the Rev. Steve Heath.
The structure was built in 1912 by the founding members, who raised the funds for the construction. Church officials agreed the appropriate anniversary year was when the congregation was formed in 1914.
"The church is not a building; it is the congregation that uses the building," the Rev. Heath explained.
The church is planning something special for the first 10 months of 2014, recognizing a decade every month.
"We have only one chance to celebrate our centennial anniversary, so it will be a year long celebration," the Rev. Heath said. "We're attempting every month of this year to do something, and for a church our size, it's a pretty big challenge."
Celebrations began with a birthday party at the January service. Those born in the first decade of celebration, 1914 through 1924, were asked to come up and have their picture taken with the children of the church. Pictures are being taken the first Sunday of every month, with individuals with corresponding birthday years. In January, the parishioners were also given a keychain flashlight to "let your light shine," and the singing of the Gospel children's song, "This Little Light of Mine."
Guest speakers are being added to each month's observance, with Linda Gray Kelly of Theatre Rising Unlimited, scheduled to perform her one-woman show of the women of the Bible on April 6. Just in time for the unpredictable summer-month weather, May will include a disaster awareness event.
A visual sense of history is taking shape in the form of a timeline on the sanctuary walls, illustrating the history of the church and what was going on in the world at the time. Along with the written time-line, there are artifacts, donated by church members.
"We've made it to the World War II era, so we are getting items that people have from their families," the Rev. Heath said.
There are also some cosmetic changes being made, a fresh coat of paint, fencing and hopefully, an LED sign that will replace the existing sign.
"We're trying to spruce it up and get ready for the next 100 years, as best we can," the Rev. Heath said.
The celebration of a decade each month will end in October, just in time for the traditional November events, including the community turkey dinner, something the Rev. Heath said, is looked forward to by many in the community.
"In November and December, after celebrating 100 years in the first 10 months, we are going to focus on where we are going in the future," the Rev. Heath said.
The church has been through many changes, including affiliations, building additions and even a wheelchair lift for those unable to climb the stairs, but one thing hasn't changed - the feeling of community. The word "union" is used literally, and the Rev. Heath repeated the words he opens every Sunday service with: "Whoever you are, wherever you are on life's journey, you are welcome here."