FUMC Oroville: Celebrating 150 years of ministry

January 17, 2008

Editor’s Note: Your church’s story is a fascinating one. At Instant Connection, we want to encourage you to KNOW it … and to SHARE it! Here is one such account.


By Margaret Brown

FUMC Oroville

Throughout the year 2007 First United Methodist Church (FUMC) of Oroville celebrated 150 years of ministry in Butte County. Beginning in Gold Rush days its history is colorful and interesting.


The Methodist Church Society was organized in 1857 by J. R. Tansey, at which time he was appointed pastor. Prior to that time several itinerant preachers brought “the Word” to miners in the region. Father Taylor and Rev. S.V. Blakesley were known to have preached, where and when they were able, in gambling houses and at mining camps. At the conclusion of their sermons they were often able to obtain a fair amount of money and gold dust from their audiences. A number of other itinerant preachers and/or circuit riders served the area as well.


The First Methodist Episcopal Church of Oroville was incorporated in 1878. Then in 1879 the cornerstone was laid for a church at the corner of Bird and Lincoln Streets. Eventually that church was deemed inadequate for future needs so groundbreaking for a new church at Lincoln and Robinson Streets started in April, 1910, with dedication taking place in March, 1911. The third and present church got underway with the purchase of 6.24 acres at 45 Acacia Avenue. Accomplished in stages, the first phase included offices, restrooms, and three classrooms that were completed in April, 1963. The second phase produced classrooms, the Fellowship Hall, the Fireside Room, and the kitchen; they were consecrated on December 11, 1964. Worship services were held in the Fellowship Hall until September 26, 1965 when the Sanctuary was consecrated. When it was no longer being used for worship services, the Fellowship Hall became known as the Social Hall. The entire church was dedicated, debt free, on November 18, 1979.


To honor our earlier Methodists and acknowledge their ministries, we decided to have a year-long celebration. Plans for the anniversary activities were developed by a creative and energetic committee with Lay Leader Alma Short serving as chairperson.


One group from the committee designed and executed four new banners. All were on white backgrounds with black crosses. One depicted a circuit rider on horseback. Each of the other three showed one of the three Oroville Methodist churches. The banners were on display in the Sanctuary throughout much of 2007.


During the year several activities were sponsored by FUMC to include other denominations. There was a picnic in a local park. It was attended by members from St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Trinity Bible Church, First Congregational Church, and St. Thomas’ Catholic Church. At another time a luncheon was shared with Taylor Memorial CME and St. Paul’s Episcopal churches in the Social Hall at FUMC. During 2007 the First Congregational Church and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church also celebrated 150 years of ministry in Oroville.


In 1982, when FUMC celebrated 125 years of Christian service, an historical booklet was compiled. Titled, “Faith of Our Fathers,” our 150th Anniversary Committee utilized it during Sunday morning worship services. Reading selections from the booklet each Sunday, Alma and others were able to share the church’s history with the congregation.


An especially enjoyable focus of the celebration took place on a number of Sundays when pastors who had served Oroville FUMC in the past joined us as guest preachers. They shared some of their memories with us, provided good sermons, and joined us for a potluck luncheon after the services.


Throughout the year on Sundays a pictorial history of the past was presented in the Social Hall via DVD. The DVDs were also shown during some of our regular and special dinners. As new and different pictures became available they were incorporated into the show. Collections of historical albums were on display, as well as framed pictures of the earlier churches and activities. One of our resident artists sculpted figures of a circuit rider and his horse. These accompanied the albums, etc. and for several months were on display in the historical State Theater.


December ushered in the final activities of the Anniversary celebration. On December 7 the community was invited to an Open House and a free soup and salad supper. The celebration was very well attended by church and community members. There was also a good representation by local and out-of-town pastors. Special guests for the evening were Bishop Beverly Shamana and District Superintendent (D.S.) Benoit Silva-Netto.


Following the meal a one-act play was presented that told some of the church’s history. Hmong FUMC members were part of the cast. Dressed in their native costumes they entertained with some musical selections in their own language. The play was well received and enhanced by some backdrops created by congregational artists.


On December 8 FUMC participated in the community Christmas Light Parade with a lighted float that emphasized 150 years of ministry in Oroville. Youth and older members together constructed it and youth accompanied the float by walking alongside it in the parade. Riding on the float were Pastor Rochelle Frazier and Associate Pastor Chuckua Yang.


The year-long celebration concluded on December 9 with D.S. Benoit Silva-Netto joining us as our guest preacher. Following the worship service he and his wife joined the congregation for a prepared luncheon. This was an enjoyable and fitting finale for a Church known for its hospitality.