Old documents provide glimpse into Veradale church’s start
What would become the Veradale United Church of Christ began 100 years ago as many others did, with a group of neighbors getting together in someone’s home to discuss forming a church.
The neighbors in Veradale, however, had the additional complication that they did not all come from the same denomination. After much discussion, it was decided to form under the Congregational Church. The group began meeting in the old South Trent Grade School and when the school moved to a new brick building at Sprague and Progress and became the Vera School, the church members followed. “They met in the school until they got the church built,” The Rev. Linda Crowe said.
In those early days a church member drove what was referred to as the “Gospel Wagon,” picking people up to bring them to services. “It was quite a different way of life,” Crowe said.
Crowe has been digging through old church records in preparation for the celebration of the church’s 100th anniversary Oct. 23 and 24. Most of the church records from 1925 to 1945 are missing, but she was able to find scrapbooks, reports, pictures and records from other time periods.
In an envelope is the original deed showing the purchase of land at Sprague and Progress in 1917 for $1,000, a tidy sum in those days. A new stucco church with a bell tower was completed on the property in 1920. It was dedicated as the Vera Community Congregational Church.
The grandson of the Rev. William Westwood, who led the church from 1940 to 1948, has donated documents and pictures. A restored stained glass window from the original stucco church has been loaned to the church for the event.
Crowe is able to look at a group photo of church members taken in 1928 and find people she knew much later in life. “A couple of people are folks I did memorial services for,” she said.
After 16 years in the pulpit Crowe is as much a part of church history as any of the longtime families. “In some cases I have known four generations of the same family in this church,” she said.
The church became the United Church of Christ of Veradale in 1964, several years after several small denominations, including the Congregational Church, joined together to form the United Church of Christ.
In 1965 the congregation moved to its current location at 611 N. Progress Road after outgrowing its old church. The current church originally sat on five acres. “We ended up selling that section of land to the west a few years back,” Crowe said. The proceeds from the sale were used to add on a fellowship hall and expand the kitchen, which made church events like the annual harvest dinner easier to host. “Before we built the fellowship hall you moved the furniture out of the sanctuary and set up tables.”
Last year the church’s bell tower was redone. “It was a later addition to this building,” she said. “It was built of plywood and needed replacing.” The new tower was designed to fit the building and ihas a giant rope that children take turns pulling on Sunday mornings.
The church may no longer have a Gospel Wagon making the rounds, but there is still a lot of history in the church sanctuary. The altar and pulpit are from the original church. “It’s a mix of old and new.”
The church has about 60 people who attend services regularly. Two church members have been there for 70 years. Some people come to the church because of its small size, Crowe said. “They got lost in a big church,” she said. “It definitely has more of a family feel to it.”