Jun 03, 2022 | Verna Colliver

On May 22, 2022, Lansdale First United Methodist Church, Lansdale PA, celebrated its 150th Anniversary with a special worship service.  It was followed by a brunch and a historical presentation by Pat Rieker, a researcher and trustee of the Lansdale Historical Society. The church was established in 1871 as the Methodist Episcopal Church of Lansdale, but the 150th Anniversary celebration was delayed a year because of the pandemic. The logo was designed by Cassie Nickerson, a young adult member of the congregation, and with the assistance of Luann Ingram, a banner was created. The theme, “150 Years and Our Story is Still Unfolding,” gave the congregation a focus and direction for the years ahead.

Citation Presentation. PA Rep. Steve Malagari (left) with Verna Colliver and Pastor Warner.

Rev. Steward Warner, who began his appointment as lead pastor of Lansdale First UMC in July of 2021, encouraged and supported the celebration plans as Verna Colliver, Luann Ingram and others began to plan their anniversary event. The church also chose to participate in the celebrations that Lansdale planned for their 150th Anniversary of the town’s incorporation as a borough.

During the Anniversary worship service, Verna Colliver reflected on her experiences of God at LUMC and her desire to look ahead the future. In the weeks leading up to the 150th celebration, members were invited to share their reflections and dreams, some of which were shared with the congregation in pre-recorded videos.

District Superintendent Dr. Andrew Foster III, an invited guest, expressed gratitude for the ministry of the congregation over many years and emphasized that the church is more than the building.  Quoting Romans 10:15, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” he reminded the congregation that they, not just the pastor, represent Jesus as they leave the building to minister in the community and beyond.

Pastor Stew then read a note from Rev. William Lentz who recently served as Interim Pastor from 2019 to 2021. He offered congratulations, noting that 150 years in ministry is a “testament to the faith, hope and love of all the souls who have come and gone through its doors that the church on North Broad Street still stands firm in its commitment to doing no harm, doing what is good, and staying connected to God’s immeasurable love.”

Former pastor Rev. Dr. Maxime Jaouen and his wife Sally were welcomed as guests at the celebration service. During his pastorate from 2006-2017 the congregation celebrated its 140th Anniversary.

For the Children’s Sermon, Pastor Stew, engaged the children using the well-loved stuffed animals—Tigger, Eeyore, and Pooh Bear. Though the message of Winnie the Pooh, who embraced and welcomed difference, seemed more familiar to the older congregants, the children got the message as well.

Pastor Stew Warner with the children

In his sermon, Pastor Stew continued the message that accepting change and welcoming others was part of the early church as well. His sermon, “Following God’s Vision Part II,” based on Acts 16:9-15, was a call to embrace the vision that led Paul to the place where he met Lydia, a woman who heard Paul’s message and opened her home to support the ministry that was reaching out to others beyond the community in Jerusalem. He challenged the congregation to move forward, as the church in the past moved from one building into a larger one to accommodate the growing congregation, and to build on the legacy of past leaders.

Using the words of the prophet Isaiah, Pastor Stew called the congregation to dream of what’s coming and look for the opportunities God gives us to go forward:  “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:15a) He ended the sermon declaring that the best days are ahead and that God has called and empowered the congregation to be open to the vision of what lies ahead.

Lansdale First UMC Cornerstone

After the worship service, a tasty brunch catered by West Main Diner was served in Stringer Auditorium for more than seventy guests.  Artifacts and photos of the past years of the congregation’s growth and ministry, from the first building at Third and Walnut Streets to the current church building at 300 North Broad, were on display. The cornerstone of the original building was also displayed on a desk retrieved from the building before its planned demolition. Though the stone has deteriorated, the name, M. E. CHURCH 1871, is still clear.

A notable item on display was the commemorative citation from PA State Representative, Roosevelt Polite, in recognition of the 100th Anniversary of the Lansdale United Methodist Church in 1971. Fifty years later, on Sunday, May 22, 2022, PA State Representative Steve Malagari was on hand to present a similar citation for our 150th Anniversary.

The final piece of the celebration featured a visual history of the church, created and narrated by Pat Rieker of the Lansdale Historical Society. Using photographs, maps and other records, she showed the growth of the first church in the village of Lansdale near the train station from its beginning at Third and Walnut Street to its current location on North Broad Street. It was a meaningful moment for the congregation to see their story unfold over the 150 years. As Pat Rieker ended the presentation she repeated the theme of the celebration, “Our Story is Still Unfolding.”