Focus on Fostoria - Sept_28_03

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Fostoria Focus - September 28, 2003

First Christian Church Dedicates Building Improvements,
Offers Thanks to Rev. Wise
By Leonard Skonecki
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A line from the prayer of invocation at Fostoria's First Christian Church Sunday September 21 said, "Help us dedicate our lives anew into the vision which You gave us."

Dedication was much on the minds of the congregation that day.

First Christian has just completed a major physical renewal that includes a handicap ramp, handicapped accessible bathroom, new sound system, repainted sanctuary, new library and prayer room, new choir robes, resealing of the parking lot it shares with Hoening Funeral Home and a new copier.

First Christian is also transforming itself spiritually. Pastor Mark Harris is taking over for interim Pastor Alonzo Wise.

When Rev. Wise came here just shy of four years ago, the church was in a tight spot, both financially and spiritually. The church faced the dire prospect that it might not survive.

"In the fall of 1999, First Christian was at a crossroads. At that time, the Lord gave us Pastor Wise," Joe Elchert, chairman of the board of trustees, said. "Our church hasn't been the same since.... We are in better shape financially, spiritually and physically because of Pastor Wise."

"When I came here, I had some goals," Pastor Wise said. "First, I wanted to pump some new life into the church. Second, I wanted to get the building into shape. And third, I wanted to get the church back on its feet financially."

Much of the money that has enabled First Christian to get back on its feet and make the renovations came from the sale of the parsonage.

In addition, Pastor Wise served three years and seven months in Fostoria without a salary.

Not only was the church renewed spiritually, but First Christian was able to afford its building renovation. In addition, seven young people of the congregation received financial assistance toward educational and cultural pursuits.

In March, Pastor Wise celebrated 54 years in the ministry. He and his wife, Margaret, pastored in Virginia and Kenton before coming to Fostoria.

Pastor Harris picks up where Pastor Wise leaves off. He comes to the ministry after a career in public service. He currently works with Goodwill.

"We pray for Mark as he takes over the pastoral responsibilities," Pastor Wise said during the service.

Pastor Wise officiated at the dedication portion of the service.

"We come today to be thankful for our people; for their faith, for their courage, for their contributions of time and labor and finances that made possible that made all these things possible," he said.

First Christian Church has been a part of Fostoria's spiritual life since 40 charger members enrolled on April 20, 1890. The church's first house of worship was a rented hall on Center Street.

The church faced difficulties before. The present church was built at Union and Center Streets in 1896. On March 1, 1903, a fire gutted the interior.

The church was rebuilt and remains strong today. Trustee Larry Ward said that when they had the church inspected, the building inspector said he'd rarely seen a building so old in such fine condition.

The building isn't all that's in good condition. First Christian Church turned a happy corner during Pastor Wise's tenure. They now look forward to a bright future for the congregation.

Pastor Harris had that future in mind when he talked about the scholarships the young people of the congregation received.

"Those people and this church will grow and reach out and touch people because of what you have done for them," he said.

At the offertory, a little girl in pigtails clattered a small handful of coins into the collection plate.

Perhaps some day, thanks to the improvements and commitment to the future dedicated September 21, she will grow and reach out and touch people through the life of the First Christian Church.