MARSING -; The Marsing Church of the Nazarene celebrates 90 years of ministry in the community and surrounding Owyhee County, Sunday March 16. The observance consists of a special 10 a.m. "Celebration Service" and a 5 p.m. "Homecoming Concert." The public is invited to attend these special events. The church is located at 12 Second Avenue West.
The Marsing church was founded in 1917 when James L. and Annie Maxwell, who lived in the Claytonia area to the southwest of Marsing, opened the first Sunday School and Bible Study in their home. Shortly afterward, with the help of neighbors who provided volunteer labor, a school house was built on the Maxwell property. The school building was also used for worship services.
The Maxwells contacted Dr. H. Orton Wiley, president of Northwest Nazarene College, and N.B. Herrell, District Superintendent of the Idaho-Oregon District, Church of the Nazarene about holding a special meeting for their new congregation. Herrell, himself, came out the following Sunday, March 17, 1918. He preached in the morning and again in the evening. The congregation was officially organized as a Nazarene church at the close of the evening service. There were 10 charter members -; Elmer and Anna Pershall, E.P. and Susan Andrus, Elgie and Maud Andrus, James L. and Annie Maxwell, and Ruby and Velda Maxwell.
Miss Olive M. Winchester, Vice President of Northwest Nazarene College, then held Sunday services until a pastor could be obtained. On May 19, 1918, Rev. Lewis E. Hall, a senior student preacher at NNC, was appointed to be the congregation's first pastor. The next several pastors were senior students from the Nampa college.
Getting from Nampa to Marsing wasn't easy for the young pastors, who seldom had cars of their own. One student pastor reported that the young pastors usually took the electric urban trolley that ran from Nampa through Caldwell, out to Greenleaf and then on to Sunny Slope, where it ended just below Lizard Butte. "I would walk on down to the river," he wrote, "then cross over the Snake River on the ferry. There was always someone at the landing to meet me and take me to the Maxwell home." The young pastors would stay with the Maxwell family for the weekend, then return to college by the same route.
On Feb. 23, 1919, the construction of a church building was proposed and $715 was pledged. An additional $299 was raised the following Sunday, and building materials were purchased. A location on the northwest corner of the E.P. Andrus farm was chosen, and volunteers again went to work. The new church was dedicated on April 20, 1919, and called Claytonia Church. The building was valued at $1,823.60, with an indebtedness of $345.60, which was paid in full on May 31 of the same year.
In 1921 the Marsing brothers donated lots for the church and asked the congregation to move their church into town. A basement was constructed for Sunday School rooms and the church was set on its new foundation in Marsing in 1922. The original building had to cross two irrigation canals on its way into town. James L. Maxwell, who was a carpenter as well as a farmer, built pews for the church that remained in use until 1975. Gas lamps hung from the ceiling until electricity came to Marsing in 1926.
Marsing was growing and so was the church. It soon became apparent that full time pastors were needed, and plans were laid for the construction of a parsonage next to the church. The congregation held a "Hallelujah March" in which an open Bible was placed on the altar and people came forward to present their gifts. As a result, $850 was raised. With the help of volunteer labor yet again, James L. Maxwell supervised the project, and the parsonage became a reality. That building now houses the Marsing Resource Center next to the church.
In 1952, while Rev. Omar Barnhouse was pastor, the church again broke ground for an extended basement between the original building and the parsonage. The basement was roofed over with plans to place a new sanctuary over it at some future point. This took place in 1956 when Rev. Lee Hopkins was pastor. The original building and the new sanctuary were tied together, thus creating the church building that exists today.
Through the 90 years of its existence, the congregation has enjoyed the ministry of 31 pastors, with Bill O'Connor, the current pastor, beginning his ministry in August of 2001. Since his arrival the congregation has done all-inclusive remodeling, creating an expanded fellowship hall, modernizing the sanctuary, and re-doing or redecorating almost every room in the facility. They have also repainted the entire facility and have made extensive changes to the exterior of the building, giving it a more contemporary appearance.
Now, with 90 years of ministry behind them, and with a positive future ahead, the congregation invites the public to join them in celebration of the past 90 years, and the anticipation of the ministry that lies ahead.
The 10 a.m. celebration service features media presentations highlighting the church's history and detailing the work done on the facility over the past seven years. There will be special music and a message by Dr. Steven Borger, District Superintendent of the Intermountain District, Church of the Nazarene. It is hoped several former pastors will also be on hand.
The 5 p.m. Homecoming Concert features five returning artists who have ministered to the congregation during pastor O'Connor's nearly seven years of pastoral ministry. Linnie Doyle opens the concert with some toe-tapping Southern Gospel music. She is followed by The Hollys, a husband and wife duo, and solo artist Nick Hylton. Joyful Sound, a men's quartet, will also sing, and the evening closes with solo artist Paul Ellis, who presented the church's first gospel concert some six years ago.
*; Pastor Bill O'Connor has served almost seven years as the pastor of the Marsing Church of the Nazarene.