- Associated Press - Sunday, September 20, 2015

DOWNEY, Iowa (AP) - On a foggy October day in 1965, Mary Ann Meder said “I do” at Downey Baptist Church, 100 years after the church was founded.

Meder, 68, said her marriage to Terry Meder is one of many memories she made during the past 60 years at Downey Baptist Church, which will celebrate its 150th anniversary this month.

She said she began attending Sunday school at Downey when she was 6 or 7, and that her faith still is rooted in the small, brick church located south of West Branch in the unincorporated town of Downey.

“It’s been my spiritual home,” Meder told the Iowa City Press-Citizen (http://icp-c.com/1QJNRbq).

The church began many years earlier, in September 1865, just after the close of the Civil War. The Rev. Dexter P. Smith organized a 13-member congregation that year in Downey, which had a population of about 200 people, according to the church’s own records. Roughly four years later, the congregation erected a church at a cost of $2,000, where its members met for the first time just a few weeks before Christmas in 1869.

The history reads that the church burned down in 1917 while a janitor was burning grass around the building. That same year, the congregation erected a new brick building that stands in Downey today. In 1940, the church was dubbed “The Little Brick Church on the Hill” in a song Edith Cornwall Cameron and Alice Gates Coxon wrote for the church’s 75th anniversary.

The church now has roughly 30 to 40 regular members, including Meder, who often plays the piano during church services.

Though people have come and gone during the past 60 years, Meder said the church has seen few changes.

Meder and others will hold a 150th anniversary celebration Sept. 20 at the church, where they will dedicate a new stained-glass window and hold a luncheon and a program featuring live music.

The Rev. Bruce McNeely, who became Downey’s pastor in 2008, said Downey has maintained a small congregation throughout the years and multiple generations of many families have worshipped there. He said the church, though small, has persevered for more than a century by maintaining a caring congregation with a strong sense of fellowship.

“It speaks volumes about the church’s character,” he said.

McNeely, 62, who lives in Bettendorf and is also a chaplain of Genesis Hospice Health System, said he enjoys returning to Downey and seeing its congregation on Sundays.

Tim Davison, Downey’s associate pastor, cares for responsibilities at the church such as officiating funerals and weddings during the week while McNeely is away.

Davison, also a retired chaplain of the Iowa City Veterans Healthcare System and the Iowa National Guard, said he and his wife, Gail, became involved with Downey Baptist Church about eight years ago when he filled in for a previous pastor. He said even though he and Gail have lived on a farmstead near Downey for almost 30 years, they knew little about the church until that visit. They returned the following week to give the church another try and “never left.”

“We were always intrigued,” he said.

During the past eight years, Davison has helped with projects at the church, including the installation of a new roof and a ramp outside the building. He said he hopes future congregants will take note of his marks on the church.

“It’s nice to be a part of that,” he said.

His wife, president of the church’s Women’s Mission Society, said she would describe Downey’s congregation as “a very close-knit” family. She said she and her husband were compelled to return after their first visit because of the church’s friendly environment and members.

“It was such a friendly, warm, loving church,” she said.

In recent years, Gail said her friends at the church have supported her through difficult times, including her brother’s death and a surgery she recently underwent. She said that, after the surgery, members of the church visited her and brought her cards, flowers and meals.

“They’re very loving and good and kind,” she said.

___

Information from: Iowa City Press-Citizen, http://www.press-citizen.com/

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide