The details below are taken from the dedicated work of the 125th anniversary celebration.
Orange United Methodist Church
"The Friendly Church in the Friendly Town", is committed to know Jesus Christ, and to make him known through witness and service. We offer Christian fellowship and opportunities for spiritual nurture and growth in a caring Christian community.
Historical Sketch of the Church
Taken from the 100th Anniversary booklet.
Additional information added by Nancy Carr.
1760 - 1879
The history of Methodism in Orange dates back to before the days of Orange as a town, according to a historical address given by the Rev. John Wriston on March 12, 1911. We are indebted to that address for many of the dates found in this sketch. Orange became a town in 1810. The first Methodist class was formed about 1760. In 1799, three denominations were in this area and $180 was raised, to be divided by Congregational, Universalist and Methodist societies. They all worshiped in the same building and a committee determined the time each society would occupy the building.
In 1822, a Unitarian was installed as Pastor of the meeting house. The Methodists withdrew and built the first Methodist meeting house with a seating capacity of about 500, in the vicinity of Jones Road. At that time, there were 72 members. In 1852, when the building was very much out of repair, a dispute arose as to the title to the land on which it stood. As no recorded deed could be found, the church was closed and the land reverted back to the owner. The society became discouraged and was disbanded.
About a year later, a second society was formed in West Orange with the Rev. J. Goodwin as the first pastor. Known as the Union Chapel, it continues, with Methodist preachers, until the chapel was destroyed when a keg of powder was placed in the building by their enemies. In 1875, another class was formed in Orange Center, and by 1879, there were 40 members meeting in the Town Hall.
1884 - 1918
The first Official Board meeting record to be found bears the date of April, 1884. At that time, discussions were being held on building a church. A decision was made to purchase the Coolidge place on South Main Street, where the church now stands. They also purchased the house next door to be used as a parsonage. At the time, the house was the last house on the street heading south. The Church Aid Society donated $1,100 for the new church. The Rev. N. M. Caton followed Brother Charlton and raised $1,900, for a total of $3,000.
The foundation of the new church was laid in September of 1889. The vestry was ready by February of 1890. The first service was held on March 2, 1890. The auditorium was opened and the church dedicated on June 26, 1890. Bishop E. G. Andrews preached the dedicatory sermon and the Rev. W. N. Brodbeck of Boston preached in the evening, securing $1,000 in cash and pledges. The cost of the building, including lot, parsonage and furniture for the church was $12,450. For nineteen years, there was a struggle to pay the balance of $7,784. In 1911, under the pastorate of the Rev. John Wriston, the last dollar was paid on the debt after almost $3,000 in interest had been paid.
1918 - 1950
For a few years, the church was free from debt until 1918, when a debt of $4,000 was incurred for repairs to the church. $1,500 of this cost was raised at the time, leaving a debt of $2,600. In 1920, the Board of Home Missions and Church Extension offered $1,500, provided the charge would raise the remaining $1,100, which the Rev. U. H. Layton was able to do. In the spring of 1922, the trustees turned their attention to making repairs necessary to bring the parsonage up to good condition. The old barn was torn down and a garage built. A new furnace and hot water system were installed in the house. Every room was papered and painted, new windows and hardwood floors were put in every room and the kitchen part was shingled, for a cost of about $2,000.
A celebration marking the fiftieth anniversary of the church building began on June 23, 1940 and spanned several days of activities. During Old Home Sunday services, pastors and guests from other churches were welcomed. A reception and tea was held in the vestry following the service. During the week, the Ladies Aid Society and the Youth Group presented special programs. A banquet dedicated to former pastors was held on June 26, 1940, as t cost of fifty cents per person. A historical sketch of the church was presented and greetings from former pastors or members of their families were received.
1950 - 1970
On June 14, 1950, an anniversary banquet was held celebrating the 75th anniversary of the organization of Methodism in Orange, the 60th anniversary of the present building, and the 190th anniversary of the first Methodist class meeting.
The upkeep of the church and parsonage as it entered the second half of the century, placed financial straits on the membership. In order to provide more workable space in the church kitchen, the partition between the kitchen and ladies' parlor was removed, doubling the kitchen area. New cabinets and sinks were installed. The next prime concern was the lack of Sunday School classroom space, as the ladies' parlor had also served as a classroom. A decision was made to construct an addition the full length of the building on the north side and the back of the vestry. This would provide three additional classrooms, a pastor's study, and a furnace and storage room. A new oil- fired furnace replaced the big coal-burning furnace which stood in the center rear of the vestry.
During the period from 1950 through the 1960s, the church operated with part-time and student ministers. Although church attendance increased and a large youth group was active, the financial status of the church was of grave concern to the Administrative Board. A new organ had been purchased, adding to the indebtedness. A decision was made to hire a minister who could devote his services to the church on a full-time basis.
The Rev. Francis Ducharme began his duties at the church in 1963. A new loan was approved, combining the balance of $5,000 on the building loan, the cost of the organ, and other outstanding bills. By the mid 1960's the financial situation was at a crisis point. The Annual Conference was considering closing the church, suggesting that the membership unite with the Congregational Church across the street. At a joint meeting with the two churches, their pastors, and the District Superintendent, the pros and cons of such a move were discussed. No firm decision was made at that time. In 1970, with the Rev. Leupold being assigned to another church, and the disbanding of their church as unthinkable, it was decided to temporarily close the parsonage, hire a part-time minister and institute a financial drive to cover some of the debt. The Rev. Fritz Heinemann, then director of the United Way of Greenfield, served as interim pastor for the next two years. The Rev. Oliver Massey, Chaplain at the Athol YMCA, also provided pastoral services as needed.
1970 - 1990
In 1973, the Orange and South Athol Methodist churches, with their minister the Rev. Harvey Collins, agreed upon a share ministry with each church assuming 50 percent of the pastoral cost. Since Rev. Collins owned his own home and the Orange parsonage needed extensive repairs, the Parsonage Committee and the Board of Trustees recommended that the building be removed. The church paid B. L. Frye Trucking $795 to remove the house. After deciding that the building was structurally sound enough to be moved in one piece, on June 11, 1974, the house slowly rolled up South Main Street to the lights, then up West River Street, Walnut Hill and Lake Mattawa Road to Fairman Road, where it was placed on a new foundation and has since been used as a family dwelling.
Mainly due to money raising projects, bequests and memorial gifts, the church was able to overcome many of its financial difficulties. New carpeting in the sanctuary and pews replacing the stadium-type seating were installed. More than $32,000 was expended over the next fifteen years to refurbish the vestry, repair the church steeple, re-lead the stained glass windows, paint the church, and landscape the grounds.
In 1989, Florence Thompson and other heirs to the estate of Vera Richards and Gertrude Marshall generously contributed their share of the estate to reduce the purchase price, and both churches were able to buy the Richards home at 60 West River Street for $60,000, to be used as a parsonage. Each church made a down payment of $10,000. With an additional $5,000 borrowed to install an upstairs bathroom, provide new wiring and fixtures, and purchase wallpaper and paint, a loan in the amount of $45,000 in the name of both churches was initiated with the Orange Savings Bank. A parsonage trustees committee, with representatives from each church, was appointed to handle financial and other matters concerning the parsonage, with each church contributing equally toward the expense. The new parsonage was dedicated on June 4, 1989, by District Superintendent Caroline Edge.
1990 - Current Day
Although this historical sketch is obviously materialistic and reflects an ongoing challenge to remain financially viable over the years, it is obvious that the church means much more than money and buildings. It is the spiritual life of the church which has sustained it over the years, as reflected in the deep commitment of many people to keep the church going as a witness to Jesus Christ in the community. Without this level of commitment to the Lord's work, the Orange United Methodist Church would have ceased to exist years ago. Many dedicated Christian men, women, and children have contributed much to the spiritual life of the church over the years, and we today owe them a great deal of gratitude. As we enter our second century of ministry from this location on South Main Street, we thank God for His rich blessings and pray for His guidance as we seek to do His will in all things. May the future see our church witnessing boldly to Jesus Christ and serving Him in mission to the community and the world.
In 2010, the church celebrated the 120th anniversary of the first service held. It was also the 200th anniversary of the Town of Orange.
The church had a wonderful float in the Bicentennial Parade. It depicted a lot of the projects we were involved with, such as the Engine Show at the Airport, and the many missions we supported. Our last Engine Show project took place in 2010. Since 2010, we had had several hard working members who have passed away. They are greatly missed for all of their commitment and caring for the church.
We do continue to hold our Harvest Fair, which is always successful. In 2014, we made over $3,000.
Mission wise we do very well for the size of our church. We still support the Loaves & Fishes Meals, Food Pantry, AA meets at the church, hats and mittens for schools, and we also gave a large donation for the preservation of the Peace Statue in Orange.
Now it is our 125th anniversary and as it is said, "All things are possible with God." May that hold true for the future of our church in the years to come.