Beginning with the prayers of a few, and in a humble building without indoor plumbing, Maplewood Church will celebrate 50 years as a house of worship in the Sedalia community this weekend.
Now located on 13 acres on state Route O near Smithton, the church has blossomed into several ministries and buildings that includes a membership of 250 people.
The church will celebrate Saturday and Sunday with an appropriate theme, “Faith is the Victory.”
A Bible study in the 1960s by four couples — Dr. Ira and Dorothy White, Dr. Bob and Mary Boatright, Mr. and Mrs. John Grose and Mr. and Mrs. Lyle Wells — prompted the searching for a place to assemble. Mary Boatright found the Farmers’ Association Grange Hall on Maplewood Road, near state Route TT and U.S. Highway 50, and asked if they could use it rent free.
Longtime Maplewood member Norma Sumner said she couldn’t understand why anyone would want to meet there at the time. Sumner, who would go on to become a founding member with her husband Jim, added that the building didn’t have much to offer.
“There was a Maplewood Homemaker’s Club in the area that a lot of us women went to,” Sumner said. “The club was responsible for the old Grange Hall, and Mary came there one day and said ‘would there be a chance that we could use the Grange Hall to meet for a church?’ I sat there and I thought in my mind ‘who would ever go to church there?’ There was no water, there was an outhouse. It was so primitive …”
She added that when she thought of church, she thought of “carpeted floors and cushy pews.”
“Who would ever go to church there?” she noted. “As a club we gave her consent that they could possibly use it.”
God works in mysterious ways and soon the Sumner family was involved in the helping the small congregation.
“It wasn’t long until guess who was down there helping removing the dead mice, and all they’d left behind, and papering walls and cleaning?” she added. “I thought, this is a community responsibility. I need to help do this, not thinking that I would be going to church there at all. I’m sure the Lord and the Holy Spirit just directed me in some way.”
At the time, she and her family were attending another church in town, but one Sunday out of curiosity, she visited the little church at Grange Hall.
“Well, Jim didn’t want to go,” she said smiling. “So, I took my two boys and we went to church there. Then, as I recall, the next Sunday we all went, and that was the start …”
The Rev. L. Edward Brown said that in 1970 the existing sanctuary was built at the present location on state Route O. In 1980 the Church Education Center was constructed next to the sanctuary and in 2001-04 the Recreational Outreach Center, or ROC, was built.
Brown, who has ministered at the church for 25 years, added that in 1988 or ‘89 the Applewood Christian School began on the grounds and continues today. The private school runs independent from the church and provides classes for kindergarten through 12th grade. It has a student body of 67 children.
There are many amusing stories of the young church and its members as it grew through the years.
“You know this is bittersweet for me, because my husband had a light stroke two years ago, and he’s the one who could really tell the stories,” Sumner added with her voice breaking.
Mr. Sumner is now in a nursing home, but Brown said they hoped to have him in church this Sunday for the celebration.
Maplewood Administrative Assistant Dharma León said she was writing a skit for the event and had several humorous stories to tell about the history of the church. She told the story of Miss Dorothy White, a very dignified lady, who tried not to use the outdoor facilities at the Grange Hall.
“This was 1965, 1966,” León said. “Somehow, that day Miss Dorothy White had to use it, but there was a little visitor there; a groundhog that popped out. They suddenly see Miss Dorothy White running out of the outhouse!”
There is also the story of mice that lived inside the piano.
“There were eight quarts of mouse remains in the piano,” León added laughing. “Miss Mary Boatright could play the piano, and she was going to be the one to accompany the hymns. But there had been mice living in it. So, they had the tuner come and replace the felt, because the mice had chewed it, and (he) tuned it, and replaced strings and keys. Then she was able to play the piano for many years.”
During the Grange Hall days, Roy Poynter and John White would drive an old green van called the “Green Hornet” to pick up children and families for church. The old van also subbed as a classroom.
“That’s where the youth Sunday School would meet, because there was no more space in the basement,” León added. “Winter, summer, they would meet inside the bus. It was their youth room.”
When the sanctuary was finally built they had a special place in back called the Beehive. It was a spiral staircase, decorated with bees, with a small landing. Sunday School teachers Sumner and Mary Boatright found they could take two children at a time and teach them about the Bible.
“It was Mary’s idea to call it the Beehive,” Sumner said. “During the the Sunday School hour, we would give two children an opportunity to come in there and we would tell them a Bible story. We just made it a neat little place.”
A half a century of helping at the church has been but a fraction of time for Sumner and her family.
“You look back over 50 years, and you think that’s a long, long time, but it goes so quickly,” she added. “It has been such a blessing in my life to have been able to raise our two sons here. There have been thousands who have walked through those doors, you can’t imagine all the walks of life that have been here.”
Sumner now has a legacy of four generations involved in church.
“That’s probably been my greatest joy,” she added.
“It is a wonderful church,” Brown said. “I have thanked the Lord many times for bringing us here. It is the sort of church we were praying for. It has been a wonderful group of people through the years. I’m very thankful to have been blessed to be part of it.”
The 50th anniversary celebration at Maplewood Church, 25396 state Route O, will be hosted at 7 p.m. Saturday in the ROC building with video highlights and speakers. On Sunday from 8:30 to 10 a.m. there will be a brunch. At 10 a.m. in the sanctuary there will be a program with various speakers along with special music reflective of different time periods in the church’s history. The public is invited to attend both days.
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 826-1000 ext. 1481 or @flbemiss.