Academy Methodist Church held its sesquicentennial celebration Sunday, Oct. 21 with a dedication worship service followed by a Living History Festival.
The dedication service began at 10 a.m. and honored those who “built up the community here and shared the good news,” said pastor Janette Saavedra. “They took the torch and passed it on … to accept the forgiveness of Jesus. They gave their testimony.”
Built in 1868 on donated land from John and Susan Simpson, the modest one-room structure is the oldest continuously operating church in Fresno County. Located on North Madsen Avenue, on what used to be the Big Dry Creek area, the church is about 10 miles northeast of Clovis, off Highway 168. The Academy Circle and the Academy Community Foundation, current owners of the property, use it for special services, Bible studies and events.
The sanctuary appears very much now as it did 150 years ago. It can hold approximately 100 people and feels welcoming and cozy. Sunlight streamed into the structure from the eight windows and brought out the richness of the mahogany-colored wooden pews and the interior wooden shutters. As a special touch, glass vases held live flower bouquets at each of the windows.
During the dedication, past preachers and descendants of the original founding families were acknowledged. Several members of the Simpson family were in attendance; Olivia Simpson Ellis was the guest poet. Service participants included Lucy Elgin as Liturgist and Peg Bos as Organist.
When the dedication service concluded, guests were met outside with the delicious smell of barbeque cooking and music from Uncle Ephus “Not Strictly an Old Time String Band,” which lived up to its name by including a washboard as an instrument.
Just steps away from the church, the pavilion hosted the boutique and lunch. History was everywhere you looked. A covered wagon stood by as a reminder of how forefathers travelled. Along with auction items, there was a stain glass window and books, photos, collectibles, artwork, quilts and food items were on display for purchase.
Overa dozen large tables were set up for lunch and they quickly filled up.
“We had a real good turnout,” said Becky Posey, who works in the church office.
Around 200 guests enjoyed the four-hour celebration.