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St. James Methodist church celebrates 162 years

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In a unique outdoor setting held in the Opera House Gardens

By Jaclyn Schrock

St. James Methodist Church in Central City has met as a congregation, encouraging their community to be united in fellowship with believers in Jesus the Christ, since July 1859. July 12, 2020 celebrating the joyous occasion on their 162 Year Heritage Sunday, they were welcomed to the outdoor setting in the Opera House Gardens, across the street from the church.

The novel COVID-19 virus which has locked down the country and world since early this year has closed schools and all meeting places. Only health care, government, and essential businesses were permitted to to remain open from mid-February until the end of April in most places.

The church buildings may be closed, but the relationships that connect believers in unity are what allows each church family to stay connected with other churches throughout the world. So, the church still lives, loves, and shares sorrows, struggles, and suffering. Founded on the God who provides refuge, peace and security churches encourage relationship all people and with All Mighty God to find strength and endurance through the vastly different times of lockdown.

St. James has continued to meet Sunday mornings online through Zoom, an interactive application that is a step up from a video. St. James and many other churches have used Zoom so families and individuals can see and speak directly to each other, while also enabling the united fellowship of listening to the pastor’s message and music presented in their church or from homes. Together they can read the scriptures and pray corporately without sharing the fears of spreading the very contagious virus. Our times of contagious pandemic are very different in 2020 than any other time plagues and diseases have devastated the world.

July 12, 2020 was the first time St. James met together in person. Colorado has been careful and slow to reopen many meeting places. The gathering included those “safer at home” connected by Zoom. Meeting in the lovely, outdoor gardens uphill and connected to the Central City Opera House across Eureka Street from the church, family groups sat together in the shade with face masks and six feet distance maintained.

The bulletin for the 162nd Anniversary/ Heritage Sunday Courtyard Worship welcomed everyone to St, James United Methodist Church, a God-loving family of faith, inviting all to share in the inspirational worship, fellowship and outreach.

The meditation verse from Psalms 119 was, “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

Special guest Jonathan Hays, a baritone with the Opera Society, led the hymn singing as well as singing some outstanding solos. Familiar hymns included When the Saints Come Marching In, Leaning on the Everlasting Arms, and Above the Hills of Time. One solo Mr. Hays sang was the spiritual Give Me Jesus, sung with rhythmic passion, in his clear vibrant voice.

On an electric piano, rather than the resounding organ inside the church, Wes Broderius accompanied the hymns, and brought tranquility with the gathering together prelude and going forth in discipleship postlude.

Reverend Dr. Scott Schiesswhol called the congregation to worship with readings led by him and a response by the congregation. He encouraged everyone to safely pass on the Peace of Christ with our neighbors. Together we spoke in unison an offering of morning prayers:

“O Lord and Savior, many of us have lost our roots, and in our trouble, seem to be falling away. For our minds are set on the flesh and not on You. Like seed sown among rocks and thorns, the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke us. But You have done what we cannot do: You sent Christ Jesus in human form and divine spirt. Let all of us with ears listen! The old life has gone. The new life has begun. Let us live our lives with a mind on the Spirit of life and peace. May Your harvest be fruitful, in and through us. And may Your word light our path and illumine our way. And may God’s Spirit empower us to be a light for others. We pray in the name of Jesus who taught us to pray… (the Lord’s Prayer) Amen.”

Dr. Scott’s message “Seeking the Bright Light in Darkness” was based on Psalms 119:105-112 and Matthew 13:1-9, 18, and 23. This is the word of God, Thanks Be to God.

He spoke of the ways darkness and worldly sin can confuse, distract and redirect us. We become disabled to spiritual strengths when we easily become imbalanced with worldly concerns. We become more balanced and effective in the world depending on God’s brilliant truth to illuminate hope and healing.

History

The thick-walled stone church building on Eureka Street was completed with stained glass about 1872. The pipe organ was added within a few years. The building is what we can see remains from those original times of worship. However, it is the spirit of God that remains inside hearts and those walls worshiped and prayed with by the people of more than a century and a half of Holy Spirit filled saints thriving in the strong financial times of mining and the dwindled activities in lives still drawn to the city centered on the “richest square mile on earth.”

The stately church building is near the original Gilpin County Court House and the Central City Opera House, the Teller House, and the Masonic Lodge building that housed the old presses and original office of the Weekly Register-Call – the oldest continuously published newspaper in Colorado.

The area endured many challenges to be the longest continuous Christian church in Colorado. There were many Cornish miners who arrived to work the mines in Colorado only to die of cholera. There are large numbers of graves for children who did not survive childhood. The last years of the 1800’s saw a worldwide spread of Tuberculosis, or consumption as it was documented on many death certificates, killing one of every seven lives. World War I shut down most the mines to send workers to war. The Spanish Flu was the challenge, following the WWI, from 1918-20. Very few mines reopened after WWI, due to the flu and then the depression. By WWII mining was again closed and other factory work took laboring women on.

It is clear Central City and the region has struggled to remain vibrant since the early 1900’s. Even though the Central City Opera House was revived, beyond historical saloons, rock shops, antique shops a few restaurants, museums like the steam powered exhibit and tourist train with other entertainments (like the jazz festivals) only the truly hardy kept history and life going here through the years. Casinos have made a revival of activity here since the early 1990’s.

St. James United Methodist Church has continued for 16 years to help many know a sure way to live in Gilpin County.

References

Folklore of the Central City District, Colorado by Caroline Bancroft.

California Folklore Quarterly, Vol. 4, No. 4 (Oct., 1945), pp. 315-342; Published by: Western States Folklore Society. DOI: 10.2307/1495617. www.jstor.org/stable/1495617

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