More than 100 years ago, M.D. Hammack and the Rev. T.A. Smith started Free Methodist home meetings in the Mississippi River community of Madison, Illinois, near St. Louis. These meetings led to a society recognized by the Free Methodist Church in 1915.
The congregation moved in 1956 to the former Central Christian Church in neighboring Granite City and became Central Free Methodist Church, a name that continued for many years after the 1975 move into a newly constructed building in the nearby village of Pontoon Beach.
The congregation — now known as Solid Rock Community Church — celebrated its rich legacy and plans for the future with two services and a luncheon Sept. 20. The centennial celebration included a liturgy of rededication that recognized the scriptural call to be “a house of prayer for all nationalities who worship as one.”
Pastor Michael Aden based his morning message on 1 Corinthians 3:10-17, which discusses building a foundation through Jesus Christ.
“Foundations are important. Some 40 years ago, the foundations of this very building were laid, and they were laid with great care, because those foundations are what hold up the building. They support the structure,” said Aden, an ordained elder who also has an educational and professional background in engineering and business administration. “The longevity of this structure depends on the foundation.”
Aden said that Hammack and Smith built a foundation on Jesus Christ, and despite the congregation changing locations, “the foundation of the church never moved.” Instead of only looking back to the “good old days,” he encouraged the Solid Rock to remember “that foundation is the very same today, and it will be the very same in the future.”
In the afternoon service, longtime members and former pastors shared memories. The congregation served as a launch pad and training ground for the ministry of many Christians.
“I was figuring it out,” acknowledged U.S. Army Chaplain John Hubbs, who served as the church’s pastor from 1991 to 1994 immediately after finishing seminary. “There were people who had been Christians twice as long as I’d been alive.”
Other pastors arrived with extensive ministry experience, but they found new challenges.
“The first Sunday here I realized there was nobody here that plays the piano. … I thought, ‘I’ve never played the piano for church. I can’t do this, Lord,” said Ward Sussenbach, pastor from 2007 to 2009. “God told me: ‘You can do better than anyone else here.’”
In subsequent pastoral assignments, Sussenbach again was called upon to use the piano skills he honed at the Solid Rock.
The congregation is in the midst of a revitalization process that includes community outreach efforts and a new partnership with the Ministerio Apostolico Plantio del Señor in St. Louis. Revitalization steps include:
- the work of prayer to make efforts fruitful
- the ministry of Christ across culture to underserved people groups such as the area’s growing Hispanic population
- the prayerful recruitment of five families with a love for God and the desire to serve others
- a culture of unconscious evangelism (identifying those who need Christ, interceding for them, intentionally intersecting their lives for Christ, inviting them to Christ and His church, and involving them into the life and work of the church)
- a Christ presence in the community through social, ecumenical and service venues
- the courageous embrace of every opportunity to proclaim Jesus.