A blessing in disguise

CASSTOWN — Despite the effects the pandemic has had on events throughout 2020, Casstown United Methodist Church is still finding ways to celebrate two significant anniversaries in their history.

“We didn’t want to wait until we were founded for 200 years because it was significant that the sanctuary was 150 years old,” Terry Naas said. “We took advantage of the situation and so, it’s kind of exciting for all of us.”

The celebration, which included celebrating the 190th anniversary of the founding of the church, was originally scheduled for April 26 and was only supposed to be a one-day event. With restrictions due to the pandemic, it has since expanded into a long-term event that has stretched beyond what Naas and other members of the congregation at UMC could have imagined.

Naas had begun putting together a 36-page book with interviews from members of the church in January 2020 and had expanded the project to include photographs and documents from over the years as well as an overall history of the church and various events, activities and societies that had been part of the church, thanks to help from sisters Anne Nishwitz, who specializes in geneaology, and Linda Davidson, who provided over 400 pictures of church activities over the time she has attended Casstown United Methodist Church. While not all photographs are used, several of them came into play in illustrating the years of the church and what it has meant to the community.

“It’s like a composite life story, and what the church means to them, and why they began going there,” Naas said. “We have one lady who is 89 and was one of my children’s — who is 49 — she was his fourth-grade teacher. She’s gone there since she’s been born. She’s the person that’s been a member the longest.”

The woman in question — Nancy Kirk — remarks in the book that she and her brothers “literally grew up at Casstown Methodist,” which was what the church was called back when she was a child in the 1930s and 1940s. She started a Junior Missionary Girls group, participated in a Bible study group called Queen Esther Circle, and after marrying her husband, Roger Kirk, in 1951, joined a church club called Work While You Wait, or WWYW. The group was comprised of wives of military personnel and they sent boxes to servicemen from Casstown Methodist, as well as the community. When Roger returned from serving in the military, he transferred his membership from Lostcreek Church to Casstown Methodist. He has been a member since 1954.

“It’s not a directory, it’s a booklet with stories and pictures, some old, some new,” Naas said.

Naas was also able to put together a 24-foot long display that currently sits in the basement of the church, with the help of several other members who aided her with sorting through documents as well as photographs provided from Davidson. There are also mementos from the church from over the years decorating the display, such as puppets from a puppet ministry and commemorative plates celebrating the church.

“We actually found the home-made torch that was used for a mortgage burning back when the church building was 100 years old,” Naas said. “We have really neat things that are on the table that people can touch and it’s a tactile kind of display.”

According to Naas, much of what became part of the display was discovered during the church’s annual “February Cleaning Day,” where members of the church gathered to organize files and clean up rooms around the church. Despite the pandemic putting changes into the plans for the original celebration, which included Bishop Gregory Palmer of the United Methodist Church West Ohio Conference attending to give the sermon, Naas looks at the positive of things. Because the original celebration had to be altered and the books being printed and delivered were delayed, she was able to put together the display that contains such a rich history of the church, and members are able to come and view it as they please.

“We’re doing things spread out over the year to keep the celebration going, and maybe that’s the way it was supposed to be all along. Not all on one day, but spread out a little bit,” Naas said. “Just like little kids who enjoy having grandma give them a birthday present one day, and mom giving it the next day, and aunt Sally the next week, we kind of spread this celebration out over a longer period of time, and I think we can appreciate it a little bit more.”