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Church celebrates 118th birthday

Congregants participate in party games at Hart Park

Posted: June 19, 2009 6:37 p.m.
Updated: June 20, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Participants, ranging in age from 5 to 90 years old, play games at the First Presbyterian Church's 118th anniversary party.

More than 90 members of the First Presbyterian Church celebrated 118 years of worship and community last Sunday at William S. Hart Park in Newhall.

The church family rejoiced over the its ministry on the same property, at the corner of Newhall Avenue and Market Street in Newhall, with games, singing, conversations, food and birthday cake.

The First Presbyterian Church family was celebrating the fact that it is one of just three churches west of the Mississippi who have continually been praying and working out of the same location for more than 100 years.

Games were the highlight of the party.

Run by the youth of the church and the Rev. Bill Barnes, the games included a balloon bounce, gunny-sack races, throw the beach ball war, three-man ski race and the knot-and-string race.

Most of the party-goers, aged from 5 to 90, participated in the games. If they could walk, they played.

The youths had the kids and adults line up for the gunny-sack race.

"This party was the best," Johnny Howell said. "I had a lot of fun. I enjoyed setting up the games and getting the kids to participate."

The ski race topped it all for Howell.

"Three people were strapped onto two skis, and they had to coordinate lifting their legs," he said. "Most fell over - not just once, but many times."

The party started with a "bring what the spirit moves you to bring" pot luck, and the birthday party ended with birthday cake and singing.

"I think most people who came had a lot of fun," Barnes said. "I know we ate well. I saw everyone talking and playing."

The First Presbyterian church, housed in a New England-style church with a steeple, was chartered in 1891 with 16 members.

Historical documents show that the property was donated by Margaret Jane (White) Newhall, the widow of Henry Mayo Newhall, the man after whom Newhall is named.

Until 1925, the church family ministered to the surrounding community in a small white church, but then a much larger church family built a red-brick Gothic style center on the property. This church was used until 1977. It was replaced by the present church, a 1970s-vintage contemporary-design church.

For many years, the church family has struggled to help the local community through bread drives, clothing collections for distribution, food collecting for the local food pantries and financial help for local charities.

Although First Presbyterian is a small church family, it has sent two to three groups yearly on building missions.

The church's big push is the alternative Christmas, at which goods made by artists are sold, and where charitable organizations provide members the opportunity to donate funds to help others.


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