A special service was held at the First United Methodist Church of Van Alstyne on Sunday, May 21, which has served as a place of community worship since its completion in 1917.


The church itself was first established in 1847, VAFUMC Pastor Scott Holcomb-McLain said, with the recent celebration commemorating the 100th anniversary of the church sanctuary.


Holcomb-McLain said there was a large turn out for the event, with around 240 people congregating to celebrate and worship. One of the church services was joined by Bishop Michael McKee of the North Texas Conference, while several pastors who had previously served at the church over the last few years attended with their families. After the special service, community members gathered together for a large potluck meal.


“We had a wonderful worship service with lots of music and a couple of movies showing the history of the church,” Holcomb-McLain said.


The service screened videos that contained personal stories and historical information about the church. Titled “Looking Back” and “Looking Forward,” the videos were recently uploaded to Youtube by Zanetta Siciliano.


“Looking Back” details the creation of the church. The congregation first began in Mantua is 1847, before moving to Van Alstyne in 1873 along with the railroad. The new church, which is located where the current cemetery is, was then constructed with lumber from the original building. With the congregation rapidly outgrowing its sanctuaries, $55,000 was pledged by the church in 1915 in order to build a permanent sanctuary. Completed in 1917, the building celebrates its 100-year landmark in May 2017.


The “Looking Back” video also detailed the church’s 1987 remodel and 2015 remodel that took place after a flood. The extensive renovations in 1987 included repaired and repainted walls, the addition of new carpeting, significant improvements in the sound system, a boxed-in partition wall, the creation of classrooms, and the movement of original stained-glass windows, among other changes.


Though the church basement was considered a place of safety in cases of extreme weather, it was flooded on May 9, 2015, affecting every basement room. Water soaked into the walls, and furniture and electronics were destroyed. “Looking Back” chronicled the church’s second extensive remodeling, including flooring and wall repairs, as well as office restoration.


VAFUMC Administrative Assistant Priscilla Josselyn listed the many ways the church serves Van Alstyne, including the church’s food distribution Gayle’s Pantry that regularly distributes meals and groceries to families and individuals in need. The church also serves as a site for the Kids Eat Free program to help combat hunger. Through the ministerial alliance, children receive free lunches five days a week. As a supporter of Kids Against Hunger, the church has recently packed and shipped 20,000 meals to Honduras.


Other services the church supports include monthly missions with the Denison Homeless Shelter, a gathering site for Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and church services, communion and singing at the local nursing home every Tuesday morning, officials said.


As “Looking Back” chronicled, the church has been able to house countless baptisms, weddings, confirmations, Christmas plays, vacation Bible schools, Sunday school classes, graduations, Christmas cantatas, choir practices and more in the past century.