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HONESDALE, PA — The Central United Methodist Church had informal beginnings in Honesdale, according to Sue Graziadio, who serves as the church’s historian. “When they first started, when the first Methodists came to town [circa 1825],” she says, “they didn’t have a building. They actually went to homes and started there.” But a church soon followed, constructed in 1834. It was replaced by a new church that was dedicated in 1874; the original church building is now an apartment building, but the replacement church still serves its original purpose, currently serving over 800 members.
“As Methodists, our heritage… links up with not only with preaching the gospel, but living it out in our lives,” says Pastor Rob Kazinski. “As our founder, John Wesley always believed in social holiness as well as personal holiness—that’s the Methodist core, right there. So we encourage personal holiness in our lives, but we also encourage how that plays out socially…
“For instance, one Sunday out of the year, we always have ‘The Church Has Left the Building,’ where we go out and we find different areas of our community—people’s houses that need repair, or a park that needs to be cleaned up, or a meal that needs to served, or shut-ins that need to be visited—and instead of worshipping on a Sunday, we’ll go out and we’ll do those things, and then come back and say how we worshipped God on that day. That’s consistent with our Methodist heritage of finding a social need and trying to address it.”
Formal Sunday services take place in the church’s sanctuary, which has largely been preserved in its original state, but certain adaptations are made to accommodate a changing world: “This year we introduced new screens and video cameras, and a whole new sound system,” the pastor explains. “That’s been a big change, because we feel that’s helping to get our message across. So as long as that tradition isn’t interfering with the vision, or the mission that we are about, we try to uphold it as much as possible.
“We have 27 people in the church who have been here for 50 years or longer, and there’s a sense that they really appreciate the routine, and they know what to expect about it—and I think there’s a lot of value in that too, certainly to the people who go to that service. And so we try not to change it that much. However, we do realize that there are times that changes need to be made to help bring about the message and communicate that…
“One of the things that I appreciate, probably one of the reasons why we do try to keep that tie to the history so important, is because these people that first purchased this church—a lot of those people put up their houses to fund the building of this church... It was that important to them. And I think when people make that kind of sacrifice... there has to be some kind of honor and appreciation for that sacrifice, for those risks and that faith that they took, and we don’t take that lightly. And that’s probably why we want to appreciate what they did—not make changes just to make changes to the church, move to a different building ‘just ‘cause’—but because we think that it’s important to maintain that vision that they had, and the mission, and live into that honor, and how Christ called them, and how Christ calls us in the future.”
The church faces what Pastor Rob calls an “interesting challenge” for the Christmas season: “Because our church is so old, the sanctuary is so old—we just had a little problem in that our ceiling started to collapse a little bit in one little area... and a lot of people are down about that, because they feel that’s going to take away from the appreciation of the ambience of the church. So what we’re focusing on this year is celebrating: celebrating everything that God has done for us, and celebrating who we are for the community...
“We’re bringing in a lot of people from the community to light our Advent wreath, and who have been in recovery from drugs, so we’re recognizing they’re a part of our community, and how we can serve and witness them; people who have been healed from cancer, and people who are in need that we serve on Saturday—having them be part of the service a little bit more. We’re trying to introduce that into our worship service, and make that a little consistent with who we are and to live that out again.”
Among its upcoming events, Central United Methodist Church will host the Wayne Choralaires for a Christmas concert on Sunday, November 26 at 2 p.m. The church can be found at 205 11th St. For more visit honesdaleumc.org or call 570/253-3291.