The cornerstone of the current Cortland United Church building was laid in the fall of 1919. The congregation is now preparing to celebrate a centennial. Members say the church is a big part of their lives. "I grew up here, I was baptized, confirmed, and married here. My children were baptized and confirmed here as well," church elder Linda Woodward said.
Members of the congregation say the first thing people seem to notice when they walk into the sanctuary are the stained glass windows. Pastor Casey Karges says one of the windows is a memorial to service members from the World War I era.
"It's interesting. Back in 1921, the Highland Center Congregational Church joined this church, so a lot of the people on this window were not necessarily members of the church, which I think is fascinating," Karges said. "They put into the window the names of men who had served in World War I between 1917 and 1919. Two of them are starred. They were two who passed away while serving our country."
But the windows are just a part of the story. "One thing I think is really interesting about our church is that in the early 20's, the service was actually broadcast over the radio," Woodward said. "We had a church orchestra as well, so that was certainly something that needed to be shared. That was very unique for the time."
At one time, you could play basketball in the basement, as the basement floor was much lower than it is now. "My father has a memory of some of his family members playing softball in the basement," Woodward said. "In the early 50's, there was enough water damage, that we had to raise the floor about 6 to 8 feet to the existing location where it is now, and so it's our dining hall."
There are even interesting facts about those who were a part of the church in the early years. "When our church started in the late 1880's, Reverend Fred Alley was part of our congregation at the time. He moved on to Crete to start the Crete Academy, which later became Doane College," Woodward said.
As you might imagine, members of the congregation have so many great memories about the church. Some of those memories include walking out the front entrance to stand among the beautiful pillars. "When I got married, as my newlywed husband and I walked out the church, we walked out through the double doors, and in front of those big steps between the giant pillars," Woodward said. "That's quite a feeling to see all of your friends and family there helping you celebrate your big day."
But as the congregation of this church prepares to celebrate its centennial, what may stand out the most is the spirit of cooperation. The United Methodists, and the United Church of Christ, are both under one roof. "It's unique in that these churches maintain their denominations," Karges said. "We are a part of the United Church of Christ as well as the United Methodist Church, so we worship and report to those denominations. We are stronger together."
And the hope is this church will remain strong for the next 100 years.