First Congregational Church of Lake Odessa

Submitted by Pam Swiler

Early in 1892, a small group of individuals made a purchase agreement on two lots near the grove or village park in the new town of Lake Odessa for the building site of a Congregational Church. Leaders of this movement were Rev. J.A. Phillips and Dr. W.S. Hart. On Sunday, June 19, 1892, about 65 people gathered to formally organize the First Congregational Church.

The next day, Monday, June 20, 1892, the women quickly organized a women's group named the Women's Home Missionary Society. These ladies raised a considerable amount of money to aid the church. They purchased the first organ for $85.

The first pastor, Rev. J.A. Phillips, was called on June 22, 1892. During his short period of service a Sabbath school was organized, hymnbooks and chairs were purchased. Church services were held at Bippley Hall, Colwell Hall and the village grove.

The building committee accepted a Queen Anne style design for the church building that was submitted by the architect, George L. Stone of Grand Rapids. J.M. Colon of Grand Rapids was awarded the building contract for his bid of $2,443. Ground was broken for the new church in July 1892. The cornerstone of the First Congregational Church was laid with Masonic ceremonies on September 22, 1892. In January 1893 the church was completed and dedicated. It was heated by wood furnace and lighted by an elegant chandelier. Rev. J.W. Arney, the second pastor to serve the church, frescoed the walls.

In 1905 the parsonage was built for the sum of $500. A reception room and Sunday school room was added to the front of the church building in 1913. In 1920, the Boy Scouts planted two trees on the north church lawn in memory of Laverne Demeray and Paul Vetter, who gave their lives for their country during World War I.

From the beginning, the women's groups have earned an important place in the church's history, aiding the church spiritually, socially and financially. The groups included the Home Missionary Society, the Helping Band, and later the three divisions of Congregational women, the Gilson Division, the Plymouth Division, and the Skentelbury-Lepard Division. In 1944 the three divisions united to form the Women's Fellowship.

The Congregators, who were organized in 1943, were an active group who helped with many projects. They redecorated the sanctuary and rebuilt the vestibule of the church. In 1966 an addition to the church was completed and the chancel was remodeled in 1971.

The members of the congregation voted to join the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches in January 1963.


Last update 06 December, 2012