Old Blue River Christian Church to turn 200 this month

Staff Writer Kate Wehlann

When John Wright moved to Blue River, about four miles from Salem, in 1810, he likely had no idea what the world would look like 200 years later. He likely hoped, but may not have anticipated, the little church he started would still exist, though in a new building in a close, but not the same, location that far into the future.

But it does. Old Blue River Christian Church will celebrate 200 years of being a Christian church (it began as a Baptist church and changed to a Christian church in 1819) on Saturday, Sept. 28, from 3 to 6 p.m., at the church, located at 3606 S. Blue River Church Road.

The original church was built through the woods, across from the current location on South Blue River Road, and includes a large, historic cemetery, which the church plans to bring guests back to see dring the celebration and learn more about those buried there, three of which were killed in the Civil War, including a woman, who was a nurse. There is another Civil War soldier buried in the newer cemetery next to the current church building. There will be historical demonstrators, reenactors and tours of the church during their celebration, along with food, games and more. At 6 p.m., the church is planning an historical reading and worship service.

Matt Abbott is a lay pastor, but his attachment to Old Blue River Christian Church is more than where he preaches. His family has attended there for multiple generations and some of his family are buried in the cemeteries associated with the church.

“I was ordained at Canton Christian Church, but my grandparents went here," he said. "My dad was baptised here. My grandparents are buried here. It’s neat, the roundabout way God brings you to places.”

Abbott’s wife, Rhonda, said the church isn’t just continuing to exist; it’s been flourishing and growing in the past year Matt has been pastor.

“We averaged about 10 people coming when we started, but now, there’s about 30,” she said.

Matt said this past Easter broke the record at 54.

“They couldn’t tell me the last time we hit 50,” he said. “A lot of new people are from Kimball, where I work full-time.”

The inside of the church is largely the same as it has been for the past 100 years, with congregants sitting in the original pews. Matt said the pews bear the markings of fidgety kids surreptitiously carving into the pews — initials, mostly, though Matt said someone carved “Salem Lions” into the wood.

Organizers hope to see past church members come to visit the old church.

“I’d like to make that next day, Sunday, a homecoming Sunday,” said Matt. “I’m not looking to pull members back who have joined other churches — I’m focused on bringing in unchurched people to join our church — but it would be nice to see some people who used to come here back for that Sunday.

“It’s neat being in the church your grandpa was in, even if you never knew him,” he added.


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