FUMC Fort Meade

The building for the First United Methodist Church of Fort Meade was built in 1911. The church community is celebrating its 150th anniversary.

FORT MEADE — The oldest church in Polk County’s oldest city is celebrating quite an anniversary.

First United Methodist Church of Fort Meade kicked off its 150th Anniversary Celebration in 2018, but the yearlong celebration is hitting its apex this month with a “Street Festival” this Saturday.

“We’re winding it up,” explained Pat Vancil, the member of the church responsible for planning the affair.

The festival will take place from Feb. 9 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in front of the church, which is located at 135 E. Broadway St. in Fort Meade. Activities will include games and a bounce house for the children, as well as live music performances and plenty more.

For Pastor Marion Sortore, who has been at the church for nearly four years, it is a unique opportunity to be stationed in Fort Meade for this milestone occasion.

“To be here in this moment and realize that, for 150 years, men and women have been doing ministry,” Sortore said. “It’s 150 years of ministry in this community.”

Indeed, the church is an important part of the fabric of the community in Fort Meade, with a reputation for lending a helping hand to members of the church and beyond.

“Everybody here and folks that don’t even attend (this church) have roots here, explained Chuck Hancock, the church’s historian and music director. “Everybody you talk, to somebody has a family member that was here at one time.”

Hancock, a pianist, will be playing a concert — “A Night at the Keys” — later in the evening Feb. 9.

The current church structure for First United Methodist was built in 1911 and has housed Sunday services and more for nearly 108 years. It has undergone renovations and additions — the large porch was added in the late 1960s, according to Hancock — but has been remarkably well-kept over the years.

Over those years, some of the church’s oldest families has seen eight generations attend services there. Some of the church’s longtime families have been celebrated over the past year, as well as the church’s legacy of ministry and its sense of community.

“Fort Meade is known for its history — this church is probably one of the oldest churches in the state,” said Jim Nunnallee. “The social aspects of it, the family aspects of it, are certainly a big part of what the church is.”

The festival on Saturday is free and open to the public.

Contact Steven Ryzewski at sryzewski@scmginc.com.

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