All this year, members of Colo’s United Methodist Church have been preparing for a huge event — the congregation’s 150th Anniversary Celebration.

After a number of free-will donation meals, ranging from a Palm Sunday pancake breakfast to a baked potato bar to a taco feast to an ice cream sundaes bar, and sales from a special commemorative ornament in honor of the church, members of the committee planning the 150th celebration are excited for Sunday, Sept. 10.

On that Sunday, members will celebrate with a special worship service at 10:30 a.m., followed by a free (thanks to all the fundraising) pork loin meal for those who have reservations (the deadline is Sept. 1). An afternoon program of celebration and remembrance will start at 1 p.m.

Mary Eley, Colo church secretary and a longtime member of the church; Dorothy Cerka, a lifelong member of the church (who celebrated her 54th year as a member in April) and Rev. Douglas Harding sat down recently to talk about the milestone event.

Cerka, who has been chairing the planning committee, which in addition to herself includes Mary Eley, Sharon Wilson, DeAnne Luke, Brad Snodgrass and Susan McKinney, said it’s been an interesting year.

“We’ve looked at the history we’ve had in the church. I had a lot of stuff at home with clippings and such… I think one of the more interesting things was the Farm Progress Show in 1980 (that the church was involved with over by Fernald),” Cerka said. The church had a stand which was a major undertaking, but also proved to be a major fundraiser back then.

History is interesting, for sure. In going through things, Cerka found a letter, dated Jan. 9, 1957, written from her grandmother, Nellie Weir to Irene Coughenour, about a memorial organ fund for the EUB Church.

This is important, because members of the Colo EUB (Evangelical United Brethren) Church, founded at the same time in Colo as the Colo Methodist Church, are just as much a part of this history celebration as those who have families dating way back in the Methodist Church. Why? Because the Colo United Methodist Church today is a congregation that includes both early churches, which merged in 1968. Located across the street from each other for many years, the EUB members moved into the Methodist building after the merger and a blended church family was formed.

Eley said she’s had a lot of fun helping collect clippings and historic materials during the past year. “I love genealogy and history … in looking through some things, I found the first full list of members that we could find, and found my great-great-grandmother’s name,” she said.

Pastor Harding, who came to Colo United Methodist church last summer, commends former pastor, Lewis Flanigan, on getting the ball rolling for the 150th celebration. “He was observant of the date and made sure we knew it.”

Cerka said Flanigan had approached her awhile back and asked if she was interested (in helping), and of course she said “yes.”

“I’m really interested in the history and letting people know about their ancestors in this church,” Cerka said. Several families can trace back six or seven generations who were members of the church.

For Harding, it’s an honor to arrive at a church in time to celebrate this type of anniversary and it’s important to celebrate it. “Why do we celebrate birthdays, or a 50th wedding anniversary,” he asked. “Because it reminds us of who we are. As Methodists, we go back to John Wesley (founder of the Methodists in 1784) … and we look at why we are different from the Presbyterians down the street, or the Catholics.”

Harding, who has gone through a number of these types of celebrations at former churches where he has been pastor, said these are opportunities for families to trace their roots back three or four generations. “And they find in their history (connections to the church), and that’s really helpful for younger generations to know, that this has been important to their families for a number of years.”

As they prepare to celebrate, organizers are still trying to collect as many wedding pictures as they can from couples who have been married in the church throughout the years. Many of those wedding pictures, they say, include the unique backdrop of their sanctuary — a mural painted in 1925 by Erick Zanders, a Swedish artist who was contracted to paint the picture of “Christ in Gethsemane.”

They also want former members and friends of the church, who would like to attend the special service and meal, to call the church, at 641-377-2534 or email:, to let them know. Getting an accurate count on the lunch attendance is important for the planning, and the church needs to know that count by Sept. 1 for those wanting to eat.

A great thing about living in a small community is the willingness of certain groups to help, and the Methodist Church gives thanks to the Colo firefighters for their willingness to prepare and serve the meal that day. The planning committee wants to thank Fareway, Sam’s Club, HyVee, Casey’s and Burke Marketing for donations that will help them put on their special event.

For those planning to attend, District Superintendent, the Rev. Dr. Harlan Gillespie, representing the Bishop’s office, will speak at the 10:30 a.m. worship service. Also at that service, since it is the day that third-graders receive their Bibles, all members who still have their original Bibles from the church are invited to bring in their Bibles for a special blessing over all the Bibles the church has bestowed on so many youth through the years.

At the afternoon program, there will be a time for introductions of former pastors, who will be able to share their memories, along with a showing of historic photos, a video greeting from Bishop Laurie Haller (who is unable to be present that day) and a skit by the church youth group.