United Church of South Vienna's History



Courtesy of Mr. Ron Shoemaker


The United Church of South Vienna was formed in 1971.  It is a federation of the South Vienna United Church of Christ and the South Vienna United Methodist Church. Each church held congregational meetings on the same Sunday at the same time to vote on the question of federation. Both churches voted in favor, the Methodists 41-8, and the UCC’s 40-2.

     Many meetings were held, both separately and jointly by the churches in preparation for the federation.  The hierarchy of the two denominations expressed serious doubts about the ability to successfully unite two churches of different denominations, but the United Church of Christ proved to be much more helpful in the completion of the federation than the Methodists. The first minister was Earl Vore.  He came to South Vienna from Buckland, Ohio, and was installed in services held in the Methodist building in January, 1972. Rev. Dr. Waldeman Haupt, Superintendent of the Springfield District of the Ohio West Conference of the United Methodist Church preached the installation sermon.  Rev. Martin W. Rettig, pastor of the Lawrenceville United Church of Christ and subchairman of the department of clergy in the Southwest Ohio Association of the United Church of Christ was the presiding minister for the service.  He represented the Rev. Dr. Clayton T. Rammler, conference minister for the United Church of Christ Southwest Ohio Association Services were held in both church buildings for several years, until the expense of maintaining both buildings proved to be unpractical.  Services were then held in the Methodist building and the UCC building was finally demolished to make room for the proposed new building.  The services were alternated between the buildings on a month by month basis when both buildings were in use. The closing service for the east, or UCC building was held on May 6, 1990.  A congregational meeting authorizing trustees to borrow funds necessary for construction of a new building was held on August 26, 1990, and the issue passed unanimously.  The groundbreaking was held on September 30, 1990.  Judy Jones was the pastor, and Don Witter was chairman of the trustees.  The building committee, nicknamed the “Over The Hill Gang” consisted of Dana Stites, chairman, Tom Donkin, Steve Earley, Ralph Phares, Hugh Smith, Dale Mitch, and Eugene Shook.


     Construction of the new building actually started November 1, 1990 and the contractor was Larry Taylor of London, Ohio .The building was completed in June, 1991, at a cost of $265,000, and the closing service for the west, or Methodist building was held June 30, 1991.

     All stained glass windows from both church buildings were carefully boxed up and stored for future use in a proposed future sanctuary.

     July 2 and 6 were moving days.  The pews and organ were moved on the evening of July 2, and most everything else was moved on July 6, in a project that lasted nearly all day.  The day was finished by cleaning, raking, seeding, and covering the yard with straw, and the first service was held on Sunday, July 7, 1991.

     Two of the most active groups of the federated church were the women’s circles.  The Mary-Martha Circle met during the day for many years, and finally quit meeting about 2008, because of a lack of members.  The Dorcas Circle still meets monthly during most of the year in the evening.  Their primary fundraising project is sponsoring three or four lasagna dinners each year immediately following church.  A building committee was formed, and after literally years of meetings a groundbreaking was held on October 12, 2008.  Larry Taylor was again the contractor.  The members of the building committee were Greg Massie, chairman, Dana and Lauranel Stites, Ron and Carolyn Shoemaker, Becky Holton, Gary Hurst, Roger Runyan, Dr. William Fippin, Mike Phares, and Pastor Scott Griswold.


     All of the stained glass windows previously stored were refurbished and used in the new construction.  Other special options included in the construction included a deluxe oak panel system, including doors and trim; an arched stone wall in the front of the church, a special lighting system for the stained glass windows, a balcony, and an audio and visual system.  The total cost of the new sanctuary was approximately $695,000. The landscaping was completed as an Eagle project for Ben Justice, with assistance from the other members and leaders of Troop 6. The first service in the “new building” was Easter, 2009. It was the sunrise service, and it was memorable for several reasons, primarily because at that time there were no walls, no heat, no lights, and cold chairs. The final worship service in the fellowship building was September 9, 2009, and the first service in the new sanctuary was September 20.  The service on the missing Sunday was held, as usual for the Sunday after Labor Day, at the Corn Festival.


     The Pastors who have served the United Church of South Vienna include:


          Earl Vore, 1971-1978

          Albert Young, 1978-1986

          Judy Jones, Interim 1987, 1988-1995

          Martha Kline, Interim 1995, 1995-2000

          Scott Griswold, 2001- Present

          Karen Griswold, 2001 - Present


          See History of South Vienna Here

Humankind...Be both!


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