First UMC to move: Osage church will move to former Masonic building next year

Published 3:59 pm Friday, June 9, 2023

OSAGE – The First United Methodist Church in Osage will say goodbye to its historic building later this year and move to the former Masonic Lodge after the building is remodeled.

A special worship and fellowship time will be held in the church on June 25, although the congregation will not move from the building until this fall.

The move comes when church leaders recognized the growing challenges of keeping the 153-year-old building operating. A smaller congregation and high costs of maintenance prompted the decision, leaders say.

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The church property has been sold and the building will be demolished within the year. The church membership approved the sale and move, as well as the purchase of the Masonic building, a more accessible and efficient space. Interim services will be held in another location, yet to be decided, beginning in the fall. The church parsonage has been sold and will be moved.

“We are trying to keep as many of the church artifacts as we can, including the stained glass windows,” said Administrative Council Chair Cal Nicklay.

“Church members struggled over the decision, knowing the church building – the oldest in Osage – was not only a beloved site for the church, but for the community as well,” said longtime member Penney Morse. “We realized we could better serve our mission in a smaller space.”

The first Methodist class was held in Osage in 1856, organized by the Rev. W. P. Holbrook. During the early years, members met in homes or schoolhouses and services were led by “circuit riders” – traveling pastors who traveled, often on horseback, to several churches within a district on a rotating basis.

A portion of the First Methodist Episcopal Church – called then the church “lecture room” in the basement of the church — was built in 1870. The entire church was completed and its dedication was held on Sunday, March 29, 1874. Built at a cost of $13,500, it was announced on the day of its dedication that the church still owed $2,500 on its debt. The “hat” was passed and the entire sum was secured by the end of the day.

The original church looked much different than the one familiar to us today. The church was smaller and had a narrow spire. In the late 1890s, under the direction of the Rev. Bourland Smith, the church was enlarged, with the spire being replaced by the bell tower we know today.

A parsonage was built in 1875, and a new one was constructed on the same site east of the church in 1912. The church was later remodeled about the same time, giving it much of the look it has today. Later, an education and office wing was added to the north end of the building.

Thomas Atherton, in the Mitchell County Press, wrote that the new church “is one of the best and most commodious in Northern Iowa, and stands as a befitting monument to the liberality, Christian spirit and enterprise of our citizens.”

A special goodbye

OSAGE – Members of the First United Methodist Church are inviting the public to celebrate the church’s history and bid farewell to the historic building during special events on Sunday, June 25.

Worship with the Rev. Steve Hansen will be held at 10:45 a.m., followed by a pork sandwich meal at noon. There is no charge, but a free will offering will be donated to United Methodist Council on Relief (UMCOR) and the local food bank.

The day will end with a 1 p.m. program in the sanctuary. There will be a musical piece written for the 150th anniversary of the church performed by members of the high school band, a brief slideshow, and recognition ministers and the milestone events that occurred in the church for members of the audience.