Starting out in a barracks building may sound like shaky ground for a start-up church, however, that’s where West Side Christian Church began and it will soon celebrate its 60th anniversary.
A women’s study group from First Christian Church got together in 1945 and decided that there needed to be a church started for the opposite side of town from their location to reach children and the “unchurched.”
“I love that term ‘unchurched,’ I had never heard it before,” said Terry Schlein, pastor for WSCC. “They wanted the church to be open to everyone and for them to feel welcome and the church is the same way today.”
Schlein’s parents, Bill and Renee Schlein, are charter members of the church. Before WSCC came to its current location at 1801 Beech, it moved several times after the barracks. First to the top floor of Irving School, then to Emerson Elementary and on to Mark Twain Elementary.
“The lots for this building were bought in 1951,” said Renee Schlein. “It was a rural location back then.”
Construction for the first small building on Beech finished a couple years later.
“The men would work on it at night while the women sat outside in lawn chairs and watched,” longtime member Marlene Reynolds said.
Since then, several expansions and remodels have taken place and iconic aspects have been added through the memorial fund such as the steeple, stained glass windows, street sign and marquee.
One of the most unique features of the church is the mural inside the baptistry, which was painted by church member Aliene Thorton in 1968. If looked at from the side, two faces can be seen in the clouds, that of God and of Jesus.
“We had just gotten a National Geographic about Israel and that’s where I got my ideas from,” said Thorton.
Though they’re not sure how many members began with the church, there is now 292 in the books. Rev. Schlein said he guesses that over the years there may have been as many as 2,000 people involved in the church.
On Palm Sunday, March 24 at 10:30 a.m., Rev. Schlein and his congregation are inviting the public to the church’s 60th anniversary celebration. Though they will have a traditional Palm Sunday service, Schlein said he plans on incorporating some of the church’s history.
After the service, there will be a catered luncheon and slide show of photos from the past. Members will be able to share their memories of the church.
“I think it’s a to how long the church has survived,” said Schlein. “We’re a really close knit family and if anything ever needs to be done, someone figures out how to get it done.”