Cape church celebrates centennial

Sunday, October 21, 2012
Maple Avenue United Methodist Church members, from left, Margie Ervin, Wilma Seabaugh, Heather and Brian Holdman and their children Ashlyn, 3, and Gavin, 6, gather Sept. 29 to celebrate the church's 100th anniversary. (Fred Lynch)

Maple Avenue United Methodist Church in Cape Girardeau celebrated its 100th anniversary last month.

Mary Spell of Cape Girardeau has been a member of the church since 1939. She described Maple as "the joy of our life."

"We are truly thankful for all the blessings the Lord has given us, and he has placed the right people for us to learn from," Spell said.

Some of the events marking the centennial anniversary included a church dinner where past members, pastors and teachers were invited. The fellowship hall featured a timeline with pictures of church events and names of members through each decade along with major historical events.

Church members acted out a short skit where past members were looking down from heaven at Maple.

"This was too big of an event not to recognize," Sandy Elfrink said. "It is important to recognize how many people have contributed to keep the church going and look to the future to find our place."

Elfrink has been a member since 1983 and joined because she felt Maple was a welcoming church.

"I was welcomed immediately," Elfrink said. "Here, our motto has been, 'Where friends become family,' and we look to continue that tradition of love in the church and in the community."

Spell attributed Maple's welcoming nature as one of the reasons the church has lasted 100 years.

"We accept everyone who comes in," Spell said. "The love and mercy of Jesus Christ keeps us going in hard times."

Bryan Schaefer became pastor at Maple in July. He also saw the church's acceptance of people as being a reason for their longevity. Schaefer said when he asked members of the congregation what kept them coming back, the answer he received was people felt welcome.

"People have felt welcome and loved like family from the beginning," Schaefer said. "There has been a willingness to serve and meet needs. We care deeply about each other, the community, and want to make a difference."

He added that it's "humbling" to pastor a 100-year-old church.

"It is inspiring and exciting. We believe we can do good in the community and we have a reason to be here. It is exciting to hear about the journeys of those who came before and has been a bolster to my own faith journey."

Maple began in 1912 on the corner of Maple Avenue and Ellis Street. According to Spell, it was a neighborhood church for mostly working class people. She said there were always good role models to grow up watching.

The church is now located at the corner of Jean Ann and Cape Rock Drives. Schaefer and other members see Maple's 100th anniversary as a jumping off point for the future.

"Our goal for the future is to be a church that does not stay just in the four walls but goes outside to be effective in the community and be the hands and feet of Jesus," Schaefer said. "We want to be Jesus with skin on for the community. The church is designed to be a community, not a building."

Among the ministries which Maple supports are the FISH food pantry and Amen Center in Delta. It's also looking for more opportunities to serve.

"I have never found people more willing to put themselves out there, to take risks in their mission and serve, work and worship together," Schaeffer said. "We are excited and looking forward to the next hundred years."

Small groups meet at 9 a.m. Sundays, and worship service follows at 10:15.

For more information on the church, call 335-0723.

Pertinent addresses: Maple Avenue and Benton St., 2441 Jean Ann Drive

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