A local church, which predates Pickerington's establishment, on Sunday will kick off a yearlong celebration of its 200th birthday.

A local church, which predates Pickerington's establishment, on Sunday will kick off a yearlong celebration of its 200th birthday.

In October 1811 - just 11 years after Fairfield County was organized and nearly four years before Pickerington was established as an official town - five men and their wives held their first Methodist meeting in Violet Township.

Some 199 years and after the construction of four different churches, Peace United Methodist Church is still a part of the local community's fabric.

On Sunday, Oct. 31, the congregation - now more than 800 members strong - will hold the first of what will be a yearlong celebration of its 200th birthday when it hosts an impersonator of John Wesley, the "father of Methodism," at the church at 235 Diley Road North, Pickerington.

"It will be a person dressed up as John Wesley and the man's daughter, who recently wrote a term paper about John Wesley," said Laura Powers, a Peace United Methodist member and chair of its 200th birthday celebration. "She will interview him about the Methodist movement and about his life."

The kickoff celebration will take place during the church's three Sunday services, at 8, 9:15 and 10:45 a.m. Powers said the services are open to the entire community, regardless of religious affiliation.

Over the next 12 months, church members are planning a host of events to celebrate the church's 200th birthday.

In January, youth members will perform a skit about the birth of Methodism in Pickerington, and a special Memorial Day service is being planned to honor military personnel and veterans, as well as past and present church members.

The theme of the year's events is "The Past, The Present and The Promise."

"Our church was there at almost the very beginning of the settlement of Violet Township," Powers, a 67-year member of the church, said. "Many people do not know about our background.

"The celebration is to help them learn about all the things that have happened the past 200 years. Anybody is welcome to come into the church at any time."

According to local history accounts, Powers said, Peace United Methodist members held their first recorded service in a local one-room school. Members met on Wednesday nights and began holding Sunday services in 1812.

Their first church was built in 1833 at the corner of Church and Cross streets. Records indicate the land for the church was purchased for $2 from Abraham Pickering, after whom Pickerington was named.

In 1883, the growing congregation built its second church in the same location, after the original church was demolished. During construction, members worshipped in an old school building, dubbed the "church on the hill," near Violet Cemetery.

A third church was built in 1951, but an explosion of growth at the church and in Pickerington led to the construction of the current Peace United Methodist Church in 1996 on 30 acres purchased from the city of Pickerington at the corner of Diley and Long roads.

During construction, Powers said, church members met for services at the Pickerington Public Library.

The first official service at the current Peace United Methodist Church was held on Valentine's Day 1999.

Over the years, Powers said, the church has tried to be an active member of the community. In addition to welcoming all guests, she said the church's Christmas Eve nativity re-enactments have been popular events.

According to church records, Powers said, Peace United was converted into a shelter for people left stranded or without electricity during the 1978 blizzard.

"The records say firemen called to see if our building could be used as a shelter," she said. "It was agreed to without hesitation because there was heat and electricity at the church.

"The church housed over 125 people on Thursday night of the blizzard and more than 100 on Friday night," she said. "By noon on Saturday, people were able to go home."

To this day, the church also reaches out to the community through its "Helping Hands" program, which supplies free medical equipment to people returning home from hospital stays.

"We want the community to know we're here to help," Powers said.

Additional festivities are being planned for as part of the celebration, Powers said.

The birthday observance will culminate on Oct. 16, 2011, when Bishop Bruce Ough will serve as a guest pastor at the Peace United's Sunday services.

"We've been on his calendar for over a year," Powers said.

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