First Presbyterian celebrating 100 years

by Chelle Delaney: Quay County Sun

On Saturday and Sunday, the First Presbyterian Church of Tucumcari will be celebrating its 100th anniversary.

Joining the current pastor, Iola Allender, who became pastor in 2001, in the celebrations will be past pastors Don Shepherd (1990-1991) and John Mikow (1991-1998).

Barbara Cherry, who serves as an elder in the church, said, “The pastors over the years have been there for our family in fun times and trying times. I feel God has been good to our families and will continue his love for us.”

Cherry, who first attended the church as a seventh grader, said she has a deep bond with the church. As well as going to Sunday school as a youngster, she married husband, Mike Cherry, at the church, their children were baptized there and now her children are active members as well.

She affectionately recalled, that, “I taught Sunday school over the years and had a special bond with each of the kids. We had many special times — climbing Tucumcari Mountain, lock-ins, scavenger hunts, bible question race games, crafts, flying with Blevins McKenzie and many more fun times.”
Cherry said, “The bond of the church family is god leading us to care for each other. Having served as a deacon and an elder of the church has been a privilege.”

Members, past and present, and friends of the parish are very appreciative of the pastors because they’ve helped, along with the congregation, to make the church what it is today, Cherry said.

Allender said the congregation’s aim is to have a centennial celebration that brings all into fellowship. “We want to make it a reunion of all the friends of the church. It’s a time for renewing friendships and bringing families together. It’s a reunion.”

The First United Presbyterian Church was organized on Dec.12, 1906. John Gass, Synod of New Mexico, officiated at the organizational meeting. Thirty-five people who came meeting later became the designated charter members and they signed a covenant. The installation of elders and deacons followed on Dec. 16, 1906.

Now, 100 years later, services are held in the sanctuary that was built in 1966.

One of its special features is the colorful Holy Spirit window. It was created by Frank L. Stanton Jr., who is an art teacher in Florissant Valley Community College, St. Louis, and an artist with Jacoby Art Glass Studios, also in St. Louis.

At the time, Stanton said the window represents the message of both the Old and New Testaments. The tongues of fire represent the burning bush from which God spoke to Moses. The descending dove represents the Holy Spirit moving into the lives of the Apostles on the Day of Pentecost.

Throughout the church’s history, Millard R. Murphey served First Presbyterian the longest, from June 1942 to July 1957. Wayne Larson served the second longest, with almost 12 years, before he succumbed to ill health.

Cherry said, that “Since Rev. Murphey left to serve elsewhere, many other pastors have served our church and to them, as well as the interim pastors, we are truly grateful. Without their leadership we wouldn’t be where we are today.”
Because the church’s membership is small, Cherry said, it has been difficult for the congregation to attract ministers. In other words, it would be hard to support a minister who has a spouse and children.

The congregation looked for a year and half before it decided on Allender, who has been there for five years.
Allender, 70, is also a first because she is a female minister.

A graduate of Princeton’s school of theology, with a master’s degree in divinity, and a widow, Allender said, “My objective is to do ministry not make money.”

Allender said, she may not be the best homilist, but “My forte,” she said, “is being with people, listening to their problems, and the ministry to the sick.”

She often drives to Amarillo or Albuquerque to meet and pray with members or friends of the congregation who are going to have surgery, or who are in the hospital for an illness.

Allender said the church’s membership is active in supporting different missions and that its membership also serves in various organizations that assist the community, whether its by helping the Ministry of Hope, being active in Altrusa, or working with other groups.