A local church will celebrate its 80th anniversary.

Eighty years ago, former Independence attorney John “Jack” Newhouse and  Bill Gordon, a  steelman at the Standard Oil Refinery in Sugar Creek for 35 years, became members of the First Presbyterian Church of Independence.

Newhouse was  a 12-year-old when his name was added to the church rolls on Jan. 8, 1928. Three months later, Gordon followed suit, placing his membership in the historic church at 100 N. Pleasant St. The date was April 8, 1928.

On May 18, at a service of celebration for longtime members, the two church patriarchs were each honored for 80 years of continuous church service during the 10:30 a.m. worship service.

Also recognized for 60 or more continuous years of service were Mary Willis (74 years) Helen Wade (70 ), D.J. Pickrell (68), Patsie Jacobs (67), Rossie Crute (66), Morris Dunning (65), Gerry Redman (64) Art Kelly (63), Don Cordes (62), Loren and Ruth Oberhelman (61), Betty Beals (60) and Betty Winter (60).

Presented by the New Life and Evangelism Committee of the church, where Bess and Harry Truman attended Sunday school as children, the service included a litany for the recognition of long-time members.

Sitting with their families in a reserved section of the sanctuary, the honorees listened as their names and the number of continuous years of service were read aloud. Each received a rose and a gold-colored metal medallion attached to a ribbon. The number of continuous years of service was etched on each medallion.

Sitting in chairs forming a reception line, the honorees greeted well-wishers following worship in a reception in the parlor, that included cake and punch. 

Though 15 members qualified for the special recognition, six were unable to attend because of health-related issues: Bill Gordon, Helen Wade, Patsie Jacobs, Mary Willis, Betty Beals and Betty Winter.

Following the service, members of the New Life and Evangelism Committee visited the honorees at their homes. Each were presented a rose, a gold medallion and congratulations.

“They all seemed to enjoy it,” said associate pastor Duane Stephens, who has been on the church staff 41 years.

The church that Newhouse and Gordon knew as youngsters has undergone numerous changes over the past eight decades.

“In 1928, the sanctuary would have only been about 40 years old,” Stephens said, recalling it was constructed in 1888.

The education building on the west would have been just completed at that time, he said, noting there was no Westminster Hall and no parking lots, either. Just on-street parking.

And unlike today, where boys and girls attend the same Sunday school class, such was not the case in the ‘20s.

“The boys and girls were not in the same class. They were always divided,” he explained.

 Newhouse served the church as both a deacon and  as an elder. Church records show he was ordained  a deacon in 1948 and  an elder in 1958.

“He has been involved in all levels of the church through the years,” Stephens said, explaining Newhouse  delivered the sermon on Layman Sunday when he first came to the church in the ‘70s.

As a Sunday school teacher or as a class member, “There was never any question where Jack stood on an issue” he said, because of his legal background. “He is very direct and open.”

Scouting was dear to Newhouse, who joined Boy Scout Troop 230, sponsored by the deacon body,  when it was organized  in 1927.  Fifty years later, he was still affiliated with the troop, which has since disbanded.

As for Gordon’s ties with the church, members of his family have been attending First Presbyterian since his great-grandfather, Michael Gordon, was a trustee for the old Liberty Street Cumberland Presbyterian Church, which merged with First Presbyterian in 1913.

Because of the merger of Cumberland, organized in 1826, and First Presbyterian, founded in 1841, “We can claim our founding date back to 1826,” Stephens said.

Although never ordained as an elder or deacon,  Gordon served as a church trustee. He and his wife, Betty, are active in the Better-Be-With-Us Sunday school class.

Gordon is currently at Carmel Hills Healthcare and Rehabilitation undergoing physical therapy, following a fall several weeks ago.

Recognizing members for their continuous years of service to their church is important, Stephens says, because First Presbyterian wants them to know their participation, support and service is appreciated.

But that’s not the only reason.

“We also want our young generation – children on up – to see and know these people, and how important it is for that longtime commitment.”

“These longtime members, Stephens says, “are considered the foundation that each successful generation builds upon and how well they have done their job. It serves as an example and a way of saying thanks for your service at the same time.”