An Account of the Centennial Homecoming

written by Earl C. Rice

Former members, current members, and visitors met on April 24, 1994 and renewed acquaintances at Bethel Church. Many attended the 10:00 a.m. worship service and heard the pastor Rev. L.G. Parkhurst, Jr. preach on the history of Congregationalism in the United States, since the founding at Plymouth Rock in 1620. At this service, Mary and Barry Ward presented the church with a plaque, "A Tribute to the Pioneers," in memory of Barry's mother, Frankie Ward, a former member and Sunday school teacher. At noon, a covered-dish dinner was hosted by the ladies of the church.

Earl Rice was the Master of Ceremonies at the 2:00 p.m. program. Other Centennial Homecoming Committee members attending were Leona Boling, Sylvia Cook, and Evelyn Ziegelgruber. The invocation was given by a former pastor, Rev. John Westhof, and Rev. Parkhurst welcomed the group. Paul Miller, from Wichita, KS, read the Scripture. Miller is an Ambassador of the
National Association of Congregational Churches serving as liaison between the National Association and the outlying churches of the neighborhood.

Several songs were sung by the congregation, led by a former pastor at Bethel, Rev. Gilbert Hughes, with Vera Enz at the piano. He also sang a solo, accompanied by his wife, Martina. Glendon Birdwell played a piano solo and a trombone solo. Elroy Rice read an "Early History of Bethel," written by Mrs. Winifred Salisbury, and 89er who, at the time she wrote it, was the last surviving charter member of the church. A "Later History of Bethel" was written and presented by Sylvia Cook. The climax of the afternoon was the 89er Women Monologue presented by Geneva Hudson. Hudson is president of the Edmond Historical Society, docent of the Edmond Historical Museum, and an Edmond "Volunteer of the Week." Her portrayal of the 89er women gave the audience a picture of early-day life on the Oklahoma plains.

Leona Boling was honored for having served Bethel for over seventy years, the longest service of any living member of the church. Her daughter, Geraldine Priest, collected, organized, and displayed photos, letters and other memorabilia at the event. Billie Thompson contributed an oil painting of the old Bethel Church building, and Versel Rice made an interesting plat showing the location of homes of various members of the Bethel and Prairie Bell communities circa 1930. Mrs. Florence White, who attended
Bethel as a young girl, presented the church with a Bible that had been given to her sister, Matilda Coyner, on her sixteenth birthday, October 1, 1903, by Rev. Hammer, then pastor of Bethel. Matilda was the oldest of thirteen children in the Coyner family.

Among the out-of-town guests were Dorothy Jane McGill Manning, from Tulsa, who gave the site for the new church building; Pat McGill and son John, from Houston, TX; Opal Fern Bateman, Kenneth, and Vena, from Ponca City; Ernest and Ethel Ellyson, from Kingfisher; and Berniece Gambill, from St. Louis, OK.