On Easter Sunday, April 11, 1909, worshippers dedicated what has become the longest-standing church building in New Castle. Parishioners gathered for the traditional early morning service at St. John’s Episcopal Church at First and Main Streets.
Through the years, the original smoky coal oil heaters have been replaced, the roof shored up many times and the stained glass windows updated, but the heart and soul of the close-knit, small town congregation has stayed the same.
“It was the pillar of the community. It has always been a family church,” said Edna Sample, who has attended St. John’s with five generations of her family.
“This little church has been part of New Castle all these years. It’s the oldest building in town still in its original use,” said church warden Alan Rayne.
The beginnings of this long-lasting congregation came in 1895 when the Episcopal bishop of western Colorado sent a missionary to smaller towns to host services in homes and assess the likelihood of forming new congregations. According to church historians, the New Castle church was organized in 1907, with a confirmation class of 17 students by April 1908.
In November 1908, the cornerstone for the church building was laid. Work on the concrete house of worship designed in the shape of a cross continued through the winter.
Congregation members agree that with part-time ministers since 1912, the active ladies’ Guild provided the consistent leadership that kept St. John’s going. The Guild raised funds through quilting, baking hot cross buns at Easter and cooking suppers at the church’s next-door Guild Hall during hunting season.
“That’s how they kept this church going,” Sample said. “In 1944 they charged $1 a spool for quilting services. Hunting season was a very good time for making money.”
The congregation installed nine new stained glass windows with the theme of the cross in preparation for the centennial in 2009. The 100-year celebration was planned for April 4 with services by the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado, Rob O’Neill, followed by an all-church potluck supper.
--Kay Vasilakis, Edna Sample, Alan Rayne Town of New Castle Newsletter April/May 2009