SUNNYSIDE — From their first services held underneath a tent in 1919 on a vacant lot, the spirit of what would become the Neighborhood Church, 385 E. Allen Rd., has demonstrated over a century of time what it means to persevere and prosper.
There were a few tough years over the course of its history when the parish looked like the church might not survive its internal strife, the need for the congregation to worship together prevailed, the current church leadership admit.
“We took time to rebuild trust and to heal the hearts, and now we are ready to move forward,” explained Pastor Bob North, who has been the lead pastor since 2004.
To celebrate 100 years of the church’s trials and triumphs as well as its growing congregation, the Neighborhood Church worship leadership will be hosting a Centennial party Sunday, Oct. 27, with religious services at 10:30 a.m., followed by celebration activities at 12:30 p.m.
“We also have planned outdoor events in the parking lot including live music, food and activities for the children,” North proclaimed.
He said each Sunday through October, the church family will learn more about the church’s humble beginnings.
The long and winding narrative may not be so different from other churches, but it’s unique to “NC” as the church is now called.
During their research for the Centennial party, Youth Pastor Nathan Dill discovered that the future church’s first meetings were held in a tent. Those services were conducted by a converted Jew, Charles I, Spellman who preached the “full Gospel.”
As the story goes, a small group of people “hungry for God,” met in homes and worshipped. In that first group, which included brothers and sisters Goble, Thurman, Olsen, J.C. Graves, (the parents of Sylvia Huffman and Effie Knowlton) became first families of the church.
Later, the growing congregation rented a scale house, near the old Oregon-Washington Railroad, later a subsidiary of Union Pacific in which to worship.
The church moved many times in those first years, meeting in homes, and renting larger and larger buildings.
In 1922, Rev. C.C. Douglas, the pastor of what is now called the Stone Church of Yakima, brought a group of young people to Sunnyside for revival services led by Rev. Robert Smith, evangelist. Among them were the Dellingers’ family. Their relatives still attend “NC” today.
According to parishioners’ accounts, the revival lasted three months and about 45 families were filled with the Holy Spirit.
In 1924, the church received its first pastor - Rev. Melvin Hixon and his wife. In addition to his spiritual duties, he had to work part time and the members supplied food for the Hixon’s family.
In 1926, Rev. Mollie Parks and her husband arrived at the church as evangelists holding tent revival celebrations. It was during this time that the urge to build their own place for worship was growing and members voted to purchase a vacant lot at Eighth and Decatur Avenue for $25 on June 25, 1927.
The building, named the Full Gospel Tabernacle, was completed at the cost of $1,166.65, and dedicated on July 10,1927. The building would remain home to the growing church family until the early 1950s.
In 1953, the need for an even bigger church caused the membership to purchase land at the corner of 16th Street and Lincoln Avenue, which was, according to church records, purchased for $8,000.
“That church building, which cost $130,000 to construct, was home to the congregation until 2003, when construction started on the new building on Allen Road, which is big enough to hold 1,000 church members,” North remarked.
“And, we continue to grow. Average Sunday services see more than 200 people in regular attendance, and on special occasions more than 500 people call NC their church home,” North added.
“We don’t anticipate expanding the building again, anytime soon, but we have space if we’re led to do so,” he added.
For now, the church plans to expand into the community.
“We’re already involved with supporting foster children programs, Life Options and the Northwest Assembly of God Association,” North added.
“We can see ourselves shine out to the community as we begin our next 100 years of connecting people to a relationship with Jesus,” North concluded.