While the farmers are harvesting crops in the fields around it, the children are gathered inside the small country church assembling over two dozen school kits for Ingathering and rehearsing a song for the church's 125th Anniversary celebration Sunday, October 1.
Santiago UMC has invited the public to an open house from 1 to 4 PM with historic displays, homemade desserts, and ice cream. A free-will offering will be received for an upper level handicapped accessible project. At 2 PM former pastors have been asked to share stories of the little country church with the great big heart for family and children.
During Sunday morning worship, it will be the children who joyfully gather the offering with the same ritual and singing of the Doxology the faith community has done for while over a century. Children as young as three years of age are carefully guided in carrying the Light of Christ before the loving church family.
The annual October hayride, once pulled by horses will this year be held on the 14th with a tractor pulling the wagon full of laughing singing folk of all ages.
In July of each year, both upper and lower levels of the building are completely transformed into the theme for Vacation Bible school and the pews are filled with children and youth. College and high school students, as helpers, nearly outnumber the children as they return to offer stories of Jesus, skits, and recreation similar to the VBS they had enjoyed as children in this little country church.
Like many other churches in pioneer times, its founders first begin meeting in homes of the folks who had moved into the area to mine for coal. Then they met in the country schoolhouse until the land was donated to construct the same building which stands today. A basement with indoor plumbing was soon added after the Sunday when one of their first female pastors was greeted by a snake in the outhouse. The story goes that the frightened pastor was calling through clenched lips, hoping someone would hear her inside the church with the windows open for summer worship.
While remodeling the basement a larger kitchen was included for serving the annual Harvest Home chicken noodle supper on the first Saturday night of November. An auction of crafts and goods made by children and adults follows with great generosity of funds and good-humored teasing for this family-oriented church.
You see, many descendants of the same founding Bailey brothers and their 20 children are still among its members today. At times throughout the church's history, one side of pews were all Baileys and the other side was filled with other community folks.
The pony express and then the railroad came through as the little community grew with a general store, a dress shop, post office, hotel and livery, and homes, which are gone today while the church continues to share the love of Christ with folks who come from many communities in the area.
Traditions remain strong as members and guests alike gather for in annual impromptu nativity play by the children at 7 o'clock on Christmas Eve. On Memorial Day you will find this church family gathered to remember their deceased loved ones at the cemetery which is as old as the Santiago congregation itself. The Easter Sunrise service is held there as well.
Its current pastor Audrey Westendorf Young states, "Some may say these little country churches should close. But they have not experienced and valued the love of Christ, the accountability of family, the heart for missions and the quiet country atmosphere these small churches offer. It doesn't look like Santiago will be closing anytime soon, as they have received nine new members in the last two years."
Located just 4 miles north of Mitchellville, you will find a warm and friendly welcome every Sunday at 9 AM as well as every year at this church family's traditional events.
Former pastors invited to attend include Carroll Brown, Ted Hayton, Laura Riley, Christina Pauley, Martha Hill, Eldon Nolte, Rose Calderon-Kahn.