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Oldest church on the South End marks 100 years

The Rev. A.J. McNemee, known as “Brother Mac,” who  spearheaded construction of the original Langley United Methodist Church. - Photo courtesy of Mary Vergin
The Rev. A.J. McNemee, known as “Brother Mac,” who spearheaded construction of the original Langley United Methodist Church.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Mary Vergin

What began as a pile of cedar planks from Everett on the corner of Third Street and Anthes Avenue is about to celebrate a century.

Langley United Methodist Church will mark the 100th anniversary of its sanctuary on Sunday. It’s considered to be the oldest house of worship on South Whidbey.

“I love this church,” said Mary Vergin, program associate of the congregation and wife of pastor David Vergin. She’s also the church’s unofficial historian.

“Well, I’m writing the book,” she said.

On Sunday, the congregation will celebrate the centennial with a worship service at 9:30 a.m., followed by a community open house and tours at 1 p.m.

United Methodist actually got its start before the turn of the century.

Mary Vergin said the congregation of about 20 members of local families began meeting about 1899, organized by “a Mr. Spooner.” In 1901, they petitioned to become part of the Methodist Church.

“They were meeting in a house on First Street, and in homes,” Vergin said.

Then a traveling preacher, the Rev. A.J. McNemee (“Brother Mac”), who walked from community to community to conduct services, showed up in town.

“After he walked about, he decided that the corner of Third and Anthes would be a great place for a new church,” Vergin said.

On his first Sunday in town, Brother Mac took an offering for lamps for a new church. On the second Sunday, he took an offering for hymnals.

“On the third Sunday, he asked for the donation of building lots,” Vergin said. ‘Two people donated, but not the corner lot he wanted.”

So he sold one of the donated lots, and bought the one at Third and Anthes.

Then he rowed to Everett and returned with the cedar planking. Construction began soon after, and the original sanctuary was completed six months later at a cost of about $1,800. Entry was through the bell tower.

The church building was dedicated on Sept. 13, 1909. Records show 32 members and 36 Sunday school children attended.

A new pastor was assigned the next year, and a one-room parsonage was built. In 1911, the bell was purchased for $40 and hoisted into the tower.

“The outhouse was located near where the alley is now and just outside the back door of the church,” Vergin said. The sanctuary had a wood stove, there were hooks around the wall to hang coats and there were a variety of chairs.

“The windows were all plain glass,” Vergin said. “And legend has it that one of the early pastors tired of people looking out the windows while he preached, so he painted them all yellow.”

The church has undergone a number of renovations through the years.

“They just kept adding pieces as they went along,” said Joanne Hannah of Langley, a longtime member of the congregation and one of the keepers of its history.

In 1938, the building was hoisted and a basement dug underneath.

“They discovered a huge tree stump,” Vergin said, “and there was a spring running under the church that had to be rerouted.”

The kitchen, a small room under the bell tower, had a wood cook stove. In 1939, oil stoves were put in to heat the sanctuary and the basement.

Fourteen pews were installed in 1947.

In April 1953, the name of the church was officially changed to Langley Community Methodist Church.

In 1958, the entrance to the sanctuary was moved to the side of the church, the bell tower enclosed and a glass-block cross installed.

In 1968, the United Brethren Church and the Methodist Church joined to become The United Methodist Church, and the local church was renamed Langley United Methodist Church.

Several other alterations and additions occurred through the years.

In 1987, the congregation moved into its new Fellowship Hall, which included a kitchen, four bathrooms, the Fireside Room and five new school rooms.

In 1989, the South Whidbey Youth Center was organized and began using the basement, where the HUB after-school youth center continues to operate.

The Vergins have been at United Methodist since 1998. David Vergin has been a pastor since 1981, and came to Langley from Vancouver, Wash.

Mary Vergin said the congregation has grown to as many as 300 people, and that it continues its outreach to all segments of the community, and its goal of providing meeting spaces for anyone who wants them.

“It’s a learning community for everyone,” she said.

Hannah concurs.

“It’s always been a community church,” she said. “Dozens of groups use it. It provides a service to folks in a pleasant and nice setting. We always thought it was important to make a significant effort in that regard.”

For information about Langley United Methodist Church, call 221-4233 or e-mail lumc@whidbey.com.

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