By Nancy R. Elliott
The Herald Bulletin
MARKLEVILLE — In 1913, Max Markle’s grandmother helped establish a new church in Markleville. One hundred years later, 86-year-old Max will help celebrate the centennial of that church — the only one he’s ever known.
It’s come a long way from the small white clapboard building in which it started out, but Markleville North Christian Church remains a vibrant and purposeful congregation. They’re celebrating the occasion this weekend with worship, family fun events, music and food.
“There’s a lot of sentimental value,” North Christian Pastor Jerome Bell said. “Three to four generations attend our church any given weekend.”
Bell shepherds the congregation of the independent, non-denominational church. About 225 members come to church each Sunday for services led by Bell and worship leader Pastor Scott Roberts.
“It’s a church that accepts people that come as they are,” said Bell. “Pretty open and friendly.”
The church holds two services, one traditional and the other contemporary to accommodate the diverse congregation. Members also get together and study the Bible through small groups.
“It creates an atmosphere where people can get a lot closer and get to know people,” said Bell.
They also draw closer by participating in numerous outreach programs. Just last week, North Christian had their annual Stay at Home Work Camp.
“We go out into Markleville and Pendleton and help people with different projects in their homes,” said Bell. North Christian folks repair porches, weed, clean houses, clip shrubs and repair roofs for people who need a hand.
Once a month North Christian helps feed 45 to 50 families through the food pantry that they maintain in collaboration with South Madison Community Food Pantry.
The church is also home to the Sonrise Preschool, where 3- to 5-year-olds play and learn Monday through Friday mornings.
Roxann Needler and her huband Denny have been at North Christian for about five years.
“I love it,” said Roxann. “Just wonderful people…. I miss it when I’m not able to go.”
Max Markle has been part of the congregation since he was born in 1927.
“It was a good church to bring my family up in,” said Markle. He and his wife, Mary, married 63 years, still attend, and he still serves as treasurer — an office he’s held since 1957. The Markles’ son, David, now pastors Park Place Church of God in Anderson. Markle observed, “He had some awful good mentors in the pastors we had here.”
Markle easily recalls the early days when the little white church was home base. “When I was just a kid, they had a building called the Aid Room. Women would meet and quilt,” said Markle.
He recalled the ice cream socials held there as well. Markle said they sold the Aid Room in 1939 to raise funds to put a basement underneath the growing church.
“We dug the basement out by hand with slip scoops and tractors, and horses and hands,” said Markle. It was the beginning of a transformation that would accommodate the growth of a little church into one that at its peak had almost 500 people show up on Sundays. Indeed, today North Christian Church has an ample complex of sanctuary, family life center and classrooms, and owns 24 acres currently leased out to farmers.
The new sanctuary was built in 1983, but the little white church remained until 1998 when it was finally torn down.
“That was a loss to all of us,” said Markle. “There comes a time it’s not feasible to keep something like that.”
As for the next hundred years, it remains to be seen.
“I hope to see more people and for our church to grow,” said Bell. He also noted that North Christian is likely to get involved in helping plant other churches in the area, or developing satellite churches.
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Markleville North Christian Church Centennial events Saturday, Oct. 26 2 p.m.: family fun day activities 6 p.m.: family cookout, followed by a movie under the stars. Sunday, Oct. 27 Services will be held at 8:30 and 10:45 a.m. with Sunday school at 9:45 a.m. 12:30 p.m.: Church dinner in the Burnett Family Life Center, followed by music from church groups and soloists.