By RACHAEL OSBORNE
---- — KEESEVILLE — The Keeseville Good Shepherd Church of the Nazarene began with a dream and a prayer.
And this weekend, it will celebrate its 30th anniversary.
Formally organized on Oct. 24, 1982, the church was a vision of members of the Plattsburgh Church of the Nazarene under the direction of the Rev. Robert Wanner.
“Some of their church members … became part of this church to help start this church,” said the Rev. Richard Reese, who has pastored the Keeseville congregation with his wife, Deborah, for the past three years. “That church was instrumental in starting this church.”
In the beginning, families from the Keeseville area met in homes throughout the community, and in June 1982, the Rev. Ernest F. Machia was appointed the church’s first pastor. The first service was held July 18 of that year at the Keeseville Civic Center’s library, a space members rented for $55 a month.
Under the leadership of the Rev. Geoff DeFranca, in 1988, the church embarked on its first building plan on property previously donated to the Upstate New York District by William R. LaFlure. Congregants began to clear the property at 124 Hill St. in June 1991, and a formal groundbreaking ceremony was held Aug. 18 of that year.
In December 1991, the church was holding services in the new building, and by 1993, the mortgage was paid in full.
“Everything’s paid off,” Mr. Reese said. “We’re debt free. That’s unusual for a church our age.”
And so, this weekend, the pastor said, “we’re asking everybody that’s been here to come back and just celebrate with us.”
The Rev. Patrick Fleming and the Rev. David Drake, both former pastors, and their families are among those who will be in attendance.
The celebration kicks off at 6 p.m. Saturday with “pizza, pictures and memories” in the church fellowship hall,” Mrs. Reese said.
At 9:30 a.m. Sunday, several small-group discipleship activities will be available, including a reunion Sunday-school class for adults, and coffee and conversation among the young adults and youth. In addition, children are invited to participate in the Daffodil Project, where they will plant 30 daffodil bulbs for all to enjoy in the spring.
Fleming will give a message on “Building a Strong Foundation” during the Sunday worship service at 10:30 a.m.
“Rev. Fleming is going to speak, and Rev. Drake and his wife (Anna) and another couple are going to sing, along with other people for the service,” Mrs. Reese said.
Also on Sunday’s agenda is opening the time capsule from 1982 — although there is one small problem.
“We can’t find it,” said Carl Kokes, head trustee of the church.
“We’ve been told it’s 3 feet from this window or 2 feet from that window,” he said, gesturing to the window in the pastor’s office.
“And we’ve dug holes, and we can’t find the darn thing,” he laughed. “The elusive capsule; we’re still going to hunt for it.”
“If anybody ... that was here then knows where it is, I wish they’d show up and tell us,” Mr. Reese added. “Nobody here seems to remember.”
Nor do they know what’s inside.
“If we ever find it, we’re gonna bury it and put a plaque there that says: ‘Here it is,’” the pastor joked.
A special dinner and time of fellowship will follow the church service.
“Everyone will be invited to stay and just have a good time of camaraderie,” Kokes said.
Mr. Reese said he’s most looking forward to celebrating with the people who get to come back and reminisce.
“We just want to celebrate that the church has been here 30 years and (has been) serving the Lord 30 years in this community, this area, so we thank the Lord for that,” he said.
Current ministries include a monthly service at Keeseville Country Garden, hosting the annual Festival of Trees for the community, vacation Bible school, participation in an area ecumenical choir and discipleship groups.
“For a church of relative short length of being in existence, it has done some amazing things,” Kokes said.
The congregation of about 40 also looks eagerly to the future, Mr. Reese added.
“We’re trying to set a goal for the future to carry on, to try to bring people to know Christ and to share in the community (and) be a community church,” he said. “To be a community church where people can come and feel comfortable to worship the Lord together.”
Email Rachael Osborne: firstname.lastname@example.org
IF YOU GO
WHAT: "Looking Back, Reaching Forward, Building on a Strong Foundation," 30th anniversary celebration.
WHERE: Keeseville Good Shepherd Church of the Nazarene, 124 Hill St., Keeseville.
WHEN: Pizza, pictures and memories from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday. Small-group discipleship at 9:30 a.m. Sunday, worship service at 10:30 a.m. (nursery will be provided) and dinner to follow.
CONTACT: For more information, call 834-9408.