Officially started in June of 1921, Orange First Church of the Nazarene is looking forward to celebrating 90 years of ministering to the Orange community Oct. 7 through Oct. 9.
Local congregants will enjoy a bounty of revival services along with a variety of fellowship events where young and old, new and former can talk about the history and future of this nonagenarian church.

Along with the homecoming service with former pastor Bill Carr, pastor from 1981 –1988, Friday Oct. 7 at 7 p.m. there will also be a family reunion and picnic social Saturday during the day with service that evening and twice on Sunday. They will enjoy a meal between Sunday services and a special presentation Sunday evening of a drama by the playwright, Brad L. Smith. The public is invited.

Starting with 23 charter members in 1921 meant the first church of the Nazarene to spring up in Orange was beginning with the grassroots of the denomination, which began in 1908 through various mergers of similar like-faith movements.

For Orange, the first of a series of revival meeting were held at the Orange County courthouse and then around town in meeting halls and schools until they negotiated for their first permanent facility. In 1922, the First Presbyterian Church building on the corner of Market and Polk became available and was purchased.

The members set to work remodeling the church for their use and worshipped there under various pastors surviving the lean years of the depression when the pastor walked to visit members because the cost of gas became too much. Though the times were lean for the whole country the church continued to grow and realize the need for yet another facility and place to congregate.

In 1940 moved into their second official location through the strong efforts of their members and several pastors. They did so, unlike many other entities of their day, 100 percent debt free.

Their 10th and Cherry Street location was a more central area of Orange and prepared them for the growth of the town and their church when World War II began in 1941. The church saw a large influx in membership with a booming port and ship building industry during the war effort. Though remodeled, this facility housed the congregation until 1989.

The current Pastor, K. Ray McDowell came to Orange shortly after Hurricane Ike’s fury had devastated most of Orange County. Though originally from Pasadena, Texas, this is the closest to his hometown he has pastured. His flock runs approximately 180 these days, but is just as committed to holiness and the message of Jesus as those who began the building process 90 years ago.

“We sometimes can forget the impact we have on a community,” admits McDowell, who is the lead pastor.

Along with full-time worship and youth pastors, and a part-time children’s pastor the work of recovering after Ike has been a part of what they have tended to the past few years.

“Nine families lost their homes completely. Of course it affected everyone,” McDowell said. “Our church hosted the Fuller Center here for two years following Ike. During that time they restored, repaired or rebuilt 45 homes.”

This is not to say there have not been on-going missions giving and local outreach in other areas. Though they give into a collective missions program run by the Church of the Nazarene, they are a part of helping a local boys home.

“We are active and aggressive in helping in that area, the need is so great,” McDowell said.
The boys attend church and youth services and are under the loving care of the youth pastor. When the boys age out of the system, the ministry does not stop as the whole congregation is involved in finding solutions to help.

“We strive and always have, to be a church that ministers to the community in the name of Jesus Christ,” McDowell smiles, “We came out of a tradition that believes the Lord doesn’t just save you but that he also changes you. Everything we do and teach is in support of that message.”

Because of this, their youth department, dubbed “Uno” stays busy throughout the week with as many as 45 teens receiving love and acceptance.

Shelly Pigg, the church secretary and wife of the youth pastor said it this way: “We are a constant. We have been here and will be here. The community can count on us. We change but God changes not. Ninety years says we aren’t going anywhere.”
For a group of young boys who have not known consistency and a community that has seen tragedy many times in past years, it is a great assurance to know the plan to remain is on their agenda. With 90 years under their pews and 25 plus pastors that have helped to shape their present, the congregation looks forward to their up coming celebration.

About Darla Daigle