Eastside Church of Christ
In 1919, two sisters, Paralee Hutton and Tinny Benton asked a preacher from Texas to come and help them organize a Church of Christ congregation in Farmington, New Mexico. Initially, they were meeting in homes until a newspaper ad generated significant interest. The item appeared in the local paper on April 8, 1920. It read
“CHURCH OF CHRIST All members of the Church of Christ are requested to meet at the Advent church house April 18th, at 11 a.m. for the purpose of organizing a Bible class and Sunday school.”
Due to the hopeful response to the first ad, they published a follow-up message on April 22, 1920 that read
“CHURCH OF CHRIST The members of the Church of Christ met last Sunday and organized a Bible Class and Sunday school. A very good crowd was out for the first meeting. All members are urged to attend these meetings at 10:30 A.M. each Sunday. The meetings are held at the Advent Church house.”
It may be that a surviving list of 47 names from 1920 documents these first Christians to gather as the Church of Christ in Farmington, New Mexico.
One way to tell our story is through the history of our meeting places. From meeting in homes those first church members met for several years in the Seventh Day Adventist building (mentioned in the newspaper ad as “the Advent Church house”). Those first families were the Huttons, the Woolmans, the Starks, the Browns, and the McFarlands. They were joined by more and more people, so it wasn’t long before the Advent Church building was too small.
From 1928 to 1936, the Church of Christ met in the Presbyterian church building opposite the Seventh Day Adventist building. By 1936 even that building was not big enough, so they began meeting at the City Hall for a few months while getting resources together to build their own building.
In November 1936, several of the church members took out a $300 loan together to pay for construction supplies. It wasn’t long before the church had built its own building at the intersection of Broadway and Lorena. The church was very resourceful, as was necessary during the Depression days. They made their own benches for worship assemblies, and they made their own concrete blocks for the building itself.
By 1962 that building was no longer adequate, and the church moved to our present location at 2012 Huntzinger. At that time, the facility included a modest auditorium, small kitchen, and a few classrooms. That served well for forty years.
In 2003, church members worked together to completely renovate the Huntzinger building, and to add to it a much larger auditorium. Now, large gatherings can meet for worship comfortably in the auditorium, and then move over to the Fellowship Hall (the old auditorium, now renovated) to enjoy coffee and pot luck meals together.
Of course, the history of a group of Christians is about much more than just the building in which they meet. This is true for the Eastside Church of Christ, too. Still, we feel blessed by God to still be here, a regular gathering of Christians to worship God and to grow spiritually together several times every week. This has been our constant practice for almost one hundred years! That is surely by God’s kindness to us.
For almost a century now, the center of our common life together is our gatherings for worship and for Bible study. Many of our members come together not only on Sunday mornings but also Sunday and Wednesday evenings.
Second only to worship and Bible study, our fellowship has always enjoyed sitting around a common table and sharing good, homemade food together. In the early years, these times were weekly “basket dinners” (weather permitting). On Sunday afternoons, church members would make their way to one of the homes. All would bring their baskets of food to share. Afternoons were filled with food, fun, and singing. The tradition continues in a somewhat different form. Every second Sunday afternoon, we gather in the Fellowship Hall for pot luck lunch.
We have always enjoyed each other’s company, and we are always glad to welcome new friends we have not known before. Throughout the year we enjoy getting together for “game nights” at the church building. Of course, there is more food to go with the fun! Most summers we make time to take in the Bar-D Wranglers dinner and music show in Durango, CO. In recent months, a number of our ladies have enjoyed monthly meetings to play Bunco.
We also enjoy working together on projects that help many others outside of our membership. For example, a few years ago, some of the ladies gifted in quilting put together a “Helping Hands” quilt to benefit folks in Haiti suffering a recent tragedy. Most years we work together “in house” or with another church in the area to put on a Vacation Bible School for local children. This not only blesses them with wholesome summer activities for a few days. It also feeds their souls, as the games, crafts, stories, and snacks all tie into one or more important lessons from the Bible.
While many of these things can seem to have a spontaneous feel, or they might seem to be merely routine habits, none of this history would have happened apart from the vital leadership provided by a number of our Christian brothers and sisters over the years.
In the beginning, it was the two sisters (see above) whose hearts were stirred to try to gather Church of Christ members together for worship and spiritual growth.
Soon after that—in 1921—the church asked E. E. Mahoney (who was not from Farmington) to provide “oversight” while the seven deacons carried out various functions of the work of the church.
The leadership structure soon took shape, and on August 21, 1949 Paul McFarland and A. C. Warren were appointed to serve as shepherds of the church. Shortly thereafter, they appointed J. R. Birdwell and M. P. Woolman to serve as deacons.
On October 9, 1977 the leadership of the church changed once more as Dean Garrison and Raymond Neidigh were appointed to serve as elders.
After a number of years without formal leadership, we are grateful to God to once again have duly appointed shepherds. On April 30, 2017 four men were appointed to serve as shepherds: J. B. Harrington, Norman Garrison, Ron Jennings, and Mike Sickenger.