TERRA CEIA -- Anything is bound to change after a century, but the Terra Ceia Methodist Church has seen some significant improvements over the years -- including the addition of bathrooms.
"When they had weddings, people would have to go to nearby houses and ask to use the bathroom," Donald Ringland, their pastor for the past 25 years, said with a laugh.
That thankfully came to an end when restrooms
were built in 1978, Ringland said. Now, as the church celebrates its 100th anniversary on Jan. 3, the congregation has a beautiful sanctuary and their numbers have remained about the same.
"We were organized with 71 members, and today we have 57 during the off-season and between 70 and 80 in the winter season," Ringland said.
The congregation is actually 115 years old, but they originally were meeting in members' homes, the local elementary school and other churches.
The warmth of the congregation and the feeling of family are what sets the church apart, says Ringland.
"When you walk in, you can actually feel it," he said.
In June 1914, a couple donated a plot of land to the church at 599 69th St. W. in Terra Ceia, where the sanctuary was constructed and stands to this day. The first service was held on Jan. 3, 1915.
A choir area, front entrance, railings and sidewalks were added nearly 50 years later, in 1959 and 1960. Air conditioning was added in 1981.
Theater seats in the church were replaced with pews in 1984 and a small kitchen was built in 1992 for making coffee and preparing for communion.
The most recent renovation was between 1999 and 2001, when stain-glass windows were installed. Because of the building's historic status, the stained glass had to be put inside the present window frames.
"In this little country church located on an island with natural beauty of trees, God has blessed this congregation," Ringland said.
The church will celebrate its first century with a service at 8:30 a.m. Jan. 4, followed by a brunch at the Village Improvement Association Hall. Ringland said all are invited to attend.
Kate Irby, online reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7055.