Since 1961, Diane Bradbury's life has revolved around Oneco United Methodist Church. It is the place she married her high school sweetheart and it's where her children were baptized, two of them were wed and several grandchildren were baptized, as well.
"For three generations, it's been a big part of our lives," said Bradbury, who has been the church's choir director for more than 30 years.
Bradbury, along with about 300 people, will celebrate the church's 135th anniversary, or Homecoming, on Sunday, Oct. 19. The service will be at 10 a.m. with a dinner following. Oneco United Methodist Church is the second oldest
Methodist church in the Bradenton area.
"We've always been a close-knit family," the church's pastor, Robert J. Green, said. "We just try to look back and remember where we've been from, what we've done and celebrate that. But then take that to move forward and to continue to be the church in the community."
While the church's members are comprised of many retirees, Bradbury said everyone she talks to who is new to the church's congregation feels welcomed into the friendly community.
"They feel the warmth when they walk in the door," Bradbury said.
In 1879, the church was organized and met in a one-room school and in 1904, the first church building was built directly across from where the church sits today. The current sanctuary, which was constructed by church members, opened in 1954. The church has since been expanded at its current location, 2112 53rd Ave. E. In 1993, when Green came to the church as its pastor, he remembered 53rd Avenue East as a two-lane highway. Today, its a major road in Bradenton.
Every year the church has a Homecoming service in October to allow the seasonal members of the congregation to make it back. But the church puts more emphasis on the five and 10-year Homecomings. At the 100th anniversary, everyone dressed up in old-fashioned attire including bonnets.
Bradbury said the anniversary events allow her to see people that she hasn't seen in awhile.
"It's really fun because you get to see the generations," Bradbury said. "It's fun to see them come back. I remember them as little kids ... It's like a family reunion."
Claire Aronson, is the University Parkway/Sarasota reporter. Contact her at 941-745-7024 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Claire_Aronson.