Faith United was formed in 1968 with the merger of the Presbyterian and Methodist churches in Gibbon. We continue to grow and change as a church, but strive to remember the history that has brought us here.
Gibbon Presbyterian was formed in 1870 by some of Gibbon’s first settlers. On January 22, 1872, a group of people requested the organization of a Presbyterian church in Gibbon. It was granted and Rev. C.S. Marvin was given credit for the erection of the first Buffalo County church. The first service was March 23, 1873, which was also the first worship service in a church building in Buffalo County. The church was also used by the Methodists and Baptists. In 1908, the church was razed and a new building was constructed of gray cement blocks of Spanish mission style at a cost of $12,000. The dedication was June 20, 1908.
In 1872, Rev. William Morse became minister by appointment from West Nebraska Mission for the first Methodist Church. He served the Kearney church from 1872-1875 and it is believed he travelled to Gibbon to start and supply their church. Then Rev. Jepter Marsh, known as “the father of the Methodist Church” came from Erie, PA, and was appointed to Gibbon during Annual Conference. Gibbon Methodist became a charter member of the West Nebraska Conference in 1880.
For a few years, church and classes were held in La Barre District 8 schools. In 1882, a lot was bought at La Barre and Second streets and the First Methodist was built at a cost of $1,200. Dedication was March 4, 1883. On June 15, 1900, lightning struck the steeple and the church burned to the ground. Services were held in the Babcock Opera House until a new church was built.
In 1891 or so Rev. Stifler of Shelton held a series of meetings in the Dist. 2 schoolhouse. A Sunday School and Methodist Episcopal congregation organized in 1891-1892. in 1892-1892 the Methodist Episcopal Conference made no appointments for Lowell and the presiding Elder appointed a local preacher. In 1893-1896, the Lowell worshipers attended a Union Sunday School in East Lowell. In 1899, Rev. M. H. Belian of Norman held services and a seies of evangelistic meetings in 1900, after which he organized a Methodist congregation of 21 members. In 1902, several denominations were united as a Methodist Class at Lowell under J. C. Street of the Holdrege District. The church was built in 1905 and a parsonage within a year or two (both are pictured). The Lowell Church was active until uniting with Gibbon Methodist in 1952.
At a congregational meeting in January 14, 1968, the elders of the Presbyterian Church were asked to contact the Methodists (soon to be United Methodists) about a possible merger. At the same meeting the trustees were asked to contact the school about purchasing the church ground.
According to Avenelle Lauer, Faith United historian, “the merger didn’t come easily.” On June 12, 1968, a Session meeting was held where it was agreed only the Presbyterian and Methodists would be considered for the merger and not a third congregation. “A proposed study was made separately of the congregations and then it was decided to trade books to view the variances,” according to Lauer.
The year 1969 began with a steering committee appointed: James Ganz, Albert Roos, Mardell Grassmeyer, Judy Niemack and Viola Livingston. On July 13, 1969, the Synod approved the merger. Between March that year and May, 1970, 20 meetings of the combined congregations were held. There was no further documentation in 1969; however, many details had been accomplished at the onset of 1970. The vote of the two congregations was held.
Due to the lack of participation from eligible voters (according to a newspaper article, “only about 40% of the congregations combined turned out to cast ballots;: 60-90% was required according to Lauer), a second election was scheduled. On March 11, the results were 87 Presbyterian ballots (34 yes, 53 no); 172 for the United Methodists (87 yes and 85 no).
On April 5 the Presbyterians held a congregational meeting. A motion was made that the Presbyterians concur with the total vote on March 8 (74.4%) and the congregation affiliate with the Methodists. The vote was 28 yes and 16 no. It was voted on April 22 that the Presbyterian Church be disbanded in June and the property be transferred to the Methodist Church.
With the final vote accepted, the congregation affiliated with the United Methodist Church and on April 22, 1970, legal transfer of Presbyterian property was made to the United Methodist Church. Many benefits for a new congregation were identified:
1. Unified witness 2. Better education classes 3. Larger church budget
4. Better ministry – all ages 5. A new church building
Of the 14 suggested names for the newly merged congregation, Faith United was selected on May 17, 1970. The united charge conference and first administrative meeting was held on June 7th that year with District Superintendent Dr. Kenneth Hicks overseeing the meeting. The newly formed congregation adopted the United Methodist form of polity and discipline. Faith United became a part of the Nebraska Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. Rev. Donald Williams was appointed by the Conference to lead the new congregation, replacing Rev. Donald Bennett and Rev. Roger Jacobs. On October 10, 1970, the Articles of Incorporation were presented at the first congregational meeting.
Early 1974 it was voted to construct a new building at an approximate cost of $350,000.00 (eventual cost: $385,000.00). All the technicalities of lot procurements were handled and the administrative board met with Clayton & Associates. On November 15, 1974, plans were approved and construction was begun. November 21, 1976, found the membership marching the five blocks to the new house of worship, carrying articles to be retained. The cornerstone dedication was November 26, that same year. The former United Methodist building was sold to Roger Slack.
Each former church building is represented in the new worship center. Several stained glass windows from the Presbyterian Church were placed in the north exterior walls of the new building. The Methodist Men from Gibbon razed the Lowell Church in 1966. The money was invested and is a part of Faith United. A piano in the Sunday School room is from the Lowell Church.
The bells from the Presbyterian and Methodist churches were saved. In 1980 the family of D. E. McGregor presented a plan for the display of the bells. The bell tower was built by George Pierce, Ron Cline and Albert Krueger with Harry Husman handling the welding. Greg Brodine did the masonry and Bill Graper made a clapper for the Presbyterian bell. Duane Bond sandblasted the bells. The cement foundation has a coin inserted in each corner. On the NW and NE corners are pennies dated 1981. On the SW corner the date is 1980 and on the SE is 1973 (was supposed to have been 1970). The bells were dedicated in May 30, 1981, the same day the mortgage for the building was burned. In 1977 the former Presbyterians held an auction. On December 7, 1977, the demolition of the Presbyterian building began and the lot was sold to the school district. The Presbyterian manse became the parsonage for Faith United’s pastor.
The first President of Faith United Methodist Women was Viola Livingston. The first Chair of the Administrative Board was James Ganz, Sr.