XENIA — Xenia First Church of the Nazarene will celebrate its 100th Anniversary with special activities on Sept. 15-16.
The Lighthouse Mission in Xenia was organized with 16 charter members and joined the Church of the Nazarene denomination in 1918. A revival meeting in the community resulted in many converts coming to faith in Jesus Christ.
Many of those converts testified to being filled with the Holy Spirit, so they longed for a new church that would preach scriptural holiness. After meeting in four different locations over a three-year period, the group bought the United Presbyterian Church building at the corner of Orange and Bellbrook. They would utilize this ministry center for the next 38 years.
One early member remembers, “From 1927 onward, we struggled to make the payments on the building, the addition, and the parsonage. We all doubled and tripled our tithe and really sacrificed to finance the church. I thank God that the Church of the Nazarene came to Xenia. Through its ministry, I learned to walk with God. It gave me a place of service for Him and I found many wonderful friends.”
Under the leadership of Pastor Harold Maish, the church bought property and constructed a new building at 1204 West Second Street. An educational addition was erected in 1971 when Rev. Merlin Provance was the pastor. The church began a daycare center and kindergarten known as Kiddie Kollege during those years, providing ministry to many children in the community.
April 3, 1974, significantly changed the history of the church and the community when an F5 tornado ravaged Xenia and left most of the building in shambles. Nearly 100 children were spared as the teachers, staff, and students took cover in the lower level of the educational wing. The top floor of that building, along with the sanctuary and the new parsonage, was destroyed.
The congregation met in different locations for the next 18 months as Pastor Howard Rickey led the long process of rebuilding. The lower level of the educational wing was the only section that could be preserved, so a new sanctuary, classrooms, office space, and fellowship hall were built. The parsonage that had been on the church property was not replaced. The new sanctuary had a seating capacity of 1000, and the church continued to grow.
By the 1980s membership was close to 500. Nazarene Christian School was started in the church building in 1977, providing education for elementary students. By 1992 the school offered kindergarten through ninth grade. In 1987 during the tenure of Pastor Harold Henderson, the church purchased 50 acres across the street for future expansion. Pastor Mike Dennis led the congregation in a campaign to build a school building on the property across the street in 1997 and the high school grades were added.
In 2010 the difficult decision was made to close the school, but the church leadership voted to offer the school building as a community center for ministry, outreach, and family activities. The gymnasium and classrooms are available for rent for group activities, meetings, and family celebrations.
The building houses Apex Community Church on Sunday mornings and it is used by community groups and individuals during the week. Youth Pastor Nathan Chrisman coordinates the ministries of The Cleft, Uncommon Youth Church, and UNITE that meet several times each month.
Xenia Nazarene has been known for its outreach and compassionate ministries in the community, for its emphasis on global missions, and its excellence in music and worship. Dr. Jim & Kathy (Beam) Radcliffe, Manuel & Cindy (Sutton) Batres, and Rev. Mike & Debbie Dennis have gone out from Xenia Nazarene as missionaries to other countries.
In 2008 the church added the Pleasant Valley Church of the Nazarene as its Riverside Campus led by Pastor Greg Parkman. This congregation serves the Riverside community of East Dayton by offering worship services, youth ministry, food distribution, weekly meals, and Celebrate Recovery. Pastor Jason McCauley serves on the staff of Xenia Nazarene as he pastors the Riverside group.
In addition to Senior Pastor Mark Atherton, the ministerial staff includes Mike Hancock, Associate Pastor; Nathan Chrisman, Youth Pastor; Brian Leach, Children’s Pastor; Jason McCauley, Riverside Pastor; Mack Bottorff, Riverside Associate Pastor; Clay Sell, Worship Leader. Current membership is nearly 1000, and weekly attendance is 550.
The Centennial Celebration begins with a catered banquet in the Xenia Community Center 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 15. Several former pastors and worship leaders will be featured in a brief program after the meal. On Sunday morning, Sept. 16, regular service times will be offered at 9 a.m. and 10:45 a.m., featuring a medley of songs from the ten decades, special music by former and present personnel, and the pastor’s sermon. After the 10:45 a.m. service, food trucks will be available at the Xenia Community Center across the street for dinner on the grounds.
“Xenia Nazarene has been a dynamic presence in this community for 100 years. It is not a selfish, ingrown church that is irrelevant and out of date,” says Pastor Mike Hancock. “This is a significant milestone for a church that has served the city of Xenia with the love and compassion of Jesus.“