History of the Community Church

By Roy Stewart

On March 3, 1894, The Ladies of Stonyford met to organize a Ladies Union Aid Society. In November of that year, these Ladies  started a fund to build a church. John McDaniel donated the lots, and a building was started in September 1897--it was finished sometime in 1898. It was originally known as Stonyford Dunkard Church. In 1917 it became the Stonyford Federated Church, and in 1931 it became the Union Community Church. In 1947 the church got electricity. The wiring was done by the New Tribes Missionaries, from their Fouts Springs camp. (The dates given here are from Church records.)

In the 1950s, Harold Pearson was the pastor for approximately eight years. Between 1963 and 1965, Henry Mayberry was pastor.

In 1960, the church became known as Stonyford Community Church, based on financial records.

The church celebrated its 90th anniversary in October 1968, with 57 people attending. Larry Shisler officiated at the ceremonies.

In 1971 the old Stonyford Ranger District office was moved from the ranger station to the back of the Community Church, for use as a Sunday school. For many years a small Sunday school group kept the church going, with different pastors over the years.

In 1973, Village Missions was asked to provide pastoral leadership (see tab at top and right). The Village Missions, as an organization, was tasked to provide pastoral leadership for small rural churches all over America and Canada. They pay the pastor’s salary until the local church is able to do so. In 1991 the Community Church assumed full responsibility and became a self-supporting church.

In about 1971, Carl and Dolly Swisher moved into Stonyford and began attending the church. Although in his late seventies at that time, Carl worked many hours repairing the church—as did many others in the community. Carl had a dream that someday the church would have a steeple; however, there was so much more that had to be done before that could be accomplished.

First, the church had to have a foundation. In 1980 (about), the church was lifted and moved nine feet back and placed on a solid foundation. A vestibule and pastor’s study were added to the front. The Sunday school and sanctuary all received a fresh coat of paint.

In 1981 (about), Jim and Joan Moon donated the money to have a lovely nursery attached to the Sunday school building. Henry Holmes did the foundation and Bruce Moon built the structure. Joan Moon donated the funds and made a beautiful stained-glass window that contains more than three-hundred pieces of differently colored glass. She had taken a class in Colusa, where she acquired the tools and skills. She found a pattern, but says that she had to modify and enlarge it to fit the window opening. She says it took her three months and presented a very challenging task. Her husband, Jim Moon, and another Jim, Jim Burgess, installed the window in the church. (See the window in the photo array.)

But, still there was no steeple! Soon, however, the steeple fund had grown such that a steeple became financially doable. The problems now were What size? Metal or wood? How would it be installed? Those questions were soon answered by Mr. Jim Alloway.

Jim was a metal worker in Oakland who had recently moved to the town. He volunteered his time and considerable talents to building the steeple. Even though Jim could only work weekends, the steeple was soon finished. It was painted and installed atop the church using volunteer labor. The dream of Carl Swisher, now 92, had been realized in his lifetime. Sundays in Stonyford now resounded with a familiar, mellow sound of a church bell that could be heard throughout the countryside.

(The source material for this article is Stonyford Community Church records and from Back in Time, Stonyford Community History, compiled and written by Joyce Bond, Beulah Van Landingham, and Lawrence “Sharky” Moore, May 1993.)