“And I will do better unto you than at your beginnings.”
During the month of April, 1914, District Superintendent Rev. E.A. Clark rented a vacant store building and secured the services of I.G. Martin of Chicago as evangelist. Rev. L. Milton Williams came a few weeks later and organized the church with 41 members on April 13, 1914. The revival continued and 30 more names were added for a total of 71 charter members.
The members worshipped in many places: the Holiness Mission, private homes, an upper room in the court house, the Y.M.C.A., the old “Last Chance” building (formerly a saloon), and the Baptist Mission.
Property was secured at the corner of Third Avenue East and South 2nd Street and on September 10, 1914 ground was broken for the first church building. The lot was purchased for $2,750 and a 50’ x 70’ building was constructed for $12,000.
In the fall of 1948, during the ministry of Rev. Harvey C. Miller, a new entrance was added to the church building. A rededication service was held on January 16, 1949 with General Superintendent Hardy C. Powers presiding.
Under the leadership of Rev. T.T. McCord, a plot of ground at Third Avenue East and South 11th was purchased. Groundbreaking ceremonies were held on May 18, 1957 under the direction of District Superintendent Gene E. Phillips. Because the people had a mind for work, the 42’ x 99’ sanctuary with a 36’ x 84’ educational wing and full basement with air conditioning was built by volunteer labor. The dedication service was held on May 25, 1958 one year after the groundbreaking. General Superintendent G.B. Williamson was the special speaker at this dedication service.
Rev. Aleck Ulmet arrived in November 1960 after Rev. T.T. McCord had been appointed District Superintendent of the Louisiana District. Plans were soon drawn up for the parsonage and fellowship hall (now called “The Stable”). This building was completed by volunteer labor and dedicated on June 24, 1962. A second parsonage for our Associate Pastor was also constructed by volunteer labor on our church grounds just east of the parsonage.
May 1967 marked the arrival of Rev. Jim Diehl as our pastor. God and Country – patriotic services in the city park, NO GREATER LOVE presentations in the Junior High School, overflow crowds for revivals with the Speer Family Singers – these and many more exciting events kept the church on the march for Christ.
With the arrival of Rev. Gary Allen Henecke in December of 1973, the church’s marching orders were received in a message entitled “I Will Build My Church”.
More land was purchased, old houses were moved or torn down. A mighty group of volunteer workers were on the scene. God continued to bless and the Sanctuary building began to take shape.
In 1976, we moved into our new “Home of Hope” seating 1,000 in the sanctuary and 1,200 in Sunday School.
Rev. Jim Bearden led our congregation in building a Christian Life Center which was completed debt-free. The Christian Life Center was constructed in 1982-83. The structure measures 90’ x 120’ and is complete with a full-size carpeted gym, kitchen, Sunday School classrooms and offices.
Rev. Eugene Frame led us in a debt-retirement program so as we celebrated our 75th Anniversary, we could also rejoice in the fact that our buildings were debt-free.
Under the direction of Rev. Lenny Wisehart (1989-1994) several improvements were made. The parsonage at 2403 Ridgeway Avenue was purchased. After years of prayer, the opportunity came open to purchase the old Walker Olds property.
Rev. J.D. Bailey served as pastor from 1994-1996 and was untiring in his efforts to lead us to higher ground.
Rev. Gary F. Smith arrived as senior pastor in May of 1997. Under his leadership OFCN birthed a new vision for the future.
Rev. Michael B. Blankenship came to be our pastor starting on Sunday, August 31,2003. Rev. Susan E. Blankenship also accepted the call to serve as our Minister of Worship Ministries.
Early in 2004 Pastor Blankenship led our church celebrating its 90th anniversary.
The theme of the celebration was: “Oskaloosa 1st Nazarene Church: Celebrating 90 years of Heritage, Hope, Holiness, Help and New Horizons”. During the 5-week celebration our church invited four former pastors back for the first four weekends. On consecutive weekends we were able to celebrate God’s blessings to our church during the pastoral ministries of Dr. Jim Diehl, Dr. Jim Bearden, Dr. Gary Henecke and Rev. Lenny Wisehart. On the 5th weekend Pastor Blankenship challenged our congregation to go onto New Horizons as we seek to take the message of Holiness, Hope and Help to those in Oskaloosa, Mahaska County and southern Iowa.
It was during this time that the Church Board and staff developed the purpose, mission, values and goal statements that you find in this website. The purpose, mission and values that were revealed during this time are the driving factors for First Church today.
On January 21, 2006, a devastating fire took all of McCord Hall and the entire Sanctuary of First Church. During this time, First Church was without a pastor and had extended a call to Rev. Dave Childers to become the senior pastor. The day after the fire, Rev. Childers accepted the call to become the senior pastor of First Church at this crucial time.
In quick fashion, a team of staff were brought together to help lead the church during this major time of transition. Together, along with the leadership of the church board and several other leadership teams within the church, First Church is endeavoring on a mission that includes the building of a new building, possible relocation, as well as new ministries that match the heartfelt needs of those in the community of Oskaloosa.