History of the La Junta church


The La Junta Church of the Nazarene has had an interesting history. The circumstances leading to the organization and development reads very much like the beginning of the General Church of the Nazarene in that devoted men and women compelled by a passionate desire to serve and please their Lord, desired to give vital testimony to the experience of sanctification.

District Superintendent C. B. Widmeyer reported to the 1913 District Assembly that he had held Revival Campaigns in  Cheraw and La Junta in January and February of that year.

District Superintendent R. J. Plum organized The Church of the Nazarene of La Junta in October 1916. Faith was more plentiful than members. There were only seven on the original roster and this group had little to give. Charter members were: Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Wiley, Mr. and Mrs. H. Gibson, Mr. and Mrs. Paul Rice, and Mrs. C. Carson. A financial report for the first eight months showed $251.54 in expenses.For some years the tiny congregation worshiped in a downtown location, finally worshipping in a tabernacle at Fifth and Santa Fe. In 1927, under the leadership of Rev. Thomas Hayes, a building which was described then as being “commodious” by District Superintendent C. W. Davis in his report to the Assembly, was built at the Tenth and Colorado Avenue location.

The congregation continued to grow until the building was inadequate for both present and future needs. An expansion was undertaken during the pastorate of Rev. Clyde Dawson and brought to completion and dedicated November 28, 1954, by Rev. E. L. Cornelison.

The church's first pastor was Rev. E. Walden. He served only five months when ill health forced his resignation. Other pastors included: 

Rev. E. Walden 1916
Rev. H. J. Brown 1918
Rev. T. D. Dunn 1919
Rev. T. C. Whybrew 1920 - 1921
Rev. Howard Eckel 1921 - 1923
Rev., B. F. Hayes 1926 - 1927
Rev. F. C. Savage 1928 - 1931
Rev. Glen Griffith 1932
Rev. Z. H. Baxter 1933
Rev. Ben Griffith 1934 - 1935
Rev. R. H. McCort 1936 - 1940
Rev. Earl Schultz 1941 - 1943
Rev. Clyde Dawson 1943 -1948
Rev. E. L. Corneliuson 1948 - 1952
Rev. Eugene W. Moore 1952 - 1954
Rev. C. K. Helsel 1954 - 1959
Rev. Glen Terry 1959 - 1962
Rev. Claude White 1962 - 1969
Rev Corbie Grimes 1969 - 1972
Rev. Stanley Unseth 1972 - 1975
Rev. H.L. Hendrix 1975-1977Rev. Stanley Unseth 1977-1981Rev. John Alexander 1981-1987
Rev. Harold Wedel 1987 - 1998
Rev. Dennis Welch 1998 - 2001
Rev. Gordon Gossman 2002 - 2005
Rev. Brian Williams 2006 - 2010
Rev. Andy Albright 2010-2013Rev. H. Gordon Smith III 2014 - Present

Rev. Howard Eckel was pastor during the Santa Fe Railroad strike of 1922, which almost destroyed the struggling, still new church, as many members moved away to find work. Rev. Eckel resigned in 1923 to relieve the congregation of the burden of his salary. After that there was a period when several members preached on Sunday until the church could afford a new minister.Rev. Clyde Dawson was leading the church during the first phase of remodeling the church building at the corner of Tenth and Colorado Avenue. 

The project was completed and dedicated in 1951 under the ministry of Rev. E. L. Cornelius. The congregation continued to meet at that location until 1993.

In September 1974 approximately 175 members and invited guests attended the ground breaking ceremony for a new parsonage. The plot of ground for the parsonage was donated to the church by members Mr. and Mrs. Sam Williams. Building committee members were: Bob Bryan, Estell Robinson, Jim Schibbelhute, Merle Ritchie, Lyman Waters and Willis Bland.

It was during the ministry of Rev. Harold Wedel in the early 1990s that the long held dream of a new sanctuary became a reality. The one and one-half year building project included a sanctuary to seat 450, a Family Life Center, kitchen, Sunday school rooms and offices for two ministers. The facility was dedicated October 17, 1993 with an attendance of 318 people.

The La Junta Church is proud of the number of young people who have dedicated their lives to Christian service. Those who have become pastors include:  

            Rev. Albert Neusewanger
            Rev. James Barr
            Rev. Bert Edwards, Jr.
            Rev. Glen Anderson
            Rev. Milton McCrerry
            Rev. Eldred VanPelt
            Rev. Terry Conley
            Rev. Raymond Conley
            Rev. Frank Rife
            Rev. Mamie Dodd

Other members have gone into the mission field: 
            Rev. Marvin Rife
            Rev. Dennis Rife
            Miss Ruth Rife
            Mrs. Juanita Moon
            Rev. Marshall Griffith
            Miss Beverly Moon