The year was 1907. Colorado, the Centennial State had just celebrated its 30th year as a state on August 4, 1906. Greeley, the center of Weld County, with 12,000 people, was beginning to become a leading center for beef production. Sugar beets, corn, and potatoes were major crops. This was the ideal time for God to establish the Church of the Nazarene in Greeley.
J.W. King, a Congregationalist minister, heard that a holiness movement based upon the teachings of John Wesley was beginning in California. He discovered that Phineas F. Bresee, a Methodist bishop, and Joseph P. Widney, a medical doctor, with about 100 others, had organized the Church of the Nazarene in Los Angeles in October 1895. From the beginning they saw this church as the first of a denomination that would preach and teach the reality of entire sanctification received through faith in Christ. By 1907, the Church of the Nazarene had spread chiefly along the West Coast, with scattered congregations east of the Rocky Mountains as far as Illinois. Greeley fist became the first Church of the Nazarene in Colorado.
In January, 1907, Rev. J.W. King began a tent meeting near the corner of 11th Avenue and 7th Street in Greeley. The Holy Spirit brought a refreshing revival to the community and many people were saved and sanctified. From this time on, Greeley First Church of the Nazarene was established, becoming a member of the Southern California District. J.W. King was the founding pastor, serving only a year before his declining health forced him to turn the leadership over to Lewis E. Burger, whose family had become charter members of the news church. A short time later Rev. King died of lung disease.
The Church of the Nazarene, based upon John Wesley’s doctrine of “entire sanctification” then became the catalyst for the other holiness groups. The 1968 Manual of the Church of the Nazarene states:
Near the close of the nineteenth century, a movement for the spread and conservation of scriptural holiness in organized church form developed almost simultaneously in various parts of the United States.
The great impulse of this movement has been the emphasis placed by the Scriptures upon the fact that in the atonement (salvation), Jesus Christ has made provision, not only to save men from their sins, but also to perfect them in love.
In the meantime, several holiness groups were meeting in Chicago to consider merging as a Wesleyan-Holiness denomination. In October 1907, the Association of Pentecostal Churches of America, the Church of the Nazarene, and the Holiness Church of Christ met to form the new denomination called Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene. Phineas F. Bresee and Hiram F. Reynolds were elected General Superintendents. Although this was considered the first General Assembly of the new denomination, the church considers the second General Assembly in Pilot Point, Texas, on October 13, 1908, the official birthday of the church.
A number of holiness groups across the nation and from Canada, England, and Scotland united with the newly-formed denomination during the next two decades. Some of these groups had several missionaries that continued their mission work under the leadership of the new denomination. The name “Church of the Nazarene” became official in 1919. The denomination became the catalyst for mission work throughout the world. (The Nazarene presently send missionaries to 151 world areas.)
Greeley First spent their first year in the large tent until a fire destroyed the tent and all the furnishings. A church building was constructed at 7th Street and 11th Avenue. In October of 1908, following the Pilot Point, Texas merger, Dr. Bresee and Dr. Reynolds, the General Superintendents, came to Colorado to visit the three established churches: Greeley First (established in 1907), Boulder Valley (established in 1908), and Denver First (established in 1908).
Greeley First was the District leader for a number of years, and furnished both spiritual and financial support to the new churches in Colorado as they were organized throughout those early years.
Greeley First Church of the Nazarene’s first building was dedicated to the Lord on August 9, 1908. Three services were held on that day with more than 500 people attending. Altar calls were given and a number of people were saved and sanctified. Thus the Lord established the scriptural doctrine of heart holiness in the city of Greeley.
Charter members included Sadie Mains, whose son, Claude, was about seven years old at the time. Claude became a member after his term of service in World War I (about 1917), and served the church in many ways until his death in 1984. Many people remember his bass voice in the church choir and in men’s quartets. He later married Grace Kreps, and their daughter, Claudora Mains Herrell, of Prescott, Arizona, is the only known living member of the charter member families.
The Lewis E. Burger family were also charter members, living on Fifth Street, not far from the Sadie Mains’. Rev. Burger served as pastor from 1908-1915, after the death of J.W. King.
Through the years of Greeley First’s history, hundreds of young people have grown up in the church. What a privilege it is to see our youth become responsible, caring adults of faith. Claudora Mains Ferrell, who was a teenager in the late 1940s to the early 1950s, wrote the following letter of tribute for the encouraging support of her church family:
I remember the wonderful youth group I was a part of in the church and lots of adults who encouraged and helped us. I remember Vera Forbes and her commitment to the young people’s Sunday School class. So many loved me and took and interest in my needs and accomplishments. I’m sure many people who grew up in the Greeley church through the years could tell similar stories. The Nazarene church has contributed a great deal to the spiritual life of Greeleyites through the years. I’m very proud to be one of the many who have received nurture from this church.
Others have expressed similar sentiments and give thanks to God for a loving and faithful church family.
~Compiled and written by Bobbie Lewis