LONGMONT — The parishioners wanted a church tailored to their ethnic, language and spiritual needs.
So they built one. These descendants of immigrants, mostly of farming background who came to Colorado’s Eastern Plains, conducted church services and even wrote the minutes of church business in their native tongue: German.
The building, at 641 Martin St., has endured internal renovations and architectural changes since it was first built by German Russian families in 1924 out of discarded materials from the Coffin School three miles east of town. The building now houses Longmont Community of Christ Church, a congregation a few dozen strong on Sundays.
“It’s a humble church, really,” said the Rev. Kay Ewing, associate pastor. “It’s not a big fancy one, but it’s served a lot of people.”
The congregation is hoping to restore the building’s historic integrity, with a recent historic structure assessment, fundraising plans and application for grant money from the State Historical Fund of the Colorado Historical Society this fall, Ewing said.
The L-shaped wood building on the southwest corner of Sixth Avenue and Martin Street was built by the German Congregational Church in 1924.
This classic church structure favored a corner tower (which has never housed a bell) over the more traditional centered steeple and was designed also for use as a fellowship hall, meeting space and classrooms.
“The church has had a longtime commitment to the community,” Ewing said.
The church building, which is also a site for a homework club, ESL classes and Taize services, was designated as a Longmont historic landmark last April.
The German Congregational Church was organized in 1887 in Nebraska when a large group of German-speaking Russians created a new religious order tailored to their ethnic, language and spiritual interests.
Through the years, the movement gained members and formed churches as far west as the plains of Colorado, many founded by immigrant farmers from the Ukraine.
Fourteen families of German Russian origin built the church at 641 Martin St., whose services and minutes were in German as late as the 1950s.
In August 1940, the church hosted the statewide convention of the German Congregational Church, attended by 1,200 members, but during World War II, the church dropped “German” from its name.
The church was then called Christ Congregational Church, which sold the building in 1957 to the Mormon church and moved to Francis Street and Mountain View Avenue the following year.
The church switched hands twice more, in 1964 to Grace Evangelical Free Church and in 1972 to what is now known as Community of Christ.
The structure has seen its share of changes, including the addition of a basement, small office and cry room. Exterior alterations have included replacement of the front doors, removal of the upper portion of the building’s signature tower and a new roof.
Ewing said she hoped grants and fundraisers will raise the money to begin restoring the building to its original appearance and condition.
“We have some real challenges,” said the church’s pastor, the Rev. Cheryl Barnett, who said she enjoyed learning the history of the building.
“I think the neighborhood is pretty well kept, and there’s pride in the residents around us,” she said. “The biggest thing is just to make the church just as nice.”
Melanie M. Sidwell can be reached at 303-684- 5274, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.