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History of Willows Christian Church

Linked To The Past – Living Now – Looking To The Future

The Christian Church is the oldest religious group which has its origin on American soil, beginning in the United States around the turn of the 19th century. Those primarily involved in what became known as the Restoration Movement (also known as the Stone-Campbell movement) are: Thomas Campbell and his son, Alexander Campbell, Barton W. Stone, and Walter Scott. The Movement had its birth in many areas of the country among professed Christians of various denominations. These had the strong conviction that the competing divisions in the Church of Jesus Christ were sinful and they had a yearning for Christian unity under the Lordship of Jesus Christ as the Head over His Church. These were convinced that the Church must forget the man made requirements imposed on those who would be Christ’s followers and return to the simple requirements established by Christ and faithfully recorded in the New Testament.

As a “Christian Church,” we do not belong to any denomination. However there are about 5,000 congregations (with a total membership of more than 1.5 million) in the United States today that consider themselves as a part of the fellowship of independent Christian churches and church of Christ. As a non-denominational church, we are congregationally governed with no official organization controlling us. We are simply committed to serving the Lord. Our goal is to believe the Bible and practice what truths it sets forth. We believe and teach that the Bible is the authoritative, inspired Word of God.

This local Christian Church had its initial beginnings as early as 1877, when Rev. W.H. Martin made attempts to organize a small group. These efforts finally bore fruit in 1883, when a nucleus of 22 people organized after a meeting with Rev. R.L. McHatton. This group struggled to hold itself together until Rev. Charles A. Young came to be the minister in 1886. Since 1886 the Christian Church of Willows has been in continuous ministry in the Willows community.

This congregation’s first known property was purchased in 1890 on north Butte Street where Walnut Street dead ends (what is currently the Holi Grocery Store’s west parking lot) and a building was erected. In 1920 that building was moved to the present Plumas and Oak Street site. The Christian Church was officially incorporated on Feb. 20, 1920.

In the mid 1920’s this active congregation purchased the Presbyterian Church building which stood in east Willows. This building was moved to the Plumas-Oak Street site. The two buildings were joined together with the “Presbyterian” building serving as the sanctuary and the “Christian” building serving as the Fellowship Hall. The basement side of the “Presbyterian” church was also used for Sunday School rooms and a fellowship area. In the fall of 1975 these buildings were taken down due to their deteriorating conditions.

In December, 1965, construction was completed on the 5,280 square foot Education Building. This building provides Sunday School classrooms, a church nursery, a large fellowship hall, a modern kitchen, and restrooms. The “fellowship hall” served as the temporary sanctuary from 1975 through 1995.

On July 21, 1991, the Ground Breaking Celebration was held for the construction of the new 3,580 square foot addition which would contain our new sanctuary, office areas, and handicapped restrooms. Actual construction work began on September 3, 1991, and continued until the shell of the building was completed in April, 1992. Work continued intermittently (as the funds were available) until this building was completed. The first Sunday morning worship service was held in the new sanctuary on December 3, 1995. The dedication of this building was held on Sunday, May 12, 1996. The new sanctuary was dedicated “to those who have gone before us” because of the many people who made financial donations to it, but never lived to see it completed. Our whole congregation has truly been blessed with this addition and return of our Fellowship Hall to its intended use.

At the 1999 Anniversary Sunday celebration the congregation dedicated the 100 year old stained glass window which had come from the original Presbyterian church. This window, known as “The Gethsemane Window,” is a pictorial representation of when Jesus went into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray for “this cup to be taken from Him.” It was here He prayed to His heavenly Father, “Not as I will, but as You will.”

The Gethsemane Window was redesigned, rebuilt, and installed by Needham Studios of Chico. Added to the original window at the bottom is the flowering dogwood tree. Tradition indicates that the cross was made from the dogwood tree. Added to the top of the window are the olive branches which remind us that Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives when He agonized in prayer.

This window is illuminated with a light that is on 24 hours a day. This “eternal light” is to remind us to ask the Light of the World to illumine the hearts of every soul who views it. Our prayer is that this window may reflect God’s love and bring His joy to each one who enters into the sanctuary of Willows Christian Church.

On June 14, 2009, the original Christian Church bell in its newly completed bell tower was rededicated to ring out the eternal hope that we have in Jesus Christ our Lord.  This bell which was cast in 1888 by W.T. Garratt & Company of San Francisco, was saved when it was removed from the original building in 1975.  It now tolls each hour from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.