Methodists to celebrate centennial this weekend

By David Peck

United Methodists from Lovell and the surrounding area will gather this weekend to enjoy a delayed celebration of 100 years of service.

The church was organized in 1920, but the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year and a change in pastors led to the postponement of the celebration for one year.

The church building was built in 1921, however, and so the building and congregation will host a reconsecration service this Saturday, Sept. 11, at 4 p.m., led by Pastor Janita Krayniak. A catered dinner will follow the service.

The morning worship service at 9 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 12, also led by Pastor Krayniak, will be followed by a brunch hosted by local church families.

Methodist pastors have been preaching in the Big Horn Basin for more than 125 years. Rev. Lewis C. Thompson, a Methodist Episcopal missionary, came from Nebraska to the Big Horn Basin in 1893 and served people in the area from his home base in Otto.

According to the Lovell history book “Lovell, Our Pioneer Heritage” by Rosa Vida Bischoff Black, Lovell pioneer Ellen Strong, who moved to the Lovell area with her husband, Frank, in 1894, wrote to a friend during that time period, “We held our first Sunday school in Lovell, and our minister was the Rev. Thompson of Otto, a Methodist.”

According to a history of the church printed in the August 2, 1956, 50th anniversary edition of the Lovell Chronicle, the Methodist Church was organized in Lovell in January of 1920, when the town population was 3,294.

The church was organized under the Wyoming Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church. A new glass factory had begun operation that year, bringing many new residents to Lovell, many of whom were Methodists.

The Cody Methodist Episcopal Church had been organized in 1901 and was holding a revival campaign. Cody pastor and district superintendent F.W. Bretnall came to Lovell from Cody one Sunday and preached a sermon entitled, “So we built the wall, for the people had a mind to work” at the Odd Fellows Hall, which the Chronicle reported “was filled with people.”

Following the sermon, Rev. Bretnall spoke to the congregation about organizing a church in Lovell. A charter roll was opened, and 40 people signed it, 31 adults and nine children.

On March 27, Rev. Bretnall transferred from Cody to Lovell to continue the work of organizing the church, and on April 5, four lots were purchased for $1,700, upon which the current church is located. Early services were held in the Baptist Church and Odd Fellows Hall, but in October of 1921 the cornerstone for a new building at Park and Shoshone was set. That church building is still in use today.

 The church spent more than $2,000 in the early 1940s on a new roof, new pews and pulpit furniture, “with a lovely interior decorating job,” the Chronicle reported. A Sunday school wing was added in the early 1950s.

In 1968, when the Methodist Episcopal Church merged with the Evangelical United Brethren Church, the name of the denomination was changed to the United Methodist Church.

Services have been held for more than 100 years and are currently held at 9 a.m. each Sunday. The church hosts the Lovell Food Pantry, which is open every Friday from 2:30 to 4 p.m. or by appointment.

The following is a list of pastors from the foundation of the church to the present day: F.W. Bretnall, A.R. Dixon, Treva Orton, Charles L. Wright, Lewis Weary, Edgar B. Wilson, Claire P. Hoyt, O.F. Archer, Minard Gerrard, Verne Beffa, Edward White, Kenneth Rice, Warren Dirks, Howard Rice, James Wilson, Barry Kimbrough, H. G. Butler, Sam Day, Robert Hamilton, Robert Baker, Howard Hunter, Al Kongable, John Moyer, Darylas Lewis, Mark Christian, Ruth Wight, Jack Kitchen, Earl Detwiler, Ellen Riedel, T.C. Chatman, Dave Hodsdon, Patricia Greffey, Cathy Moorehead, Jack Russell, Paula Morse, Jim Barth, Melinda Penry and Janita Krayniak.