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Nancy and George Johnson wow dozens with Christian Temple tour

By Kathryn Ross, Vice President Thelma Rogers Genealogical and Historical Society

WELLSVILLE – Members of the TRGHS continued their tour of local houses of worship with a recent walking tour of the former Christian Temple Church building located on Maple Ave. Several members of the public joined in the tour conducted by George and Nancy Johnson. More than two dozen enjoyed the program.

The Johnson’s, Nancy on point

The Johnsons were part of the Christian Temple congregation before it joined with the Congregational Church in 2015 to become what is known today as the Christian Temple Disciples of Christ First Congregational United Church of Christ Doing Business As Grace United Church.

Today the former Christian Temple building is uniquely fitted to serve the public in a variety of ways as it was meant to from its beginning.

Donald N. Reita of the Harpster & Bliss Architectural Firm of Akron, Ohio designed the building as well as several buildings in Akron which are now on the National Historic Register, including the home of Harvey Firestone. Built in the Georgian Architectural style the square footage of the three-story building is 16,500 sq. feet.

In 1913 the cornerstone was laid for the building, It was patterned after a similar structure in Baltimore, MD. The building was conceived as a community center for the village and built to facilitate recreation and fellowship.

Pews – Pews are arranged in a concave style that allows an uninterrupted view of the sanctuary.

The unique design features a nave with pews situated in a concave pattern facing the sanctuary with a pulpit, area for the choir and organ and baptismal pool. And before it was vacated the church council updated the sanctuary with a retractable screen for power point presentations.

Nancy Johnson said the way the pews were placed offered the congregation a full view of what was happening without having to look around pillars.

The sanctuary area also features balcony seating and an area for seating behind the regular pews. The sanctuary is surrounded by interior classrooms both on the first and second floors. The first floor (basement area) features a full kitchen and a gym and at one time included a bowling alley and a closed off area for study.

Throughout the years the basement area has leant itself to a variety of missions and groups including a community kitchen, Youth For Christ, the YMCA when a sauna and dressing rooms were added, TOPS weight loss program, exercise and choral groups.

What also makes the building unique is its stained glass ceiling over the sanctuary. George Johnson said that the ceiling was originally a skylight, but weather and age necessitated closing it off to the elements. Today the stained glass is highlighted by electric lights.

All this, the Johnsons pointed out make it uniquely suited to the individuals and businesses which now rent space in the building. The Starlight Theater Group utilizes the sanctuary as a theater and has added more stage space, extra lighting, and improved sound equipment. Artist Karen Lang uses an area in the building as a studio and gallery and the Genesee Valley Media has its production studio in the building. Prior to Covid the kitchen was used by volunteers to provide meals for the community’s needy.

Rent from the businesses and theater group helps Grace United maintain the building as part of its original mission to provide community services and recreation.

The community is invited to join the members of the TRGHS for its February meeting when it will host the annual Larry Browning “Tale or Treasure” meeting at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 1st at the David A. Howe Library.

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