WANDA — It is the oldest standing Methodist Church west of Springfield and on Sunday, members and their families will celebrate 181 years during their annual homecoming celebration.

WANDA — It is the oldest standing Methodist Church west of Springfield and on Sunday, members and their families will celebrate 181 years during their annual homecoming celebration.

Wanda United Methodist Church, located on Highway O between Stark City and Stella, will start with a church service at 10 a.m., with pastor Rob Wood as the keynote speaker and the special music by The Goulds from Joplin.

"The main purpose is to recognize the number of years that it has been (in operation), it has been 181 years and has been in operation all of that time," said Mary Patton, who has attended the church for about 50 years. "We encourage past members, present members and others to attend."

Originally known as the Harmony Methodist Episcopal Church (South), was established in 1837 at Wanda. Some of the families that settled the area were: The Ellis family consisting of three brothers (Farmer, Howell and William. The Weems family, who had two brothers: Jones (who settled the land where the church is located) and Rev. John (who died in en route from Tennessee, but whose widow and six children settled near Stella).

For many years, it has been the custom to hold - each year - a "Homecoming," with regular Sunday morning worship service, followed by a basket dinner. Former members and friends journey many miles to attend these reunions and look forward each year, to meeting old friends, relatives and to meet new people who have moved into the area. No one could possibly describe the emotions within the hearts of the former active members of the Wanda Church, as they gather together on these occasions to lift their voices in songs of praise to God and to worship Him in spirit and in truth.

"After the service, there will be a covered dish lunch. Drinks, paper plates and tableware will be provided," she said. "We will have it in our new community building (adjacent to the church). It was in the Wanda schoolhouse (located on the same property as the church), but the schoolhouse is deteriorating."

Schoolhouse

The school sits approximately 200 yards south from the church on the land deeded to the church from the Weems' family. The first Wanda School building was built in 1860 and in 1893, a room was added on. the two-room school was in use until 1951, when classes consolidated with Stella.

 

Renovations to the church

According to Patton in a previous article with the Neosho Daily News, “(A few) years (ago), we added indoor bathrooms to the church, a handicapped-accessible ramp outside of the church and also air conditioning."

Wanda was a small town consisting of a small country store and a few houses.

For more information, call Mary Patton at 451-4693 or 437-8694.