I had a visit from one of my Family History Class students this week. She brought by a thoughtful gift she’d made, then, as we sat and visited, she showed me an old program booklet she’d found from the dedication of the Fresno Stake Center dated 3 March 1963. Fifty-two years ago today this building was dedicated. She told me she noticed my father’s name in the program on the page about the Reedley Branch.
As I turned to that page and saw a photo of the church building I attended as a little girl, floods of memories poured into my mind. My father was baptized 5 May 1961 and we left the First Mennonite Church to join our new friends in this Reedley Branch. I was two years old and have many memories that old church building. I was blessed there, not as a baby, but as a two-year-old on 7 May 1961 by Floyd Champneys. I remember that day quite clearly because I had to walk to the front of the chapel by myself and I was terribly shy. But Pres. Champneys was kind and had warm hands, which he placed on my blonde little head as he gave me a name and a blessing.
Our family attended church on Sundays, both morning and evening. Ours was becoming a religious home and family, attending Sunday school in the mornings, and Sacrament Meeting in the evening. Primary was a mid-week activity. We became very involved in Reedley Branch, with a group of wonderful people who we grew to love. The old church building was once a Grange Hall, located on Englehart Avenue.
This building burned to the ground when I was still in Primary. On the day it burned, we got a phone call and rushed to the church, where we joined a few others, watching the flames engulf our beloved old school house building. Dutch Riley was the branch president at the time and I clearly remember watching him walking alone around the back side of the building looking like all the cares of the world were on his shoulders.
In the next week, we returned to the site and I remember sifting through the ashes and rubble where I found some of the small wooden pegs that covered the screws in the backs of the pews. I saved two or three of them for mementos of the church of my childhood. For years they sat in my box of treasures.
This is the place where my testimony of Jesus Christ began and grew. Seeing this photo this week brought back so many happy memories and feelings of love for good people who have become some of my dearest and life-long friends.