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Presbyterian Church in Cortez to celebrate 75th anniversary

A member painted this view of Montezuma Valley Presbyterian Church in 1990. (Courtesy image)
Church was organized in 1948, celebration is June 2

Montezuma Valley Presbyterian Church will celebrate its 75th anniversary on June 2. All present and former members, friends, and neighbors are invited to attend.

The celebration will begin at 10 a.m. with worship, followed by a potluck meal, the dedication of a new flagpole, and music by Donny Johnson. The worship service will closely follow the earliest services of MVPC.

Montezuma Valley Presbyterian Church was organized during the spring 1948. One charter member, John E. Patton, a much-loved teacher in Cortez for many years, has been a member of the congregation since that time, along with his younger sister, Carol Patton Orrell, who was not old enough at the time the church was formed to be a full-fledged member. The congregation feels richly blessed that they are still active in the church and will be present for the anniversary celebration.

Other names from the founding congregation will be familiar to longtime residents of Cortez: Jean Belden, Blanche DeLong, Mr. and Mrs. Alex DeRosier, Jean Fisher, Mr. and Mrs. Jack Hamilton, Mertie Holsinger Hill, Grace Jones, Bessie Longenbaugh, Harriette McCluggage, Margaret McCluggage, John McConnell, Mildred McConnell, Barbara McConnell, Dorothy McConnell, Edward McConnell, Marilyn McConnell, Richard McConnell, Mr. and Mrs. Robert McMahan, Ed G. McRae, Mary Jane McRae, J.T. Miller, Robert Page, Ora Lee Page, Oran Lee Page, Earnest E. Patton, R. Lenore Patton, John E. Patton, Sam L. Patton, Zenobia Maude Patton, Elvira Pike, John Pope, Katherine Pope, Emmanuel Pope, Florence Pyle, Maurice Ritter, Ruth Rubidoux Mangel, Gorham Steerman, Helen Steerman, Edith Tozer, Ben Williford, Charlotte Williford.

Construction of the sanctuary of Montezuma Valley Presbyterian Church in 1965.
(Courtesy photo)

The charter members and their families hailed from Cortez, Dolores, Lakeview, Lewis, Mancos, McElmo Canyon, Pleasant View, and Towaoc.

The official founding of the church was not the beginning of Presbyterianism in the area. According to the church’s history book, a Sunday school for neighborhood children was begun by a Mrs. Patten in the 1890s, and a Presbyterian Sunday school started at Arriola shortly after 1900. The First Presbyterian Church was chartered in Cortez in 1911, and services were held in various locations around the community. That congregation was disbanded in 1937, but Sunday school missionaries and circuit preachers kept the faith alive through Southwest Colorado.

After the organization of Montezuma Valley Presbyterian Church following World War II, congregants again met in various buildings, including local churches. Brothers John and Jim Patton recall cleaning the car-wash area of the Patton garage on Friday to accommodate Sunday potlucks there. Sunday school missionaries continued to serve the area, and in 1952 they were joined by the congregation’s first full-time pastor, Rev. Thomas Myers. One Sunday, attendance of 139 people was recorded.

Worship services were broadcast over a local radio station at that time in an effort to expand the church’s Christian witness. The first MVPC broadcast coincided with the launch of radio station KVFC in February 1955. The choir always began the broadcast service by singing, “My Faith Looks Up to Thee.”

After a thorough search for a building location, Rev. Myers and Ernest Patton located an apple orchard for sale at 350 S. Washington. The church brought the quarter-block where the church building is located, and Ernest Patton purchased the quarter-block just north of the church, where the present manse is located. When the apple trees were knocked down, the congregation built a huge bonfire and enjoyed a wienie roast before construction of the church began.

The potluck menu on June 2 will include hot dogs to commemorate that day of tearing down and building up. Members are sure to bring other favorite dishes, as Presbyterians honor Christ’s example of sharing food and fellowship.

The first service in the new building was held on July 4, 1954. In August 1955, another building fund was begun, and space for classrooms was added. In 1956, the congregation had increased in size so much that two services were held on Sunday. In April 1965, the congregation approved a building fund for another church addition, which incorporated the present sanctuary, narthex, and pastor’s study. The budgeted cost for the sanctuary was $30,000 for construction, $3,000 for pews and other furnishings, and $2,000 for an organ. The fellowship hall was constructed in 1986, and space was added to the sanctuary. Another addition with showers for visiting mission groups was completed in 2009. The current manse was constructed in 1977.

Throughout the years, MVPD maintained a relationship with the Ute Mountain Presbyterian Church in Towaoc and other Sunday school missions and preaching points throughout the area, as well as with overseas missions.

Members continue to be very active in contributing to the life and health of the community, both individually and as a congregation. Worship is open to everyone.

For more information about church activities, especially as the schedule changes for the summer, call MVPC at 970-565-7024.