Clifton Christian Church marks 100th year
Clifton Christian Church started 100 years ago in a tabernacle with a congregation average of 38 members.
This weekend, the church with more than 700 members, five ministers and 10 staff assistants, is celebrating its birthday at the 9 a.m. Sunday service. The church’s oldest member, 99-year-old Eleanor Burkhalter, will blow out a “100” candle on the birthday cake Sunday morning.
Her husband, Wendall, is the son of the charter members of the church, Harold and Joy Burckhalter, who donated the land for the church’s first building. Wendall and Eleanor took out the “c” in their last name as advised by his father to avoid ridicule of having a German name during World War II, Clifton Christian Church senior pastor Roger Ferguson said.
“We’ve never been a flash-in-the-pan type of church,” Ferguson said. “We’ve been very steady. We contribute a lot of that to good people and leadership over the years. There’s been a lot of changes and a lot of new people, but we try to stay steady with what we believe and hold true. I make a statement to a lot of people that Clifton is not the end of town. We’re not the cool church, but we’re very effective.”
Clifton Christian Church started out in a tent in February 1910 on Orsan Ave. and Third Street. It was there until 1924, when it moved into its first building at 353 Second St., which now is the home of Lighthouse Four Square Church and is on the National Historic Registry.
“The Burckhalter and Gardner families were some of the early pioneers in getting the church built,” Ferguson said. “The founders didn’t feel right building a nice, big house without the church having a nice building. People pooled together and built that church.
“When they put this church out here, F Road was the main east-west highway (U.S. Highway 6). The old terminology was, ‘That is the church on the side of the road,’ because there was nothing else out here.”
Clifton Christian Church sold the building and built a new one in 1978 at 615 Interstate 70 Business Loop. The church put an addition on it in the late 1980s, making it 36,000 square feet.
The church has gone through several other changes through the years, and Ferguson has been around for them in the last 30 years.
It used to be a Disciples of Christ denomination, but changed over the years to nondenominational.
Its Christian-based school, Christian Community Schools, has grown into two campuses serving children from preschool through high school. Clifton Christian Church acquired Cornerstone Christian School three years ago. The church has a school board as well.
The church started a food and clothing program, Clifton Christian Church Food and Clothing, nearly 20 years ago for people in need. It provides food for more than 1,500 people, Ferguson said, and it has 80 volunteers.
Clifton Christian Church has sent several people to India on mission trips, and the church supports an orphanage there.
The church also plans to build a building in the near future at its current location. It will house a fellowhip hall, nursery, classrooms and offices.