Someone once said, “A church is only as strong as its congregation’s members who worship there. A church building sitting empty has no more than memories.”

Plainview’s Church of Christ refuses to sit quietly. That congregation of approximately 300 members is energized while preparing for this year’s 150th anniversary in September.

It’s a non-denominational church with about 200 in attendance on any Sunday. Pastor Chuck Coggins told me he started as a youth pastor in 1976, went full-time in 1980 and suddenly, 35 years have passed. That’s unusual in today’s changing world of many higher powers moving preachers every four to six years.

The Plainview Church of Christ came into being in 1861 under the direction of Brother Abraham. The group was originally known as the Society of Christians, who met in the Wilcox Hall on the corner of Broadway and Second Street.

As in many church histories, there were some moves and dead spots. Their congregation was inactive from 1907 to 1914. And this must have been difficult for members as a new Church of Christ had been built in 1895.

The church was brought back to life during the Christmas season of 1915 with 72 members. From there, the 1895 building served the members until 1963, when it was demolished and a new church was constructed for $20,000. This was accomplished only because members volunteered.

One of today’s members is known as Maggie the "Vagabond Volunteer." In real life, Margaret Brownell told me she was raised in this church, graduated from Plainview High School in 1953 and went on to teaching.

When I asked her about being named Vagabond Volunteer, she told me she traveled a lot in earlier teaching years and found the need for volunteering wherever she was. Her children’s mission work was important to her during those many years away from her home town.

Now that she’s back, Plainview’s Church of Christ is blessed with volunteers inside and out. The building of a recent church addition brought everybody together. Folks took time off from work to help. “Marvelous” was how Maggie described the great unity in the church from this building project.

In 1982 and 1995, additions had been constructed to adjoin the church built in the early 1960s. An interesting historical note showed in 1986, when this church celebrated its 125th anniversary, that it was the oldest congregation in Plainview.

In mid-May 2010, groundbreaking took place for this new $900,000 church addition which would include a large kitchen, fellowship hall, Sunday school rooms and a new elevator. For this new building, church laws stated that 50 percent approval by the whole congregation was needed to pass. Then the leadership changed it to 90 percent — the vote came in at 96 percent approval. The vote left Pastor Coggins speechless.

Over three decades, Chuck Coggins made it his mission to see the church grow physically and spirituality. He disliked the thought of moving a family every two to four years for another pulpit. The Lord blessed Pastor Coggins and his congregation in this new church addition because it is a real community event place. The sanctuary can also be set up for volleyball games and community dinners.

Another reach-out program is Angel Food Ministries, whereby residents suffering during these economic times can purchase food for half price. This program has been in service at Plainview’s Church of Christ for nearly two years.

The church has no organ or choir. They take a contemporary approach to music with keyboards blended with traditional songs. Maggie told me that senior citizens from their church, Marion, Pleasant Grove and Hope Summit in Rochester, meet the last Tuesday of the month for a meal at Old Country Buffet. They are called the South Eastern Minnesota Senior Saints.

Now let the 150th anniversary celebration begin Sept. 17-18 at Plainview’s Church of Christ, 205 First St. N.E., Plainview.

Harley Flathers is a longtime Rochester-area broadcaster and historian. Got a church story or memory for Harley? Send it to life@postbulletin.com or to Harley at Post-Bulletin, P.O. Box 6118, Rochester, MN 55903.

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