Reaching Out Into The Community With The Love Of Jesus
In April 1953 with construction of a new townsite and copper mine underway, the first organized Sunday School meetings began in the home of Mrs. Richard Moe at 17 Elm Street. Attendance soon grew and moved to a home being used for a temporary school at 7 Elm Street. Attendance soon outgrew this arrangement and moved to the construction camp cafeteria building followed soon after by meeting at the new elementary school building.
During the same time period a group of adults began meeting in the lounge of the cafeteria building on Sunday mornings. Some weeks a visiting pastor would provide a worship service, other weeks they worshipped on their own. In October 1953 the adult group contacted the Michigan Council of Churches to come in and take an impartial survey on organizing a church. This was completed and a vote taken with the result being to affiliate with the Methodist Church as they were the only denomination that promised to supply a pastor. Under direction of Rev. Charles Wolfe, Superintendent of the Marquette District of the Methodist Church Detroit Conference, regular Sunday services began at the elementary school that were led by visiting Methodist pastors from the surrounding area.
On December 5, 1953, under the guidance of Rev. Wolfe, the White Pine Community Methodist Church was organized and officers were elected. At the Sunday worship service the next morning, 45 people joined the church as charter members. On March 7, 1954, Rev. Vernon S. Blackwell, the first pastor appointed to serve the new church, began his ministry in White Pine with the group still meeting at the elementary school. During the early months of the new church a building committee was formed to start planning for construction of a permanent home for the church. Pace Associates of Chicago, designer of the townsite layout and buildings, volunteered its services to provide a design and construction drawings for the new building.
With planning by the building committee moving forward, and design by Pace Associates completed, a ground breaking ceremony was held on June 4, 1953 at the building site on the corner of Tamarack and Cedar Streets and construction started the next day. Construction progressed with volunteer workers and equipment to the point where a cornerstone was laid on August 2, 1954. This ceremony was led by Bishop Marshal Reed of the Methodist Church Detroit Conference. By late 1954 erection of structural steel was completed and the laying of cement blocks started but halted with the onset of winter conditions. The volunteer labor and equipment also began moving on to new construction jobs or were busy with startup of the new copper mine.
With volunteer workers and equipment not available, a decision was made to let out the remaining work to a general contractor and arrange for loans to pay for the work. The Herman Gundlach Co. of Houghton was chosen as the general contractor. A loan of $25,000 was made by the Houghton National Bank with an additional $15,000 from a revolving loan fund managed by the Methodist Church Detroit Conference. During the 1955 construction season work was completed to a point where the new church building could be occupied. A service of consecration was held on October 23, 1955 with the Rev. Charles Wolfe, Marquette District Superintendent, presiding.
In early 1960 the Women’s Society of Christian Service group, now the United Methodist Women (UMW), began holding pasty sales with the goal of paying off the loans taken out to complete construction of the church building. These continued twice monthly with
about 500 pasties being baked and sold each time until enough funds were raised to make the final loan payments in early 1966. Only then did the UMW group reduce the pasty sale frequency to once per month with some time off in the summer months. On February 27, 1963 a formal mortgage burning and rededication service was presided over by Rev. James Balfour, Marquette District Superintendent along with current and former pastors of the White Pine church.
A name change occurred in April 1968 with a merger of the Evangelical United Brethren and Methodist Church denominations. With the post-merger denominational name becoming the United Methodist Church, the local church name became the White Pine Community United Methodist Church.
In the United Methodist denomination local churches hold their church buildings and property in trust for the conference they are a part of. In the case of White Pine this is now the Michigan Area Conference. Part of this trust responsibility is to keep your buildings maintained. Being good United Methodists, the Board of Trustees for the White Pine church has completed numerous projects over the years. While some of these have been cosmetic in nature, the majority have been directed toward increased accessibility and energy/winter weather efficiencies. By far the most significant change came in 2013 with installation of a well-insulated gabled roof over the original flat roof design. In 2012 a new high efficiency heating furnace was installed. The total investment in these two projects approached $100,000.
Over the years since it’s chartering, the White Pine church has been aligned with other Ontonagon County United Methodist Churches in several different circuits. One of these arrangements included all the Methodist churches in the county (Ontonagon, Rockland, Greenland, Bergland and Ewen) and the Presbyterian Church in Trout Creek as the Ontonagon County Larger Parish. There were up to four different pastors at a time assigned to serve this circuit. Another alignment that included four churches was the South End Circuit that included White Pine, Bergland, Ewen and Trout Creek.
The White Pine church also entered into a permanent facility sharing agreement with the Faith Lutheran Church of White Pine in 2005 after an arson fire left their own church building unusable. This began as a temporary arrangement and became permanent with the Faith Lutheran decision not to rebuild due to the issue of declining membership. This facility sharing continued until October 2009 when the Faith Lutheran Church formally closed their doors as a congregation.
To date there have been a total of 24 different pastors appointed to serve the White Pine church. Typically, the pastors have stayed on about four to five years and then moved on to other appointments. An exception to this is the ministry of Rev. Rosemary DeHut who was appointed to White Pine as a quarter-time local pastor in mid-2002 and just recently retired at the end of 2020. During these 18 years of faithful service she shaped the White Pine Community United Methodist Church into what it is now reaching out into the community with the love of Jesus. On July 1, 2021 Rev. Pete LeMoine started a new appointment as pastor at White Pine. Pastor Pete is the first pastor who was previously a member of the White Pine church and was mentored, in part, by Pastor Rosemary before deciding to make a commitment to ministry in the United Methodist Church.