McConnell said her family, like Morton's, was very involved in the church through the years. She said she remembers going to the church to roll bandages for the American Red Cross during World War II.
Morton said the busy life of the church during the war also sparks many memories for him, in particular how many people left to serve in the military and those who did not make it back home.
McConnell and Morton said the church's historic bell brings back many memories.
McConnell said the bell is one of the congregation's most cherished possessions because it was purchased by local merchants at the Mertes Brothers Store as a gift to the church in 1896. She said the cast iron bell was created in Ohio and shipped via rail to Kansas City. From Kansas City, it was delivered to Choctaw by a mule-led wagon.
Morton said he remembers as a small boy hearing the bell toll from several miles away. McConnell said she as a child helped a family friend clean the church on some Saturdays, and the bell was an important part of the afternoons.
“Sometimes she would let me ring the bell, and that was a thrill for me,” McConnell said.
She said the church was delighted when young member John Hyman, as his Eagle Scout project, built a structure to house the bell in front of the current church building.
Continuing to serve
McConnell said the church's history preservation committee invited Sunday school classes to make presentations about their respective group's history at the church and in the community. She said church members gave creative presentations that showed how much missions and community service are a part of what they do.
All of these aspects will be celebrated in the coming Sundays as the congregation gathers to mark the church's historic anniversary and a future filled with hope.
“People have a very forward-looking vision for this church,” James said. “There's a real sense of hopefulness — that the best days are still ahead of us.”
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