Our Church History
According to the County Atlas, the first religious service ever held in Rock Township was in 1879 led by the Methodist minister, Rev. John Runyan, who was a traveling missionary. In 1880 Rev. F.W. Luce organized a Methodist class. He was followed by Rev. J.R. Faus, a Methodist circuit rider, who began to make regular visits to Rock Valley on his 4-point circuit (Hull, Boyden, Rock Valley and a country church called the Albertson School House, seven miles north and one mile west of Rock Valley) from Pattersonville (now Hull), where the parsonage was located to the Dischler School House in Rock Valley. The Dischler School House was located, at what is now 1624 Main Street. This building became too small and inconvenient, so the congregation came to the Rev. Faus and after quite a little deliberation a decision was made to build a Methodist Church in Rock Valley. A finance meeting was held on February 20, 1882, and pledges were received for the new church. On May 8, 1882, a Quarterly Conference was held in Pattersonville and the Rock Valley Methodist Episcopal Church was founded. A Board of Trustees was appointed for the building of a church. Ten days later a meeting of the Trustees and Rev. Faus was held for the securing of funds for the new church. Interestingly, a financial note from U.S. Vice-President Wheeler for $50.00 was solicited by the Shipman family as a gift for the church building. On June 10, 1882 a building contract was signed between the building committee and the builders, G.W. Chase and A.J. Flowers of Sioux County, and in the fall of 1882 the first church building was dedicated. Rev. Faus left in 1883 and the first resident pastor was Rev. G.W. Barnes. In 1889 the first parsonage was built at 1806 14th St., presently the home of Mavis Vugteveen. After 25 years of ups and downs the first milestone was passed and a two-day Silver Anniversary Celebration was held on May 15 & 16, 1907. In 1909 an agreement of cooperation was made between the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Rock Valley Presbyterian Church to worship together. The Presbyterians would eventually unite with the Methodists. A second milestone was reached in1933 when Rev. G.A. Tyler was serving the church. On Sunday, July 16, 1933, a Golden Jubilee Service was observed. Rev. M.D. Bush of Primghar (a former Pioneer pastor) gave the anniversary sermon. To commemorate the occasion, the first history book of the church was printed by O.L. Halstead, the editor of the town newspaper and a church member. In 1940, when Rev. Rachuy began his ministry, the church received many improvements including stained glass windows. One of these windows contained the symbol of the W.S.C.S. This was the first time in all Methodism that the emblem of the Woman’s Society of Christian Service was made from stained glass. Besides providing the funds for this window, the women also made a new organ possible and published the first Methodist Cookbook. In 1939 the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Methodist Episcopal Church, South and the Protestant Methodist Church merged and the Rock Valley Methodist Episcopal church was renamed Pioneer Methodist Church. The Ladies Aid and the Women’s Missionary Societies were joined into one organization, the Woman’s Society of Christian Service (W.S.C.S.); the Epworth (Youth) League became the Youth Fellowship; and, the Sunday School was renamed the Church School. Following W.W. II, Rev. M.L. Jones, a returning army chaplain, was appointed to Pioneer. It was at this time that Pioneer became a two-point charge with Doon Congregational Church. An extensive remodeling and rebuilding project took place from 1947-48. Near the completion of the remodeling and rebuilding project the town fire alarm sounded and word spread through the town that the furnace in the Methodist Church had exploded. Fortunately, there was no fire, but clouds of soot filled the church building. During the time of the remodeling and rebuilding the worship services were held in the school auditorium. In 1954, Rev. Nelson Price, who had served as vice-president of Morningside College and a missionary to Burma was appointed to Pioneer. Due to the foresight of Dr. Price and some of the members, the site for the second parsonage (1521 18th Ave.) was purchased in 1954 for the sum of $3,925 and a new parsonage was erected. The year 1958 was also the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Pioneer Methodist Church. In the fall of 1960 there was another furnace explosion. As a result, in May, 1962 at a men’s fellowship supper, the subject of a new church was discussed. A building committee and finance committee were appointed. The new church site was selected at 1030 18th Ave. in Rock Valley. By the end of October the new church was enclosed and on November 1 it was possible to have the Cornerstone Laying Ceremony with Bishop James S. Thomas, Bishop of the Iowa Episcopal Area, presiding along with Pioneer’s Pastor M.R. Nelson. A.L. Porter, church lay leader and A.C. Dorhmann, church contractor, placed the stone in its niche. Sunday, January 24, 1965, was the last Sunday worship service in the old church. Mrs. Ed deHaas sang “In The Garden,” and Brian Wade Grossenburg was baptized during the service. First services were held in the new church on Sunday, January 31, 1965. Rev. Nelson led the special morning service with Mrs. Ed deHaas singing “How Lovely Are Thy Dwellings.” In 1966 Rev. Raymond Roloff and his wife, Amanda, were welcomed to Pioneer with a pot-luck dinner by the congregation. Two important events in Methodism occurred during his ministry. In 1968, at the Uniting Conference in Dallas, Texas the Evangelical United Brethren Church and the Methodist Church became The United Methodist Church. And the name of Rock Valley’s Methodist Church became officially “Pioneer United Methodist Church.” The name of the youth group became the UMYF and the WSCS became The United Methodist Women. The second event happened in 1969, when the Methodist Publishing House published a new hymnal. A dedication service was held on October 16, 1969, with a glorious dedication service of singing by song leaders Shirley and Pam Bunch. Rev. Bill Ballard was appointed to Pioneer UMC in 1969. One of the great happenings was the building of the present-day parsonage at 1031 18th Ave. The parsonage was finished the following summer, but too late for the Ballards to live in it, as Rev. Ballard was given a new appointment in June, 1975. Rev. David Waterman, a former EUB minister and a licensed locksmith, came to fill the vacancy. In 1979, Rev. Waterman announced to both church boards at Doon and Rock Valley that the Iowa Conference was considering making Rock Valley a one charge church. The Church Council gave their approval at the January 19, 1981 meeting, and the one charge church became effective in June of 1981. Rev. Clarence Burns and his wife, Evelyn, replaced the Watermans in June of 1981. In 1982, Pioneer UMC celebrated its 100th Anniversary. The second century of “Methodism” in Rock Valley began with the appointment of Rev. Ron Johnson in 1983. Rev. Johnson served Pioneer through June of 1997, which is the longest itinerancy in the history of Pioneer UMC. During his itinerancy the church produced and presented it’s first of eleven “Live Nativity” plays on an annual basis. In 1987 the congregation decided to add a Fellowship Hall to the existing church. Ground breaking services were held on Sunday, April 10, 1988. Six months later a consecration service was held on Sunday, October 9, 1988. The mortgage on the Fellowship Hall was burned in 1993. Rev. Jerry Robertson was appointed to Pioneer at the Iowa Annual Conference in June of 1998.
On July 8, 2007, Pioneer UMC celebrated the Quasquicentennial Anniversary Year of “Methodism” in Rock Valley. The year 2007 marked the 125th year of “Pioneering God’s Grace” globally, as we celebrated locally with an eye to the past and a vision toward the future.
Many fine clergy, devoted spouses and many laity have come and gone through the portals of Pioneer UMC. Best of all is the God is with us. The grace of God that has led us to this present point in time continues to care for us and minister to us, even in the face of forces that we can neither control or at times understand. Still, Pioneer remains steadfast in its witness to God’s grace for Christ Jesus to all God’s people.