A constant in the Reno area

On Feb. 11, 1872, Sand Hill United Methodist Church in Reno held its first service in the then-uncompleted church building.

Before that time, life-long churchgoer Agnes Simmons, 80, of Reno, said sermons were held in an unlikely place.

“The first services were held in the Marietta Township High School, and that was across the road (from where the church sits now),” she said.

Simmons said the original church is no longer standing, but would have been in the same spot.

“(The original church was built) in 1872,” she said. “It was rebuilt in 1900.”

The land the church sits on was purchased by George Posey and set aside for the church, and William and Rinaldo Thornriley, a father and son, constructed the church.

Simmons said one big change from then is the way the congregation faced.

“In 1872, the original pulpit faced (toward the day care),” she said, adding that after the rebuild the pulpit faced down Sandhill Road, toward Ohio 7.

She said to her knowledge, there are no existing photos of the first church.

Simmons said there was a big addition to the church in the late 1960s.

“The education building was built around (1968),” she said, adding it was used for Sunday School for the children late in the year.

Pastor Wendy Erb said that renovations occurred in 2003, with another change in the pulpit, this time facing toward Cornerville Road.

“(A growing congregation) is why the congregation decided to change the church,” she said. “The way I hear the story, one Sunday they had the worship service, put on old clothes afterward and started dismantling the (pulpit) the way it was and flipped it.”

She said the additions have been a good thing for the church.

“In 2003, there were some add-ons (to the front of the church),” Erb said. “The basement was enlarged too. Our church needed to be modernized. I especially like the handicapped areas.”

Erb said one thing she hopes the church can do is expand its mission work.

“I would like to see us do more in our mission work or ministry outside of the church,” she said.

A water well was drilled in the 1950s, bringing running water to the building, and restrooms and a furnace were also added.

The original bell is still rung every Sunday and the shovel that broke ground on the day care center still sits inside the church.

One new addition is the projector system, said Erb.

“We now have a projector system,” she said. “We’re still learning how to best utilize it. That was installed last year.”

The church also hosts a community garden, and has for about four years.

“Whatever (produce) comes off the garden goes to food pantries and other nonprofit organizations…It’s usually potatoes and corn,” said Erb.

Eric Knowlton, 34, of Reno, has been going to the church for a few years, and says there’s one thing he’d like to see in the future.

“I’d like to see both (the church and day care) connected at some point,” he said.

Andra Hinson, 56, of Reno, is Simmons’ daughter. She said she loves the church and has high hopes for its future.

“All you have to do is pick up the phone and call someone, (and they’re there),” she said. “I just want to see the congregation continue to grow.”