COLUMBIA — Sunday morning, Shirley Fisher will attend worship service at Dripping Spring Christian Church, just as she has her entire life. For Fisher, who grew up in the Dripping Spring community north of Columbia, attending the church is a tradition that has been part of her family for six generations.
Sunday, however, will be special as the church celebrates its 150th anniversary.
In commemoration, members will share memories and anecdotes of the church's history during the 10:30 a.m. worship service. A celebratory meal will follow in the fellowship hall. All members, current and former, are invited to attend.
Fisher, who has also played the piano and organ for the past 50 years at services, will be among those speaking on the church's history.
"It's been amazing to me that the church has continued," Fisher said. "There have always been a core group that you care about and care about you."
Fisher thinks Dripping Spring, like many rural churches, has had its ups and downs. However, the church has survived as a place where the community comes together because it meets a certain need for all ages, she said.
Dripping Spring was founded in 1858 by elder John White. Named for a nearby spring, the area was once home to a post office and shops. The church, which has a congregation of about 100 members, has survived the Civil War, the Great Depression and two world wars. Through the years, changes have been made, including the construction of a new building in the late '60s.
"I think the history of Dripping Spring is the same as any small-town church," said Shirley's husband, Hank Fisher, a member since 1959. "There is a group of dedicated individuals moving it forward under difficult circumstances." The group of individuals includes families such as the Millers, of which Fisher is a part, as well as Sally Erickson and her family.
Erickson was named pastor in January 2006. When she was 18, her father, Harold Reisch, began his 19 years as pastor. Erickson's husband, Frank Erickson, has also served as pastor.
Erickson said her most vivid memories come from the time she was the pastor's wife, including a snowy, cold day when members of Dripping Spring gathered to break ground on a new fellowship hall. She said she remembers being handed the shovel and only knowing one way to turn the soil, she jumped on the shovel to force it into the dirt.
"I remember distinctively some gasps," she said.
Members of the church, including Hank Fisher, describe the church as a close-knit family atmosphere. Erickson said she agrees. Dripping Spring, Erickson said, is a place where people can experience community. The church also provides guidance, love and security for children, which she said she thinks can be very positive. "I think a small church is the perfect size," Erickson said. "It is a real plus in a culture that has anonymity."
Through her years with Dripping Spring, Erickson has also seen the community expand.
"I think our world has gotten bigger," Erickson said. "There's a real openness up to the whole world that wasn't there before."
The openness includes helping the church's first missionary and serving the communities of Columbia and Boone County. The church conducts a vacation Bible school each summer and adopts families during the Christmas season.
Erickson said it is the quality of people which has kept her and other longtime members involved in the church. She hopes the celebration can spur more growth to add to Dripping Spring's "very authentic community," she said.