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Pastor delivers sermon from steeple

Sep. 09, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- With beads of sweat covering his forehead, Senior Pastor Tim Dixon peered out the window of the steeple at First Congregational United Church of Christ on Sunday.

His legs still trembling from the six-story ascent up metal and wooden ladders to the recently restored steeple at his church on 5th Avenue and 7th Street, Dixon put a bullhorn to his face and began his sermon to the 100 or so members standing in the front lawn below.

Dixon believes it is the first time anyone has given a sermon from the steeple of the historic church, now 141 years old and regarded as Huntington's first organized church. That's why he took the opportunity to deliver what he said was an important message not only to his congregation, but also to the entire city.

"If a church, here or out there, has ever been the cause of your struggle, in the name of our God and for the sake of God's love, we confess and seek your forgiveness," Dixon proclaimed through the bullhorn.

Dixon said the church served as a healing agent in the years after the Civil War and stood up for the abolition of slavery, gender equality and civil rights. Since then, the church has nurtured the sick in times of illness, fed the hungry and accepted anyone who has walked through its doors, he said.

"While we still have a long way to go for equality, this church has fallen on the right side of history," Dixon said. "This is the heritage of us."

Dixon said heights are his ultimate fear, and he wasn't sure whether he would be able to make the climb to the top of the steeple Sunday to deliver the sermon.

"I decided if I was going to ask my church to address its fears and ask for forgiveness, I had to address my own fears," he said.

Alex Wallen, who has attended First Congregational since before Dixon arrived there 12 years ago, said it's the church's openness that has helped its membership surge in the past decade. Attendance -- about 10 or 15 people per week -- was so low about 10 years ago that the church's leadership began taking classes on how to close its doors, Wallen said.

"It's a good thing we weren't excellent students," said Wallen, the church's treasurer. "We accept anybody and everybody, and I credit that for our success. If you express love and acceptance, you will grow as a church. If you express judgment, you will die out."

Follow H-D reporter Bryan Chambers on Facebook or Twitter @BryanChambersHD.