While headlines in this decade were filled with news about Watergate, Nixon’s resignation, and a final pullout from Vietnam, WUMC continued to meet the spiritual needs of the community. John Beeson, Bill Grossman, and Dean Richardson served as our senior pastors. Robert Pomeroy was hired as a part-time Administrative Assistant in 1976, and Peter Del Nagro became our associate pastor in July 1979. Evelyn Stubbe became the church secretary when Margaret Ries retired after holding this position for 22 years. Carol Ward was the organist-choir director in 1977 and Harriett Herbert succeeded her as Music Director in 1978. Membership reached 1,203 during this decade, but the average attendance dropped to approximately 300, with 450 family “giving units” being recorded in 1974.
David Kell remained the Education Minister until 1973. The retired Rev. Al Gross and Nancy Hall assumed the duties until 1977 when Allene Pollard took over as Coordinator of Christian Education. The Senior and Junior High MYF remained vibrant and busy during this decade. The annual Fish Fry was replaced with a spaghetti dinner in 1975. Church spring clean-ups, horseback rides, bowling, ice-skating, hayrides, conducting services for Blocher Homes, and outreach to the community were activities of the groups. There were 36 confirmands in 1973 and 17 in 1979.
The Men’s Group dissolved in the 1970, but activities for men remained including a father/son banquet, annual Men’s Communion Breakfast on Palm Sunday, and a men’s golfing group was formed in 1979. The United Methodist Women had seven circles at the beginning of this decade. In 1977, they decided to have two daytime, two evening, and one Beechwood Guild Circle. The held election fests, spring luncheons, a Christmas bazaar, and collected 400 recipes to publish a “Bicentennial Cookbook.”
There was an emphasis on family and adult social and spiritual activities during this decade including marriage enrichment weekends, family Advent celebrations, an adult bridge club, and an Arts Festival in 1973. The Marshal Group coordinated events such as ice cream socials, Christmas parties, Miss Buffalo excursions, and June family picnics.
Other Important Events in the 1970s
- Open Door Nursery School was established in 1970 in response to the demand for early childhood education and socialization experiences. It was successful from the start and continues to this day to provide an exceptional early childhood experience.
- A new crib room was created in 1975.
- On January 13, 1975 the Dunn Memorial window was revealed behind the chancel wall where it was sealed in 1947. The Dunn window is now in the Oakgrove narthex.
- Boy Scout Troop 85 was a constant with seven boys earning Eagle Scout in 1974.
- Continued support of Beechwood and Gateway.
We began the 1980’s with Ronald Reagan as our president and ended with George H. W. Bush leading the country. AIDs was identified as a major health problem and the Challenger space shuttle exploded, while WUMC was bursting with energy!
F. Ray Hazlett was our senior pastor for this entire decade. Peter Del Negro, Donald Langreck, and Patricia Lesch were our Associate Pastors. Since Pastor Ray loved drama, our Easter Sunrise Services in Glen Park were filled with re-enactments. Church attendance averaged between 280–325, with 7 to 20 confirmands ech year, and as many as 50 children attended Vacation Bible School. In 1982, our budget was $147,012 and by 1986 had grown to $180,446. The Messenger newsletter underwent major changes as computer usage increased.
Our music program was especially active during the 1980s. Harriett Herbert began the decade as music director, then LuAnn Steiner served as music director for 1986 and part of 1987. In May 1987, Judy Stafford and Wendy Amuso became Music Directors and continue to be our current leaders. In addition to starting three choirs, two octaves of handbells were purchased and our handbell choir began. Blue robes with red stoles were purchased in 1981. “Sing-a-longs” after worship service on the first Sunday of the month were established in 1981 and “Sing-for-your-Supper” potlucks raised money to purchase hymnals. Finally, the choir compiled and sold a Melodious Menus Cookbook.
The Sunday School also thrived during the 1980s with Jan Lasda was our member leader for many years. In 1983, Barbara Bruce was hired as the Coordinator of Christian Education. In 1987, Sunday School time was changed to 9:40 to 10:40 AM. The Senior High YMF had many activities including retreats at Camp Asbury, hot dog roasts, visits to the Science Museum, traveling volleyball matches with Gateway, and collecting food for the needy. The Junior High YMF held pancake breakfasts and participated in the “CROP Walk.”
The Marshal Group continued to organize social activities and the women’s circles remained steady holding annual bake sales, fall bazaars and spring luncheons. The men’s group reorganized in 1982 hosting guest speakers, dinners, and parties. In the 1980s we also began volunteering each month at the Good News Dining Room (soup kitchen) at Asbury-Delaware AME Church and working with Habitat for Humanity.
Other Important Events in the 1980s
1981 - Celebrated the 160th anniversary of the formation of our church in November and the Altar Guild was established to prepare the altar area for worship.
1982 - Forty Fellowship began with 16 charter members, the Elderteen group was organized, and the Poinsettia Wreath was made.
1983 - Pictures of our pastors were hung in the parlor and a wooden sign was placed in front of the church.
1984 - Fundraising began for installation of an elevator.
1985 - The Easter lily cross was constructed and a crib room was created.
1986 - Dedication of new elevator and a conference room added to the main office.
1987 - New worship schedule and organizational structure implemented and the Paschal candle in the sanctuary donated.
1988 - Mother's Morning Out group formed
What a decade! The Buffalo Bills went to the Super Bowl four times and the Buffalo Sabres to the Stanley Cup finals once! Our country was engaged in the Persian Gulf Conflict with President George H. W. Bush as our leader. Bill Clinton served as president for eight years, taking us into the new century.
We had numerous staff changes during the 1990s. After Ray Hazlett left in 1991, Robert Jones became the new senior pastor until he retired in 1999, when Jim Pollard became senior pastor. Patricia Lesch remained as our Associate Pastor until 1998 after 14 years of ministry. Bryant Oskvig became our new Associate Pastor for two years before returning to graduate school. Gail Lewis assumed the position of co-pastor with Jim Pollard. Barbara Bruce, Coordinator of Christian Education, left in 1991 with Marcia Hale being hired as her replacement. Marcia stayed until 1999. In 1992, we hired a nursery care worker to provide consistent care Sunday mornings in the crib room. When Evelyn Stubbe retired as church secretary after 20 years, Michele Grammer came to us in November 1994. Choir Directors, Wendy Amuso and Judith Stafford, and custodian Mary Ann Horey remained throughout the entire decade.
During the 1990s, there was an emphasis on family fun and all-church gatherings including a family retreat weekend in 1993. Seder Passover dinners, Progressive Dinners, and a series of game nights were held. Highlights of this decade include:
The men’s group continued to gather in the early part of the decade and the United Methodist Women's circle meetings continued to hold election bake sales and spring luncheons. Chicken BBQ’s, yard sales, and the geranium sales were part of our fund-raising activities. The Trustees held many successful workdays for all willing participants to maintain and/or repair parts of our church. In addition, the following changes were made to our church building during this decade:
- Clumbarium room, a special room with niches for placing cremated remains, was constructed in the sanctuary in 1992.
- The adjacent home on Oakgrove Drive was purchased and readied as a parsonage for Patricia Lesch.
- Ahlborn-Galanti organ installed in the summer of 1994.
- New sound system installed in the sanctuary in 1995.
- The narthex was redecorated in 1997.
- New pew cushions were purchased in 1998.
Our Christian Education program continued to be very active sponsoring a giving tree and mitten tree, Vacation Bible School with 120 children attending in 1992. In September 1996, the fourth and fifth graders sold bulbs so that large print hymnals could be purchased. Birthday boxes for needy children were assembled for distribution and a youth puppet ministry was begun. The Senior High MYF made sandwiches for Central City Café, created care packages for our college students, gathered 600 pounds of food for the needy, and raised funds for mission trips.
Throughout the life of The Messenger, it is apparent that our church has been actively engaged in a variety of ministries reaching out to all age groups within our church and beyond to the world at large. We are grateful for the many people involved in creating a written record about the life of our church over the past 50 years.