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Presentation from the pulpit at the 150th Aniversary Celebration by Rev Harold Filbrandt

One of the things of great interest at that time was that we received a letter from the Bethany United Methodist Church, at the south side of town, wanting to merge and be a part of the church congregation downtown.  And so that went through a lot of meetings and a lot of voting and a lot of decision making, but it happened.  And then on a Sunday morning, Bob Lunde followed by Loraine Abrahamson carrying the bible from their church was met by Norm Schade at the doorway of the downtown church with another ladder and they brought these two ladders inside and put them together to be called the United Methodist Church of Ludington.  (the ‘ladder’ was two parts of an extension ladder symbolizing that together they could reach higher.)  And so it was an important occasion that was very much a part of what we did.

I want to tell you a couple stories about the building downtown that possibly we really don’t know.  But in 1926 Gray Hall was added to the sanctuary, and to the southern structure, and that was an important facility.  It was a room (on the second floor) that had enough tables and chairs to seat 600 people at a banquet.  It had a full stage with curtains, and lights, and dressing rooms, and everything else.  It was quite a center.  Besides the worship aspect it was a community center.

And I remember the church working hard on two different occasions when Dow Chemical had their annual meeting.  Up in Gray Hall we served 600 people on Thursday night and another 600 on Friday night.  What a grand occasion that was.  It took a lot of organization by Phoebe Erickson.  And I tell you she had it planned and, “don’t you do anything that is not on my list.”  I went in the wrong door at the kitchen one time and she said “Don’t ever do that again.”

One day Margaret Lunde, the secretary, received a telephone call from the governor’s office in Lansing and wanted to talk to the pastor.  And so, what had been planned was that the governor was to come and to speak in Gray Hall with this big community dinner for 600 people.  And what his staff was calling about is that we need to check out the security of Gray Hall and there will be assigned-people doing their tasks.  But what I need to know from you is that if there is an SOS for the governor that you will relinquish your office and you will get to him the importance of him to come to the telephone.  

Everything went well.  He was seated at the head table.  The phone rang and it was the governor’s office and said that there was a fracas at Michigan State University.  It was nearing that critical time and we need to talk to the governor immediately.  Instead of going up the front way, I knew the short cut through the back way.  But I ran into a State Policeman and he said, “you’re not going up this way.”  So he went up, brought the governor down and (the governor) sat in my office and did what he needed to do that night.

That was one of the events that I want to share with you about Gray Hall being such an important aspect.  It is part of the (Ludington Area) Arts Center now.  I’d love to get in there and see what they are doing with it today.

Another thing that had happened was that the fourth-of-July was on a Sunday morning (1971).  And I preached a sermon that, “If I had a hammer I would hammer out justice, if I had love I would sing it throughout the land, if I had a bell I would ring out freedom”.  That was the three-point sermon. 

Bob King was the head usher that day and I said to him, “at the conclusion of the last verse of Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory of the Coming of the Lord, I want you to start ringing the church bell.”  And he did.  And as we held those notes the chills went up and down our back. 

Something happened with Bob.  He didn’t know that we had stopped singing and he kept ringing it and as the people spilled out onto the streets of Ludington that day I decided I was going out the south entrance instead of the north entrance.  And you know a church is always divided by where you park your car, those on this side, this half go one direction, the other half go that direction,  I was at the south entrance at the bottom of the steps the bell stopped ringing and I heard clunk-clunk-clunk and something went between my robe and someone fell on the steps.  And the clapper had fallen out of the bell after ringing so much, came down across a man’s head.  And here he was and we needed an ambulance, and thirty-three stitches taken.

Now you laugh about that!  The next morning, I was downtown on Monday to have my coffee with the business people of the community, and I met all kinds of people who knew who Harold Filbrandt was. And they were telling me, I would never go to your church because if you don’t get them in the sanctuary, you hit them over the head when they leave.

Note of recollection from James E Clark:

About 1980 I was asked to repair the bell.  We found the A-frame had failed launching the bell toward the west.  The brick-work caught the falling bell, but evidence was that the clapper pin had been worn so that clapper ripped free and flew out through a slot.
United Methodist Church of Ludington 5810 Bryant Road, Ludington, MI 49431