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More than 140 years ago, members of the Machias United Methodist Church, who had been sharing a church building with other Christian groups, raised $2,500 and built their own church.

On Aug. 3, members of the Cattaraugus County church will gather in the same building -- which they have continued to use all these years -- to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the founding of their congregation.

The Rev. Brian K. Scharf, pastor of the church since 1993, said the wood frame building, which has been the congregation's home since 1853, has served the members well.

But there have been some improvements over the years including the addition of electricity, stained glass windows, an organ and more comfortable pews. In 1922, the building was raised and a full basement added to provide space for Sunday School rooms, a dining room and a kitchen.

At some point, the separate entrances for men and women also were eliminated, replaced by a single front entrance.

The anniversary service at 9:30 a.m. will include a sermon by the Rev. Dr. Deborah K. Cronin, superintendent of the Olean District of the United Methodist Church, and music by "Four By Faith," a women's quartet from Springville United Methodist Church. A picnic will follow the service to which former members, pastors and friends have been invited.

The congregation was founded as the Methodist Society of Machias in 1822 by five families of early settlers who held their services in homes or in the local schoolhouse for several years.

Later, the Methodists and other congregations built a common church which they all shared. Sunday attendance today averages 50 to 60 people.

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