Church constructed in 1882 continues to minister to its rural community

The Rev. John Uder is the current pastor of what is today known as the Oakland Community Church.

He and his wife Kathy have lived in the Oakland area, located just outside Lebanon, Mo., and John, who was ordained in the Free Will Baptist denomination, grew up in this church.

“I’ve pastored in Free Will Baptist churches in the area for 20 years. This church is now a non-denominational church and all are welcome here,” John said.

The historic church was built as the Oakland Moravian Church in 1882 by Jacob Blickensderfer and his sons. Jacob was a railroad surveyor during the boom years of the railroad industry as it crossed the continent in the mid-1800s. He purchased 900 acres in eastern rural Laclede County, where he built the little church, as well as his dream home, which came to be known as the Oakland Mansion and still stands today.

The retired railroad man’s life took several tragic twists over the years, including the death of one of his children from a hunting accident and the sudden death of his wife, Louisa, from illness. His 10-year-old son was the first to be buried in the Oakland Moravian Cemetery. His wife never lived to see the beautiful mansion he built for her.

Like the Moravian Church in America, Jacob Blickensderfer was originally from Bethlehem, Penn. The small sect provided preachers and support for the tiny congregation until 1915 when they decided it was no longer able to do so. At that time, the church was deeded to the Methodist organization and became the Oakland Methodist Church. For the next 85 years, the church served the tiny hamlet of Oakland as part of the Methodist ministry when once again, those in charge decided to close its doors. This time, the Methodist Board of Trustees decided to deed the church and 30 acres to the Oakland Heritage Church of God, pastored by Joan Hart of Lebanon, Mo.

Another lifelong resident of the Lebanon area, Joan and her husband, Milan, served the little church and its devoted congregation for the next 15 years. In 2015, the rural church changed hands again. However, John, with a smile and a knowing twinkle in his eye, said “it will not be sold again.”

The Oakland Church, under three different names, alongside the Oakland Moravian Cemetery, has been a silent witness to a great many changes in the local community, as well as the country at large.

Built less than 20 years after the end of the American Civil War, the community of Oakland, like so many other rural villages, lost its commercial interests over the ensuing years. With the advent of the automobile and trucks of all sizes, as well as the changes in the economy, rural families have gravitated to larger nearby communities for work, shopping, education, recreation and, in many cases, worship. Still, there is a charm and attraction to the old ways, exemplified in this small yet vibrant church community. While the pulpit used on a weekly basis, like the church itself is more than a century old, Oakland Community Church is still managing to keep up with the modern age.

“We livestream our services each week on the Internet,” stated Kathy Uder who works as a substitute mail carrier and is a busy quilter when not working in and around the church. “We also have them available on a free website called sermon audio, as we work to reach more people with the Good News of Jesus.”

Livestreaming the love of Jesus on the internet – Jacob Blickensderfer’s little church continues its mission more than a century after the passing of its founder, in ways he could never have imagined.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here