Cooks Hill Community Church is a member of the Free Methodist Church of North America. For more information on the doctrines of the Free Methodist Church click here.
We are not a new church. In fact, in 1999, we celebrated one hundred years of continuous service in Centralia. In 1897, Rev. Edwin H. Stayt, a pioneer minister from the state of New York, debarked from a train in Centralia to gather a Christian congregation. He was successful. Within two years the Centralia Free Methodist Church was incorporated and a building purchased. The church prospered. Five decades later (1948), finding its facilities inadequate, a new church was built at the corner of Rock and Main Streets in Centralia.
Following the relocation, the church continued to grow and have a fruitful ministry. Even so, certain problems emerged. Parking was increasingly difficult, being limited mostly to the surrounding streets. Many of the younger generation migrated from Centralia to larger urban centers. Slowly the church weakened in numbers, strength and vision. They had the foresight in 1986 to purchase the present nine-acre church site on Cooks Hill Road. In 1992 they sold the Rock and Main building to a business firm.
The church, however, did not immediately rebuild. The nucleus remained together. Through the kindness of local churches, they were able to rent places to meet. They faced a number of dilemmas. How could they regroup their strength? Where would adequate financing be found? For a time they were without a pastor. They seriously considered disbanding. As they searched their hearts in prayer, however, they felt God was leading them to become a ministry-centered church. They prayed about how they could, to the glory of God, serve Centralia and Lewis County.
At this juncture, it was decided to ask Rev. Leslie Whitehead, retired pastor, and former superintendent of the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference of the Free Methodist Church, to be their minister, on a half-time basis. Although in his seventies, Pastor Whitehead consented. With remarkable love and insight he led the congregation. Within a short time he had led the small group to build on the Cooks Hill Road site. It was a venture of faith. In 1994, the building on Cooks Hill Road was started and soon completed.
Mid-term in his short, but very significant, ministry, Rev. Whitehead was diagnosed with terminal cancer. His reaction was, “For over forty-five years I have talked to people about how to live. Now God is asking me to show them how to die!” During the few remaining months he led approximately thirty persons to Christ. Many of these converts now have active leadership roles in Cooks Hill Community Church. Rev. Whitehead died in 1997. Rev. Mitch Dietz, a man known to, and recommended by Rev. Whitehead, became the pastor.