This century old, mission revival style church started with a dream and ice cream!

During the fall of 1908 friends and neighbors of Nathaniel and Lee Annie Sanders gathered for an Ice Cream Social, a tradition dating back as early as 1744 in North America. Envisioning a new church for the community of Liberty, Arizona was one topic of discussion.

Sanders Ranch House,
Photo provided by Rev. Larry Hinshaw

“The ice cream party that sealed the commitment with the Methodist Presiding Elder was held on the front porch of the ranch house. The Sanders’ gave the land for the church and parsonage and made a generous donation toward its construction, as well as secured a promise from the Rev. Jimmy Crutchfield, the Presiding Elder of The Methodist Church that a pastor would be appointed at the next Annual Conference.”

Rev. Larry Hinshaw, Mr. & Mrs. Sanders Grandson

In 1909, leading ranch families of the Liberty community, Mr. & Mrs. Nathaniel Sanders, Mr. & Mrs. Henry Hammels and Rev. Ralph H. Fields (the original builder of Nardini Manor, now an event venue) contributed land and organized a building fund. A revival meeting was held on the grounds of the Liberty School and Rev. C. Raymond Gray, then pastor at Central Methodist Church in Phoenix, organized the ‘church’.

Before and during construction of the church building, which began in 1909 and completed in 1910, services were held in an arbor on the Liberty School grounds. Sometimes known as a Brush Arbor Meeting, these type of gatherings began as early as the 1900’s and continued into the 1930’s all around the country. (Learn more about Brush Arbor Meetings and view additional photos by visiting Days Gone By, J. Butterworth linked here, or Wikipedia here.)

Photo – J. Butterwork, Days Gone By

Originally Liberty Methodist Episcopal Church, South, the current church building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places (Ref.# 100001752). The plaque commemorating this distinction was placed on April 8, 2018 (West Valley View, Pg. 22).

Ice cream socials are still celebrated here at Liberty United Methodist Church annually each summer!