After 32 years, George Jaderston gave his last sermon as the pastor of the Melrose Alliance Church Sunday leaving behind a legacy of sacrificial service to its congregation.
Jaderston has been the pastor of the Melrose Alliance Church for most of its existence as a Christian and Ministry Alliance church, except for the first 1 ½ years when a different pastor led the church.
The church had its beginning when John Stetzer came back to Melrose for his mother’s funeral nearly 35 years ago.
“He was burdened for this area and had an Alliance background. He talked to our district about having special meetings here in Melrose and so he had meetings for a couple of weeks. Out of that a bible study started and it grew to where they called a pastor,” Jaderston said.
The pastor the church first called was Paul Howard. Around the same time, Jaderston and his family moved to the Onalaska area to start a church. Soon he started filling in at the Melrose Alliance Church after Howard left.
“They were without a pastor here, so we came up and held bible studies and preached on Sunday. Then they asked us to come, and the district appointed us here about six months later and we have been here since. I am the only pastor most of these people have known in this church,” Jaderston said.
Jaderston attracted people to the congregation, which initially started with 18 people and met at the Melrose Legion Hall.
“We started looking for churches and we went to churches around here and we couldn’t find any church that we wanted to plug in with that was really bible-based and went along with our beliefs,” Melrose Alliance Church member Sally House said explaining that her children also were not always comfortable at the other churches.
After attending several different churches, House and her family made the trek from West Salem where they lived to Melrose to test out the Melrose Alliance Church.
“I do remember saying as we were going up there, ‘We are not going to church up here. I want a church closer,’ but we couldn’t find anything and we kept going back and the kids kept enjoying it and we enjoyed the preaching and the pastor and his family and we just became a part of the congregation,” House said.
As the congregation grew, it started to outgrow the Melrose Legion Hall.
“When we moved here, being in a Legion Hall was not conducive to building a church. They were good to us. The rates were phenomenal. It was the only place that we could afford to rent that would have facilities that would be sufficient. We had to move in all of our stuff every week and take it out every week,” Jaderston said.
As the reality set in that the Melrose Legion Hall could not be the permanent location for the church, Jaderston encouraged the congregation to set goals.
“Around 1994-1995, we met with the board and we set a five-year goal. The five-year goal was to pay off the parsonage in two years, and for me to go full-time because I was part-time pastoring,” Jaderston said explaining that he worked as a mechanic for nearly 15 years in La Crosse and Melrose.
Jaderston said that miracles happened that allowed the church to complete each goal. The board paid off the parsonage within 18 months after receiving a matching grant for $10,000. The board also voted for Jaderston to go to full-time three years after setting the goal because a family in Minnesota donated $500 per month for two years to pay for a full-time pastor since the church didn’t have money for it.
The third goal after the first two goals were met was to begin a building program.
In July 1999, the church bought property in downtown Melrose with plans to build a church. They quickly found out that they couldn’t build the church on that location because there were sewer pipes and water lines running through the property.
Then the local car garage came up for sale, and Jaderston suggested the church purchase the garage and convert it into a church.
“I can remember going in there and seeing the garage and thinking there was no way I could see that being a church. It was really in rough shape. There was oil on the floor, the roof was leaking at that time, there was stuff all over the place because they had closed the place, but hadn’t taken anything out of it,” House said.
Some people say Jaderston had a vision, but Jaderston is quick to explain that it wasn’t his vision at all.
“Nobody really saw it as a church. People always say, ‘What a tremendous vision.’ It wasn’t my vision, it was God’s plan for this place and he made it real to me. It has got to work and it is miracle upon miracle that this place is here,” Jaderston said. “It ended up a bigger project than any of us thought including me, but it was a doable thing.”
Once the church decided to purchase the building, Jaderston said that many miracles fell into place to make it a reality, starting with getting the $100,000 loan to purchase the property and make some of the necessary improvements.
“Even during that process of getting the loan, that was a miracle because we were turned down by all of the other banks. The district said, ‘Maybe this isn’t what God wants you to do,’” Jaderston said explaining that most banks wouldn’t give them the loan because of liability issues with underground gas tanks being on the property.
The building also had severe roof issues, 2 ½ tons of coal in the basement that the church had to take out by hand using buckets and it required a lot of cleaning.
“It was dirty. We spent a week with a skid steer scraping the grease off the floor,” Jaderston said.
Even though several things needed to be improved, Jaderston saw what the building had to offer instead of what it was lacking. Jaderston said that every contractor he brought into the building told him that it was constructed well.
“If you go down into the basement, there are three rooms we can’t use except for storage because there is only one access to it, but it’s like a bomb shelter. You go down there and you don’t hear the trucks rumble by. There is no heat and no air conditioning, but it is the same temperature all year long,” Beverly Jaderston said.
Another benefit was that the building only had one supporting wall.
“That meant that once we cleaned it up, we could do what we wanted in here and arrange it however we wanted it and not have to worry about moving walls because it was all open,” George Jaderston said.
The church was completed in three phases, with the final large project being completed this year with the addition of a retractable wall splitting the sanctuary from the chapel.
Even though remodeling a car garage into a church is a big task, George Jaderston holds how his congregation has come together as his biggest accomplishment.
“Probably more than anything is the character or nature of the church body,” George Jaderston said. “In the Alliance we have a statement of faith, but unlike some other denominations, in areas where the Bible is not really clear, you know there are differences of view, our statement does not state you have to be one or the other, but we get together and our goal is to come to truth. To work to truth. What I teach and what I preach is that we will not agree to disagree, we will agree to work towards truth.”
In his time with the Melrose Alliance Church, George Jaderston holds those in the congregation very dear to his heart.
“It is our home, it is our family. These are great people. It is a diversity that strives for unity and oneness,” George Jaderston said.
George Jaderston plans to continue filling in for churches that need a pastor for a short time like when a pastor is on vacation or when a church is without a pastor.
“I don’t want to stop preaching, I don’t want to stop teaching,” Jaderston said.