By Darian Torrance
The rose became an important symbol of the church while Roy Burkhart was Senior Minister of First Community Church (1935-58). He began the tradition of visiting “Sweethearts” (at that time, women of the church 65 and older) during Advent and giving each a rose to symbolize the Church’s love and goodwill for them. Deacons, former deacons and ministers continue this tradition today for women age 70 and older.
Roses are placed on the altar for all services at both campuses and are given to church members for special occasions, including: baptisms; hospital and rehab visits; Heritage Sunday; becoming a member of the Church; and memorial services.
Many years ago, J.T. Edwards, a Church member and owner of the JT Edwards Steel Company, loved roses and was highly involved in the Columbus Rose Society. According to his grandson, Jim Edwards, a fountain at Whetstone Rose Garden was dedicated in J.T.’s name, and he had a formal rose garden in the shape of a wheel in his backyard. Because of his love of roses, he had the foresight to establish an endowed fund in the First Community Foundation for the Church to purchase roses.
Paula Russell, Director of Congregational Care, orders roses for the church each week and has requested grants from the Foundation to help with the cost of roses. In 2018, a grant from the JT Edwards Rose Endowment Fund was given to the Church. Last December, a grant given from the Women’s Guild Foundation Fund was used to help with the purchase of roses for “Sweethearts.” The next time you are in Church, take a few minutes to look around to see many important symbols of the Church, including the rose. More about church symbols can be found in Jackie Cherry’s book Reflections on Our Heritage: A History of First Community Church which is in a PDF file downloadable from the Church website (https://fcchurch.com/history/). If you would like to continue supporting the Church tradition of giving roses, please consider a donation to the First Community Foundation, JT Edwards Rose Endowment Fund (51101).