Barn services celebrate simpler times

September 28, 1997


Staff Writer, Chambersburg

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - Dressed in their Sunday best, members of the Keystone Outreach Church picked their way over the uneven floor boards littered with pieces of hay and removed a friendly farm cat or two from their metal folding chairs before sitting down.

Children headed for their makeshift church pews made out of hay bales arranged end to end and covered with blankets. The blankets were soon put to use as covers against a chilly breeze that swept through the drafty barn.

This weekend, the congregation abandoned its clean, warm church on Williamsport Pike in favor of a big barn on a Hykes Road dairy farm for the fourth annual Old Fashioned Barn Services held Friday night, all day Saturday and all day Sunday.


"We always like to get together and thank God for the harvest," said the Rev. Barry Keefer, who lives on the farm with his family. "I think it's a time to come together and humble ourselves with fellowship, to humble ourselves by coming into a barn."

Framed by bales of hay stacked on either side and above up to the rafters, Keefer and guest speaker, Bishop Andrew Wafula, visiting from Faith Brethren Church in Webuye, Kenya, Africa, preached their messages to a crowd of about 20.

The podium at the back of the barn was flanked by an organ and a piano that operated with the help of electrical extension cords suspended from the wooden beams above.

Two dim light bulbs and two fluorescent lights made it possible for churchgoers to follow along in their Bibles.

A rooster's crow, honking geese and an occasional bawl from a cow heard over the sermon or songs added to the rustic and pastoral setting of the barn service.

Some children passed around a caterpillar and others played with the cats during the service.

"I was looking forward to coming. I love the barn service," said Felicia Platt of Greencastle. "I prefer the barn over the church, even though it is cold."

Platt's husband, Brian, said the barn services remind him of the old-fashioned gospel meetings he attended as a kid.

"It was absolutely fantastic. We really enjoyed it," said Norm Curfman of Fayetteville, Pa., who attended the barn service with his wife, Carole, for the first time this year.

The evening services, held above while the cows were milked on the ground floor below, attracted more than 60 people representing several different congregations, Keefer said.

"Even the neighbors are coming out now," he told the crowd.

After the morning service, the congregation met in a farm shed fitted with picnic tables for a noontime meal before the afternoon service got under way.

The Keystone Outreach Church was formed four years ago. Its members operate the Keystone Outreach Thrift Store Inc., 39 Chambers Lane, Greencastle.

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