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Church celebrates 100th anniversary

April 22, 2002|BY SARAH MULLIN

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

A congregation that began gathering in a Martinsburg, W.Va., home in 1899 laid the foundation for the Winchester Avenue Christian Church, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this month.

Church historian Gladys Pitzer said the history of the church at 400 Winchester Avenue is one of romance.

On Oct. 9, 1899, G.W. Ogden and his daughters, Ella and Ollie, visited Martinsburg as guests of George W. VanMetre, his wife, Rosa Ferrell, and her mother, Catherine Ferrell, Pitzer said.

That afternoon they all went on a carriage ride to call on about 20 members of the Christian Church. The members were invited to a meeting that evening at the VanMetre home at 122 N. Maple Avenue, she said.

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There were nine people present at the gathering. It was decided that they would all try to meet on a regular basis and start a fund to help with expenses, Pitzer said.

On Oct. 15, the meeting held at the VanMetre home included 15 people. By May 1900, the group had started a Sunday school, and in October of 1900 the local congregation was formally accepted into the Maryland district, Pitzer said.

It wasn't until 1901 that the bricks and mortar for an actual church were laid on the four lots bought for $800 in 1899 by VanMetre's wife, Rosa.

The completed church had a seating capacity of 250.

Church member Gary Statler said First Christian Church and Beaver Creek Church in Hagerstown were instrumental in the development of the Martinsburg church by providing support and donations.

The two churches chartered a train car that came to Martinsburg carrying about 60 people to the April 1902 dedication service for the new church, Statler said.

An educational building with 15 classrooms and two assembly rooms was built in 1927 and still exists.

Over time the church began to grow and a new, larger church was needed, Statler said.

In 1953, the original church was torn down and replaced with a larger one.

Statler said at one point the congregation comprised about 600 people.

"We needed room to grow. It (the original) was a good size building, but it wasn't big enough," he said.

Now the congregation is back down to about 275 members, he said.

The last charter member died in 1970.

As part of the 100-year celebration, the church hosted a weekend of old-fashioned activities that were popular at the time of the church's conception and construction.

An old-fashioned box lunch social, games such as sack racing, checkers and a quilt corner, an oldies musical, and an old-time worship service with people dressed in 1902-style clothing were among the weekend festivities.

Photographs of the original church, its charter members and various pastors are on display at the church, Statler said.

Next weekend the church returns to contemporary times.

It will host a futuristic carnival Friday evening, a contemporary music worship service Saturday at 7 p.m. and a worship service on Sunday with guest minister Pastor Fred Harris of First Christian Church in Hagerstown. There will be a sit-down dinner and celebration Sunday evening.

Statler said everyone is welcome, but reservations for the dinner must be made by calling 1-304-263-5142.

There is no charge for the dinner.

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