Pa. congregation turns 200

July 29, 2002|by STACEY DANZUSO

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Almost 200 years to the day Bishop Christian Newcomer conducted what is believed to be the first United Brethren in Christ service on the homestead of George and Katherine Fetterhoff, members of the Fetterhoff Chapel on Sunday celebrated the church's heritage.

Now Fetterhoff Chapel United Methodist Church - the United Brethren in Christ merged with the United Methodists in the 1960s - the church has its roots in the early 1800s and is still thriving.

The Fetterhoff congregation was part of the Cumberland Circuit, which clergy, including Newcomer, traveled through about twice a year.

Newcomer, a founding father of the United Brethren in Christ church, kept a journal of his travels, including the night he preached at the Fetterhoff home on July 25, 1802.


"Summer was a good time in 1802 to start roaming around and holding church," said the Rev. Bob Basom, pastor of the Fetterhoff Chapel.

In the early days, the "meetings" at the Fetterhoff home were conducted in German, Basom said. The Fetterhoff home was one of the regular appointments of the pioneer ministers of the United Brethren in Christ.

Newcomer's is possibly the first preaching of the United Brethren in the community, according to "The History of Fetterhoff Chapel United Methodist Church" compiled by Helen I. Kaiser.

Basom said he only realized the 200th anniversary was this year when he was reading a section of the book for a confirmation class several months ago.

To mark the anniversary, the church planned a special service Sunday that included the Rev. Michael V. Minnix, superintendent of the Chambersburg District of the United Methodist Church.

Sunday's service also featured a skit detailing the history of the church, which now has 116 registered members coming from Chambersburg, Waynesboro, Pa., and surrounding townships, Basom said.

Today, the 300 acres once owned by the Fetterhoffs are bordered by Fetterhoff Chapel Road, Altenwald Road, Yohe Road and Chapel Road in Guilford Township, Pa.

The original building is still standing in a remote area, Basom said.

But area residents have worshipped in the current facility at 4025 Fetterhoff Chapel Road since it was built in 1899.

History has always been important to members of the brick church tucked amid cornfields, with its bell tower and arched, stained glass windows.

"With all the churches closing, this one is still continuing after 200 years," Basom said. "We've held our own and managed to do some growing."

With a swelling number of youth in the church, Basom said the church may have to do some expanding when they have families in 15 to 20 years.

"It's a nice problem to have," he said.

Current membership rivals that of 100 years ago.

At the turn of the 20th century, membership was 112, according to "The History of Fetterhoff Chapel."

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