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Minister marks 50 years serving tiny W. Va. church

September 02, 2002|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

The area may be changing rapidly, but inside the walls of Allensville Church of the Brethren, it almost seems time is standing still.

It's where decades-old traditions still exist, and members of the church prefer it that way.

Women wear "prayer coverings," small white hats that stem from references in the Bible about when women should cover their heads.

Church members live like family, sharing vegetables from their gardens. Members of the congregation are still baptized in nearby Back Creek and the Rev. Charles W. Green wears a collarless white shirt and black coat, which was typical among Brethren ministers years ago.

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"I don't like progression much," longtime church member Jane Manor said after services Sunday. "We're trying to keep it like it should be."

Green has been as steady as the traditions, leading the church for 50 years.

And it wasn't always easy.

In 1952, when Green agreed to take over the small, white church on Allensville Road outside of Hedgesville, a group known as the "mission board" oversaw the church.

There were different groups of the congregation that could not get along and the mission board had trouble finding a minister to take over the church, Green said. The groups wanted to have their own services and Green agreed, meaning he would have to offer two sermons at the church on Sundays.

During that period, Green was also operating a 250-acre farm along Lappans Road in Washington County.

Sometimes members of the congregation would have to wait for Green because he was running late while taking care of farm chores.

"They had no choice. There was no other minister to take the challenge," said Green.

The community surrounding the church also proved to be a tough place to work at times, said Green.

Green recalled one Sunday when two men were fighting near the church as he was about to start services. The men were using foul language and Green felt something needed to be done before he started his sermon.

Green told several members of his congregation that he was going to talk to the men. The church members warned Green not to go because they were dangerous people.

Green went anyway and convinced the men to be quiet. "This mountain was really rough," said Green.

Things have improved over the years, which was witnessed by a younger congregation that developed in the 1970s, said Green. The hard feelings that existed among some members of the congregation faded and the family-like atmosphere that exists today began taking hold, said Green.

Church members on Sunday recalled their marriage ceremonies conducted by Green and his baptisms, which consist of three forward dunks into Back Creek. They also recalled his fiery sermons, although Green complains he "doesn't have the wind" that he used to.

"I think he's a fantastic minister. He's like a brother," said church member Kay Shipper.

Green, 83, said he plans to remain minister of the church as long as he has a clear mind.

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