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Church marks 170 years

October 06, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

With a worn wooden cross behind him, Robert Higman, dressed in a period black bow tie and vest, nervously led his first service Sunday for the congregation of the Beaver Creek Christian Church, which listened from pews draped in country quilts.

It was an unusual sight for the Hagerstown-area church, not only for the more than 100 members who attended the morning service, but also for Higman, the church's board chairman, who took the podium in place of Beaver Creek's minister Sunday in a service reminiscent of the church's first days.

Beaver Creek Christian Church, whose members met in the early 1800s for the first time in a Hagerstown-area barn, officially celebrated its 170th anniversary Sunday by dressing the church in farm fashion and dressing themselves in period clothing.

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In 1833, when the church was established, members normally would have listened to the church president lead the service, said Higman, who is the great-great-grandson of a minister who lived during the period.

He said preachers then were busy traveling by horse and buggy to other churches and often weren't available to their own church on Sundays for worship.

The Rev. Mark Curran, the church's minister, arrived Sunday at the church in a horse and buggy. The congregation waited outside the church for the minister to arrive while being serenaded by a solo violinist.

Curran said after the service that the Church of Christ at the time was divided on the issue of allowing stringed instruments in its sanctuaries.

More than halfway through the service, Higman turned the podium over to Curran, who gave a short sermon, originally written by Robert Richardson, in the style commonly used during the early 1800s.

"How fitting that we should enter into the gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise ...," Curran said.

The minister returned to a pew after his speech.

The congregation's sanctuary, built in the early 1900s, was filled Sunday with gourds, mums, beehives, dull varnished wooden chairs and shutters.

Denny Warrenfeltz, owner of Rooster Vane Gardens in Funkstown and a lifelong church member, set the stage for the anniversary event. He said he placed quilts over the church's pews because in the 1800s, church members likely needed extra layers to protect them from the barn's drafts.

He affixed two wrought-iron chandeliers to the church's ceiling and placed candles in them to match a pair on Higman's podium.

Church member Daniel Ridenour, 10, of Smithsburg, wore jeans with suspenders and a ball cap, an outfit he said was appropriate based on the movies he's seen.

"I don't have many historic clothes," he said.

Church member Rhiannon Moon, 12, of Hagerstown, wore a long, black skirt and a white, collared shirt, a change from her normal Sunday spaghetti-strapped dress and sweater. Rhiannon tried to keep her green polished fingers hidden as she talked.

She said that aside from the change in scenery, the biggest difference in the service Sunday was its length: It was short, she said and giggled. She then looked at her father, Curran, to see his reaction.

Curran agreed.

"Today was very historically correct," he said.

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