St. John's marks 175 years

October 14, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

CLEAR SPRING - Though the congregation's 175-year history is fraught with struggle, fire and even war, St. John's United Church of Christ has survived and thrived.

As proof, the present-day members will host a celebration Sunday, Oct. 26, to mark the milestone at the church's current location at 211 E. Cumberland St.

Former pastors have been invited to return and participate in the service, said JoAnne Michael, one of the organizers of the anniversary event. Former members and all other interested people also are invited to the 9:15 a.m. service at the church, now on Cumberland Street at Md. 68.


Some of the service will be in German, Michael said. And there will be a lot of music. Displays of the old pump organ and pictures of the church's past will be available.

A reception will follow the service.

The history began when the first church was built in union with the Lutheran congregation in 1828 and was organized six years later as St. John's Reformed Church.

At first part of the Clear Spring charge, St. John's was unable to support a pastor of its own and thus began a long line of supply ministers, professors and students of the Reformed Theological Seminary, which then was in Mercersburg, Pa.

After selling St. John's interests to the Lutherans in 1860, the congregation rented the Radical Church, which was owned by the Methodist Protestants and stood where the former Clear Spring High School was on Martin Street.

Many of the archives of both St. Peter's and St. John's were destroyed in 1875 when a Valentine's Day fire leveled the building both shared in the early 1800s.

For three months in 1862, the Radical Church was used as a hospital for wounded Civil War soldiers. Despite that, services still were held and were well-attended.

In September 1865, a lot was purchased for the building of a German Reformed Church in Clear Spring. The cornerstone was laid in August 1866.

A large brick building on the east side was donated as a parsonage, and the congregation acquired a cemetery named Rose Hill east of town.

One of the longest-serving pastors, the Rev. William Goodrich, died in 1899 after serving the church for nearly 34 years. He was buried at Rose Hill.

In 1923, a new two-manual Moller pipe organ was installed and dedicated in the church building.

Through the next decades, the church and the congregation have grown, diversified and prospered.

Currently, the pastor is the Rev. Charles Mackley, a former associate pastor in Bethlehem, Pa., who began his pastorate at the church in February 2001. Formerly a middle school band director, Mackley brings his musical talents to the church.

In preparation for the 175th anniversary, longtime member Kathleen King took the historical research done in 1966 by Nora McDonald Snyder and brought it up to date.

Citing pastors' names and detailing building renovations and new programs, King concluded her research noting that two current members are working to obtain masters of divinity degrees and enter church service.

They are Mark Michael, a graduate of Duke University, who entered Wycliffe Hall at Oxford University in England in 2000; and Laura Bair, a wife and mother of two, who entered Lancaster (Pa.) Theological Seminary in 2002. Bair is a computer technician.

King also recognized the unnamed faithful who through the years have served the parish by teaching Sunday school, preparing communion, counting offerings, shoveling snow, planting flowers and doing countless other tasks to keep the church going strong.

"We have since 1828 been a presence in the town of Clear Spring," King said. "May we continue to make St. John's a holy place of worship and our members active in the work that God calls us to do."

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