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Waynesboro church building hits century mark

May 24, 2004|by RICHARD BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - The building housing the Evangelical Lutheran Church at the corner of South Church and East Second streets is 100 years old this year.

Built in 1904 to replace a two-story church with a tall steeple that was built in 1869, it provided the congregation, one of Waynesboro's largest, with more room to grow.

A huge addition was built in 1970 that modernized the church, said the Rev. Richard A. Seaks, senior pastor of the church.

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It also included the addition of a Moller organ that still is in use today, Seaks said.

The renovation of the sanctuary was completed last year.

"It was a major renovation," Seaks said. "We dedicated in February 2003."

A wooden sculpture of the risen Christ is being sculptured by Tom McFarland, a Waynesboro-area schoolteacher and artist. It will hang over the altar.

"I hope to have it finished by the end of the summer," McFarland said. "The figure of Christ will stand 91/2 feet tall, but the whole sculpture will be 11 feet."

Seaks said McFarland has had the mahogany for more than 20 years while he waited for something special to make from it.

While the church building itself is a century old, the congregation goes back nearly 100 years before, to 1818, according to a history of the church.

It started out in Union Church, a block south on South Church Street.

In those days, according to the history, it was not uncommon for members of more than one denomination to share the same church building.

The history is vague about what happened before 1818. There is mention of a log structure on the site, but very little information about it.

"The first recorded services by a Lutheran minister were that of the Rev. Ruthrauff in 1800 or possibly a few years sooner, as he first came to this territory in 1795," the history said.

Around 1807, three denominations - Lutheran, German Reformed and the Old School Presbyterian Church - got together to build the Union Church, which they shared.

It took years to finish it. The church finally was dedicated in 1818.

The Lutherans and Presbyterians decided to sell Union Church in 1868. The Lutherans already had begun construction of their new two-story church at South Church and East Second streets. It cost $11,000 and was dedicated in 1869.

By 1901, the congregation and Sunday school needed more space and a decision was made to build a new church where the existing one stood. The congregation moved to the Academy of Music, now Waynesboro Borough Hall, during construction.

The Sunday school building was added in 1930.

Today, the church has more room than it needs, but it is generous in letting the community use its space at no charge or for a small fee, said Seaks, who has been pastor for 10 years.

"A hallmark of this church is its willingness to share its space over the years," said Seaks, who shares pastoral duties with Sharon Van Dam.

Anna Louise Harris, who said she has been a member of the church for all of her 74 years, remembers when its congregation numbered more than 1,000.

"One out of every 10 citizens in Waynesboro belonged to this church," she said.

Seaks said there are about 600 members on the books, with 260 to 300 members attending one of the two Sunday morning services.

The church is planning a centennial celebration on June 6 that will involve removing the cornerstone that was laid in 1904. Inside is a time capsule that the members will open. When it's replaced, it will contain a new time capsule, Seaks said.

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