Pa. church celebrates 200th annivresary

September 13, 2004|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - When Edgar Lehman, 77, was growing up at Chambersburg Mennonite Church, the men and women sat on opposite sides of the church during worship services. The young boys sat with their fathers. Two glass pitchers of water stood on the side windowsills, Lehman recalled.

"Sometimes, if you didn't ask too often, your father might let you get a drink during church," he said. "And if you got thirsty when a freight train was coming, you could stand at the window and watch it. You couldn't pull that too often, though; the dads got smart."

Lehman, a retired farmer and school bus driver, helped to plan the church's 200th anniversary celebration, held Friday through Sunday at the church on U.S. 11 north of Chambersburg.


A Mennonite congregation met locally for about 25 years in the late 1700s, using the homes of members as places of worship, according to Orrstown, Pa., resident Peter Zucconi, who assisted Lehman with planning the event.

Bishop Daniel Lehman sold a parcel of land from his property for one silver dollar to Martin Wenger, a deacon who became a trustee of the land, Zucconi said. A log church was erected on the site, which was a few hundred feet south and west of the present church. The first worship service in the building was held Sept. 4, 1804.

"Bishop Lehman preached at that first service and announced at the end that the congregation would meet again in four weeks. But he died within three weeks," Zucconi said.

In 1857, a brick addition was added to the log structure, and in 1872 a new brick building was erected. That was used until 1908, when it was torn down and replaced with a new building. In 1950, a basement for Sunday school rooms was dug under the structure, and in 2000, an all-purpose room, foyer, office and Sunday school rooms were added. The 1908 sanctuary remains and has been refurbished.

According to Pastor Jerry Roth, the church has an adult membership of 140.

Preston Frey grew up at Chambersburg Mennonite and served as its pastor for 35 years, accepting emeritus status earlier this year. His wife, Lorraine, moved to the area when she was 6.

"This has always been my church," she said.

The church started sending out missionaries in the mid-1960s, Preston Frey said, under the sponsorship of Washington-Franklin Conference (North) and the Eastern Mennonite Mission Board. The first two missionary couples served in Guatemala.

Memorabilia displayed in the sanctuary over the weekend included baptismal cups, hymnals, kerosene lights, collection baskets and a large wall thermometer.

He remembered the grape-embossed glass jug for the communion wine, and the pewter communion cup, later replaced by individual cups.

Lehman pointed out Civil War bullets found on the property.

"Confederate Gen. Richard Ewell had his headquarters in this church for five days before (the Battle of) Gettysburg (Pa.)," Lehman said. Ewell had 20,000 to 24,000 troops with him. When he demanded the use of their church, the Mennonites did not refuse him, even though they did not believe in going to war.

The bullets were authenticated at Gettysburg, Lehman said.

"We even know where they were cast in South Carolina," he said.

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