Pa. church service has Civil War flair

February 06, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

BLUE RIDGE SUMMIT, Pa. - In the pews at Hawley Memorial Presbyterian Church, businessman sat shoulder-to-shoulder with senior citizen, with football fan, with teenager, even with Union soldier in full uniform.

The service was part of a Civil War Trails Discovery Weekend in Franklin County, Pa., and drew 200 people, more than double the average weekly attendance at the small church nestled in a wooded, mountaintop community.

"They were willing to pack it in," Pastor Bill Hammann said.

Blue Ridge Summit, which intersects with four counties, including two each in Maryland and Pennsylvania, was the site of the second biggest battle fought in Pennsylvania during the Civil War. The Battle of Monterey also was the only battle fought on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line, according to historians.


Hammann delivered a Service of Reconciliation that tied the qualities of a good wartime soldier to those possessed by soldiers of the Lord.

"Above all, a good soldier is a finisher. Someday, that good soldier will hear the words, 'Well done, my good and faithful servant,'" said Hammann, himself a retired U.S. Army chaplain.

Hammann said a Christian soldier lives by a creed in which he says, "I'm a volunteer in this army, and I've enlisted for eternity."

The pastor looked back to July 4, 1863, when 10,000 soldiers fought in the Blue Ridge Summit area and 1,500 died. The battle occurred in a severe thunderstorm, and several wagons, horses and wounded men plummeted down the mountain ridges in the chaotic fighting.

Yet, in the shadow of Gettysburg, Pa., the story of the Battle of Monterey remains largely untold and the battlefields unmarked.

"It's sort of, in a way, the forgotten battle," Hammann said after the service.

He told the congregation about 12-year-old Hetty Zeilinger, who reportedly jumped on a horse to lead 4,000 Union troops through Monterey Pass.

In addition to the sermon, the service included a time for greeting and several hymns that dated to the Civil War era.

"These were special songs for this service, except for the communion (hymn)," said Richard Bloom of Blue Ridge Summit.

Bloom, who has attended the church since childhood, explained the congregation shared Holy Communion, as is the practice of the church on the first Sunday of every month.

Certain aspects of the typical church service were skipped, like the children's service, announcements and closing chorus.

However, when Hammann agreed to participate in the discovery weekend, he said he knew the church would welcome the visitors with open arms and stay true to its nickname of "The Hug-In Church."

"They're very open to the community," he said.

The Civil War Trails Discovery Weekend featured events throughout Franklin County as part of a state tourism initiative. Other communities in Pennsylvania will host their own events during subsequent discovery weekends this year.

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