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Church's rich history felt in yearly services

June 12, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

CHAMBERSBURG, PA.

Undated photographs displayed under glass at Rocky Spring Presbyterian Church show two entrances to a brick, one-room church nestled among tall trees. The interior shots have captured the brick floor, stairs to a raised pulpit and a pair of black stoves.

It's not difficult for visitors to imagine the church as it appeared centuries ago in those photographs, considering little has changed.

Built in 1794, the church today hosts just one day of services annually compared to the weekly, daylong services held in the 18th century.

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This year's Presbyterian service, held Sunday afternoon, provided a link to the past, according to the guest pastor.

"What I tried to do is honor the history of this place. ... I challenged the people: Recognize that God is active (today and yesterday)," said the Rev. William C. Beck, who hails from the Big Spring Presbyterian Church in Newville, Pa.

Beck asked the approximately 70 attendees what God has been doing in their lives. Some of the congregation had family ties to the Rocky Spring Presbyterian Church, which at times boasted more than 300 worshippers a week.

"They come from all over and sit in their family pews," Patricia Stumbaugh said, walking past rows of wooden pews with high backs. Paneled doors at the end of each row display the names of the people who sat there, she explained.

The church seen today is actually the second on the property. The first, built before 1739, was destroyed by fire and replaced using brick made at the adjacent William Beard farm, said Stumbaugh, who cares for the church as a member of the Franklin County, Pa., chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

"It came down to one member (in the early 1900s), and he turned it over to the court," Stumbaugh said. The DAR now maintains the church and grounds, she said.

Anniversary services have drawn 500 to 1,000 people, Stumbaugh said.

The DAR holds its own service immediately preceding the annual Presbyterian one. The DAR service, which memorializes members who died the previous year, recognized three on Sunday.

The county chapter also gives tours of the church, highlighting its activity during the Revolutionary War. Its pastor at the time, the Rev. John Creaghead, is said to have gathered all the men in the congregation and accompanied them to New Jersey, where they joined the army under George Washington's command.

Creaghead is buried in the cemetery down a slight hill from the church that still stands as it did in his time.

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