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Salem Church celebrates 225 years of strong spirit

May 23, 2010|By JENNIFER FITCH
  • The Salem Church congregation wait in anticipation for Pastor Lin Smalec and her husband, Andy Smalec, dressed in 18th-century costumes, to arrive for the 225th anniversary celebration of the church Sunday in Waynesboro, Pa.
By Colleen McGrath/Staff Photographer,

WAYNESBORO, Pa. -- The Rev. Lin Smalec knows how to make an entrance.

Smalec arrived for Sunday's service at Salem Church in a horse-drawn buggy to launch the church's 225th anniversary celebration. Wearing period dress, Smalec told congregants about various generations of people in the church's history.

"From generation to generation, God's hands have been on this church for 225 years," she said.

The congregants' "spiritual ancestors" settled in southwest Waynesboro at a time when there were no paved roads or electricity. They hailed from the German Reformed Church.

"They came to America because life had become awful in Germany," Smalec said.

Some of those founders -- such as Besore, Heefner, Miller and Nicodemus -- have their names preserved in stained glass lining the modern-day sanctuary on Salem Church Road. The church started as Evangelical Reformed Church of Irishtown before changing names and buildings a few times and becoming Salem Church.

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"Our early pastors served many churches, as many as a dozen in a wide geographic area," Smalec said. "Baptisms and weddings were conducted when the pastor was in town."

Worship services were originally conducted in German, so Andy Smalec and Tom McCloud read some scripture on Sunday in the original language. Part of "A Mighty Fortress is Our God" was sung in German.

Wendy Scott of Zullinger, Pa., said she has attended Salem Church since age 14.

"There are a lot of family members, and at the same time there are a lot of people who had no ties" when they started attending, Scott said.

Carole Carbaugh of Cove Gap, Pa., began attending Salem Church in 1977. She talked with her daughter, Shay Carbaugh, and granddaughter, 8-year-old Chesney Carbaugh, outside the church prior to the horses' arrival.

"It's a Bible-based church," Carole Carbaugh said.

Smalec sometimes will spend almost a year preaching about one book of the Bible, according to Wendy Eigenbrode of Mercersburg, Pa.

"She's a teaching pastor," Eigenbrode said.

Carole Carbaugh said members try to be "24/7 Christians" and address needs they see in the community.

"This church has weathered some tough times and come out stronger," Scott said.

Eigenbrode said the 225th anniversary recognition started New Year's Eve with a party and fireworks.

Covered-dish dinners, taffy pulling, pretzel baking and 18th-century games became part of other events, Carole Carbaugh said. The church will feature a float in Waynesboro's Memorial Day parade, she said.

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