Dunker Church service reflects on past, present

September 18, 2011|By DAVE MCMILLION |
  • The Rev. Ed Poling leads a hymn during an afternoon church service Sunday at Dunker Church at Antietam National Battlefield.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

SHARPSBURG — A Church of the Brethren official spoke Sunday about the large amount of money the United States spends on war and the associated “weapons of death.”

But there can be a new way of life through peace found in Jesus Christ, Stanley J. Noffsinger told those who attended the annual Dunker Church service at Antietam National Battlefield.

“We can do it,” said Noffsinger, who is general secretary of the Church of the Brethren. Noffsinger, who is from South Elgin, Ill., serves as the head of the denomination’s ministry and administrative arm, and represents the Church of the Brethren ecumenically.

Nearly 150 years ago, the church found itself in the middle of a national conflict.

Dunker Church witnessed the Civil War’s Battle of Antietam — which included the single bloodiest day of fighting in the nation’s history — and members of the church used the building as an improvised hospital for soldiers.

Since the church was rebuilt in 1961 and 1962, a commemorative service has been held there.

People crowded into the church Sunday afternoon to hear words of wisdom and sing hymns.

Members of the church did not take sides in the Civil War and when the Battle of Antietam unfolded, parishioners fled, many to a Brethren church on Manor Church Road, officials associated with the service said previously.

Several ministers helped lead Sunday’s service, including the Rev. Eddie Edmonds.

Edmonds told those gathered that the service was not conducted to remember the “dark time” that unfolded outside the doors of the church. It was instead held to remember “the heritage of this little church,” which was in the middle of a battlefield that was “stained red” from the Battle of Antietam, Edmonds said.

The church’s simple surroundings, like an old wood stove in the middle of the floor, took visitors back to an earlier time.

In 1862, men in the church would have sat on one side and women would have sat on the other side, said the Rev. Tom Fralin.

“We dare not try to do that today,” said Edmonds, drawing laughter from the congregation.

Edmonds spoke about people from various denominations who have come to the church service over the years, including an atheist who attended one year.

“I’m not really certain. Did they stay for the whole sermon? They’re probably Brethrens now,” said Edmonds, drawing more laughter.

The Rev. Gene Hagenberger said Dunker Church is now far removed from the Battle of Antietam. But he called on God to help people with issues faced today, like problems in relationships.

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