Church celebrates 150 years St. Paul's marks anniversary with year of festivities NORTHWEST -- Taneytown * Union Bridge * New Windsor

April 22, 1993|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Staff Writer

In 1943, the congregation of St. Paul's United Methodist Church used "Hats off to the past! Coats off to the future!" to express their attitude toward closing their first century of service to New Windsor.

This year, the church celebrates its 150th anniversary in that same spirit.

"We are working for a closeness and a growth in the community," said the Rev. Charles H. Acker Jr., a Florida native who has been the pastor of the church for a little over a year.

"If you go to the hospital, you will have the Brethren minister, the Presbyterian minister, the Methodist minister, and any of the others come visit you because you are a part of the community," he said.

"In New Windsor, we live as a community no matter what denomination you are a part of."

It's not surprising, then, that the commemoration of the church's founding has crossed denominational lines.

Anniversary activities began on the third Sunday of October. The service began with six chimes from the church organ and ended with six tolls of the commemorative bell, a gift from Mrs. D.H. Maynard when the building was completed in 1897.

This ritual has been repeated every third Sunday since, and will be until the Commemorative Worship Service Oct. 24.

"A special person rings it every week," said Mr. Acker, 65. "By the third Sunday in October, we'll ring it 18 times. By then, it should have rung 150 times."

Last Sunday, when the church held a heritage service at the Strawbridge Shrine, Carrie Smith, who joined the church in 1914, was the honored bell ringer. She came to the outdoor service from the Country Compassion Nursing Home in Taneytown.

Another guest to the ceremony Sunday was Robert Strawbridge, the father of American Methodism.

Dressed in period clothing and sporting long straight tresses, parishioner Ken Stewart portrayed the influential Irishman, who emigrated to America and settled on Sam's Creek in 1760.

Many members of the congregation followed the processional in buggies, on horseback or on foot. Although somewhat out of practice, the pastor also mounted up.

"I hadn't been on a horse in 20 years," said Mr. Acker. "I've never seen such a tall horse, either."

The 96-year-old St. Paul's building at High and Main streets is filled with the heritage the congregation celebrates this year.

The amphitheater-like arrangement of the curved oak and elm pews pays homage to a popular interior design pattern of the late 1800s.

Doors on either side of the sanctuary and the oak-backed seats bisected by a wooden barrier remind parishioners of the days when men and women had to sit on opposite sides of the church.

That didn't stop the men from courting the ladies who caught their interest, Mr. Acker said.

"The men would run outside after the service and wait by the door for the ladies to come out," he said.

Multicolored stained glass fills every window, allowing rainbow streams of sunlight to strike the dark gray carpet at various angles.

Mr. Acker said virtually nothing remains to tell the congregation about the original church, built on the site in 1843.

He said he hopes that when the cornerstone is opened during the main commemoration ceremony in October, the copper box believed to have been put there by the original trustees will fill gaps in the church's history.

"My hopes are that there is a picture of the previous church, but there is no record of what was placed in that cornerstone," said Mr. Acker. "We only know that it was the practice of the time for things to be put in the cornerstone like coins of the day and such."

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