Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Wellsville church celebrating 150th anniversary

By BOBBY BURCH, Herald Staff Writer | 10/10/2012

WELLSVILLE — For her whole life — all 71 years — Beth Chambers has been a member of New Hope Baptist Church.

But through those seven decades of faith, dedication and stewardship, her membership still amounts to less than half of her church’s life, which will reach the ripe age of 150 this weekend.

WELLSVILLE — For her whole life — all 71 years — Beth Chambers has been a member of New Hope Baptist Church.

But through those seven decades of faith, dedication and stewardship, her membership still amounts to less than half of her church’s life, which will reach the ripe age of 150 this weekend.

“We’ve always said it’s the church on the corner, and we’re here to help whoever needs help,” Chambers said of her church’s history. “Our doors are always open.”

While she obviously wasn’t present for its founding in October 1862, Chambers is well-versed in the church’s history. In fact, she and Colette Miller, another church elder, have compiled hundreds of letters, fliers, photographs and other documents on the church for others to learn of its past.

In fall 1862, Chambers said, the Rev. A.H. Dean, Ottawa, and a group of nine Baptists founded the church, then known as the Stanton Baptist Church. At that time, however, the church building stood about 1 1/2 miles from its current location at the intersection of K-33 and K-68.

The church continued to grow in membership, Chambers said, until Nov. 20, 1889, when a “deranged neighbor” burned the church to the ground. Shortly after the fire, J.F. Lamb, a church father, donated land for the congregation to build a new church building at the current site. Nodding to its roots, the entrance hall of the church now features several framed relics from the former church building.

Between 1947 and 1958, Chambers said, the church added a basement and new additions to its north, south and east walls.

It’s experienced booming and receding attendance through its life, Chambers said, but has almost always maintained its relevance to those in the area.

There are about 35 active members at the church today, Chambers said, but it frequently draws new visitors.

To recognize the church’s long life, Chambers and other church members have planned a special service after Sunday’s worship. Several former pastors of the church plan to visit during the service to offer their thoughts about and history with the church, Chambers said. Among them include the Rev. R.B. Shoemaker, 95, who married longtime church members George and Colette Miller in 1952.

The service, which begins 10 a.m. Sunday, also is expected to include a history of the church, a potluck dinner and a visit to the former church’s cemetery.

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