Salem Church: A Celebration 50 Years in the Making!

September 10, 2015

Church News

On Sunday, August 30th, the congregation of St. Paul’s United Church of Christ celebrated the 50th Anniversary of their merger with sister congregation, Salem United Church of Christ, Lavansville, PA.  The following article was written by Denise Weaver following her conversation with three Salem Matriarchs.


Fond Memories of Salem Church

The overarching sentiment of our three matriarchs of Salem Church–Ferne Hay, Dorothy Moore, and Floy McClintock–is that the church at Lavansville felt like a happy family, and members enjoyed spending time together. Additionally, the three ladies affirm that Rev. Shellenberger was very influential in their lives and credit him with the smooth transition to St. Paul’s.

Dorothy (Bowman) Moore and Floy (Barron) McClintock, first cousins, both grew up in Salem Church. Ferne (Hentz) Hay joined after she married Jennings Hay, who was a longtime member.

All three have fond memories of the women’s guild meetings, plays and programs, picnics and festivals. Dorothy and her brother Dean Barron both recall the annual Harvest Home Service when members brought in produce from their gardens and gave the items to the minister.

Dorothy still has her cradle roll cards from when she was enrolled. “It was up to three years of age. Our family always went to church, and many times we walked there. Until Rev. Shellenberger came, we only had church service every other Sunday and communion once a quarter. But we had Sunday School every week.”

Her earliest memory of church is that women sat on one side and men on the other. “There was just one large room, and there were furnaces halfway on both sides. That changed soon after, I think. My father started attending Salem Church when he was about six years old. That was in 1907.”

Floy also attended Salem as a child, arriving each week with her mother and two of her five siblings. “My dad was Lutheran and my mom was Reformed. With six kids in the family, the first three went to the Lutheran church with my dad, and we last three went to Salem with my mom. Why it was that way, I have no idea.”

“We were just a little parish. Dr. Roth was the first minister that I remember. The windows in the church were colored leaded glass. They were the most beautiful windows around here. The round stained glass window we have today in Salem Chapel was above the altar at Lavansville.”

Ferne, having married into the church, is grateful that she did. “Jennings didn’t try to force me to come to his church, it’s where I chose to attend. It’s nice that it was my decision, and I respected him a lot for that.” She grew up in the Beachdale Church of the Brethren. “I remember being baptized in cold water in a stream. I can feel it yet!”

She recalls the many social gatherings of Salem Church members. “The women’s guild met at homes; you’d put your name in for which month you wanted to host. One month, Darius Dixon had a square dance for us at the guild meeting. We had a lot of fun.” Ferne enjoyed summer church picnics at the home of Marian Barclay. “We were mostly farmers, so you know the food was good.”

Dorothy also recalls a festival at Conestoga Inn, hosted by Ida Hetzel, where hot dogs, hamburgers, and soft drinks were served and everyone played games. She says her mother was an “instigator” in many of the activities, directing plays and being active in the guild. Floy and Ferne enjoyed the many plays that Dorothy’s mother, Harriet Bowman, lead. There were Children’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day programs, as well as Christmas and Easter.

Floy commented on how the participants always had their parts memorized. “We had the Children’s Day program in June; it was a Sunday night service. All the children and youth participated and people in the community would come to watch. There were recitations and poems, and I remember that the girls would march.”

Ferrell Stahl, who was Dorothy and Floy’s aunt, played piano at services for many years. Dorothy filled in for her occasionally. “I played hymns, but couldn’t play all the music Aunt Ferrell could play.”

Ferne, Dorothy, and Floy were active in the church, whether participating in guild projects, teaching Sunday School, serving on committees, or helping out where needed. Once when there was a remodeling project in the church and it wasn’t cleaned up by Sunday, Dorothy hosted all the Sunday School classes in her home that week.

Because the church building was just one large room, there was no nursery, and Sunday School classes met in different corners of the room. Floy was most influenced by her first Sunday School teacher, Binnie Will. “She was just really nice, an elderly lady from Lavansville. She really talked to all the kids.”

Ferne, the first woman to serve on consistory at Lavansville, and Homer Dickson were delegates to a conference where they heard the benefits of smaller churches merging. Ferne took many notes and was asked by Homer to present the topic of a merger to the consistory. “Homer felt that since I hadn’t gone to the church as long as some of the others, that I was not as attached to the building.” She presented the merger idea to the consistory of the Lavansville church and then again to the Somerset church. “They discussed it, and it took a while to approve, but they did.”

Dorothy, Floy, and Ferne have wonderful memories of Salem Church, a small church in numbers, but a large congregation in heart, love, and community. They also came to feel at home at St. Paul’s, largely due to Rev. Shellenberger’s efforts to make a smooth transition, and thanks to the St. Paul’s welcoming family.


Note: Salem Chapel was refurbished in October and November of 2014. Helen Brown was coordinator, about nine members of St. Paul’s helped with painting, cleaning, moving furniture, and many other jobs. Their help was so greatly appreciated. ~Lyn Shellenberger


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