The Clover Creek Church (est. 1790) was the “mother” church from which the following churches were organized: James Creek (1858), Martinsburg (1871), Fairview (1891), and Albright (which was known as Roaring Spring when established in 1898). Other local Brethren churches later emerged from these offspring. Up until other local Brethren churches emerged, the Brethren in the Morrison’s Cove community attended either Clover Creek, which was 8 miles away, or they walked to Albright.
The folks living in the town of Roaring Spring complained about the walk to Albright. It was very taxing and time consuming. On Sundays with the two services, the walk took up most of their day. Some Brethren were attending the local Methodist Church because it was in town, had a pipe organ, and good singing!
The lots being considered for purchase to build a church in the Roaring Spring borough were located on a hill and were part of the Lower farm. The men of the Albright congregation were very hesitant to buy them. They thought the asking price was too much money, people from Albright would be offended, and ironically, the hill would be difficult to travel in winter.
The women of the Albright Sisters Sewing Society were very determined, to say the least! They were a group of women passionately dedicated to the ongoing work of the church. Even though the Board of Trustees had voted against purchasing the lots, the women decided to go ahead with their plan to purchase them! They were so successful in their sales of bonnets, aprons, prayer coverings, quilts, and vanilla, that they raised the money in just five years. Two lots, costing $250.00 a piece, were purchased from the heirs of the Lower family in 1908, and on October 5, 1910, the lots were turned over to the church body for the sum of $1.00. The house, located at 815 Franklin St., was previously owned by a member of the Lower family.
The building committee consisted of G.W. Replogle, Jonathan Snowberger, and William Hoover. The original structure, 62 ft. x 66 ft., was heated by steam and had electric lighting. It contained a sanctuary, a large Sunday school room, and an Aid Society room. The completed building cost $9,000.00. The dedication for the church building took place on October 30, 1910, with Dr. C.C. Ellis delivering the sermon. The new church took the name Roaring Spring, and the old church adopted the name Albright as it was located on the Samuel Albright farm and known as the Albright House.
Officers for the new church were elected on October 12, 1910. They were as follows: (Bishop) James A. Sell, (Pastor) Rev. Orville Long, (Secretary) Elmer Snowberger, and (Treasurer) G.W. Replogle. H. Atlee Brumbaugh, William E. Hoover, D.O. Miller, Daniel S. Replogle, G.W. Replogle, Levi Rhodes, Elmer Snowberger, Jonathan Snowberger, and Uriah T. Stuckey were the first called to be deacons.
The Sunday School program was an important part in the life of those people who started the church within the Roaring Spring borough. So it was only natural that as soon as the church itself was formally organized, the Sunday School program would be started also. Following the formal organizing of the church, the Sunday School program started on October 10, 1910, with H. Atlee Brumbaugh, Elva Clapper, and David Miller as the leaders.
Many people had a part in the Christian education of our congregation. Some who attended, may still remember when the Sunday School hour was held before morning worship. All would gather in the sanctuary for a brief time of singing and devotions. Sometimes there were announcements of coming events in the church. Following this, people would move to their designated rooms for class. There are many memories of the teachers who have played an important part in their lives. Everyone should have a Sunday School teacher who makes a great impact on his or her life!
The church became a reality through the hard work of a group of about 60 people who were committed to the idea of a church house within the Roaring Spring borough for the convenience of those living near or within the town. The Sister’s Sewing Society, with the help of the Men’s Fellowship achieved this goal. There was no territorial divide, so folks were free to choose their place of worship; either remain at Albright, or move to the Roaring Spring church.
Over the next few years, the church membership at Roaring Spring grew very rapidly. With thoughts of expansion, the men of the church excavated the cellar in the spring of 1914. During the pastorate of Rev. A.G. Crosswhite around 1915, the old debt was paid off. A temperance committee was also organized that year.
During the pastorate of Rev. M.J. Weaver, the congregation decided to purchase a parsonage. At a special council meeting on October 7, 1918, a motion was passed to recommend to the church that they purchase the property of M.R. Klotz. However, “On account of the Quarantine of the Influenza epidemic on open church meetings” a committee was appointed to visit members to procure their vote. From the minutes of a council meeting on October 11, 1918 the committee reported that “they were pleasantly received and find the membership graciously united, and that unanimous sentiment was in favor of the recommendation.” And further that “the purchase of the parsonage would necessitate raising approximately $3,500.00. An estimate of the membership was made at between 90-100 wage earners. It was estimated that average contributions would be about $35.00 per member and owing to the fact that some members are more able, and some have smaller families and fewer dependents than others, the approximate share of each was estimated in sums ranging from $5.00 to $100.00 according to abilities of each. It is understood that these are estimates and they are not obligated to accept an assessment but simply those desiring to do their share an idea of what their share might be and a comparison to what it will be necessary for others to give, in order to raise the amount.”
Christian education continued to be important during Rev. M.J. Weaver’s pastorate. The first vacation bible school, joining the Roaring Spring churches was directed by Rev. Weaver. Called as deacons were the following: Homer Guyer, Blair Snyder, Ross Berkheimer, and D. Grover Replogle.
In January of 1921, “the matter of providing toilets for the church was taken up.” The trustees were directed to submit plans and act as they saw fit. Also, by 1921, because of the continued growth of the church and Sunday School, it was evident that more space was needed. In order to gain more room for Sunday School, the baptistery (then located at the rear of the chancel) was covered and used to meet and the several classes meeting in the main auditorium purchased screens to put between groups. A committee appointed to consider the advisability of making more room for the church services reported that “it had decided that the parsonage debt should be paid off first and then build larger as soon as practical.” It wasn’t until 1926 that the trustees were authorized to hire an architect and a motion was carried to remodel and build a larger church building. The building committee consisted of the following: Rev. A.C. Miller, S.B. Brumbaugh, Brook Sell, Homer Guyer, D. Grover Replogle, and R.R. Miller. Elmer Hoover, B.G. Snyder, and Edith Frederick were on the soliciting committee.
The Truth Seekers class helped to pay off the Parsonage debt by having Chicken and Biscuit Suppers. Their children were given the task of selling the tickets. If they sold ten tickets, they got a free supper. Bake Sales were held at the borough building. (The children would sneak to the basement to see the jail cells!)
Remodeling work began on June 14, 1926. Most of the excavating was done by members of the church who worked in the evening after their workday was done. The work being donated meant a considerable savings to the church. This addition added the balconies, the choir loft, new Sunday School rooms, a baptistery with a painting on the wall done by a local artist Fish Pote, a basement with a large dining hall, a well-equipped kitchen, two dressing rooms, a furnace room, and restrooms, for a sum of $40,000.00. This was also when the stained-glass windows were installed by the C. Rudy Co. of Harrisburg. At that time the new church building was considered to be the largest and most modern in Roaring Spring. At this time too, the church obtained a Charter from the state of Pennsylvania and the church name was changed to First Church of the Brethren. The dedication was held on June 26, 1927, with Dr. C.C. Ellis returning to deliver the dedicatory sermon.
While Rev. A.C. Miller was pastor, the congregation purchased an additional lot adjoining the parsonage. This purchase would later be significant because of the need for parking.
In reading the financial report for 1928, the total receipts were $3,967.61. The expenditures were $3,950.01 for a beginning balance in 1929 of $17.60. Now that is cutting it close! The expenditures were for things like the pastor’s salary ($1,650.00), Home Missions, Juniata Glee Club, Old Folks’ Home, Juniata Mission Band, India Share Plan, and the Anti-Saloon League.
In 1930, the recommendation to use individual communion cups was made. These were purchased by the Women’s Bible Class for $25. The Men’s Bible Class purchased wooden receptacles for $6.25.
The year 1935 brought the celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the founding of the church. First the anniversary of the founding of the Sunday School was celebrated in September with 404 in attendance. The church’s anniversary celebration was October 27, 1935. Once again, the church called upon Dr. C.C. Ellis, of Juniata College, to preach a sermon at the morning and evening services. Two former pastors, A.G. Crosswhite and A.C. Miller attended and probably gave short messages at the 2:30 pm service. The choir shared special music at each service.
Of the $40,000.00 debt from the second building only $13,811.09 remained at the time of the 25th year anniversary. It was hoped that the debt would be reduced substantially at this anniversary event. The membership had begun at about 70 but was now 521. The average Sunday school attendance in 1911 was 104, but in 1934 it was 371. On December 2, 1945, the church celebrated Home Coming and the burning of the mortgage. Previous pastors and their wives were invited to attend. Those attending were the following: M.J. Weaver, A.C. Miller, S.P. Early, and Tobias Henry.
In Brethren doctrine and practice the Love Feast has been regarded as a whole evening’s ceremony which consists of four main parts. These are the preparatory ceremony of feet washing, the central ceremony of a fellowship meal, called the Lord’s Supper, and the service of the communion or Eucharist. The covering on the table in the center of the Sanctuary Chancel has this inscription, “In Remembrance of Me.” This continues to be our emphasis for Love Feast.
The service does not just happen. A lot of time and labor are involved. We don’t know much about the preparations before 1928, but, between 1928 and the early 1950s getting ready for communion was a lot of work. The deaconesses would gather and make communion bread. Initially, someone living on a farm cooked the meat for the fellowship meal. Later, this was done in big kettles at the church. The entire service took place in the sanctuary. There were long tables that clamped onto the back of the pews. These were stored in the Tower room. The deacons and all willing boys put them in place on Sunday afternoon. They had an assembly line, taking them out a window and in the front door. These tables were then covered with cloths and set for the Love Feast and then covered with another cloth.
During the service, the men sat on one side of the Sanctuary and the women on the other. Children sat in the adjacent Sunday School room observing. At the close of the final hymn, they went out, literally! Then on Monday the women came back and cleaned up the dishes, etc. They took tablecloths and foot towels home to wash. (The strings on the foot towels got tangled in the ringer washers!)
In today’s Love Feast, most of the service takes place in the Fellowship Hall. Friends and families sit together. We leave the hall for the feet washing. We have started a hand washing station for those not physically able to do the feet washing. The deacons and deaconesses both meet to prepare the communion bread. They use the rolling pins and tools made by Wilson Kagarise in their preparation. The deacons stay afterwards to clean up the hall and the kitchen.
On June 27, 1952, Forest U. Groff, Church Building Counselor of the Elgin staff, was authorized to prepare plans and estimate the cost for remodeling of the church building to meet state standards and meet the ever-growing congregation. Note that by this time the membership had grown to over 700. A building committee was elected consisting of Robert Over (chair), William Metzger (secretary), Dale Detwiler, Ralph Glass, Colvin Miller, and John Thompson. Work got underway in July of 1954. The first phase of the remodeling plan was dedicated in June of 1955 and cost approximately $91,000.00. The congregation was so generous and sustained that the church leaders decided to go ahead with phase two in the fall of 1957. The last phase of the remodeling was completed, and a dedication was held on November 8, 1958. The sermon was given by Rev. C.N. Ellis, president of Juniata College.
Music has always been an important part of worship at First Church. In times past, a chorister was chosen for Sunday school and church. That person led the singing. From the beginning, the choir and its soloists have been very talented and have produced very moving performances. In council minutes from January 1947, it was recorded, “There was a request from the choir, asking if the church would object to purchasing gowns.” A motion by Brother Robert Over and properly seconded that the church grant the choir this request. The motion passed. There was to be no expense to the church as choir members had agreed to pay for their own.
Over the years either the members paid for robes, or they were purchased with memorial funds. In 1959, after much research and review by a very capable committee, the church purchased a new Molar pipe organ. It had 438 pipes and cost $12,290.00. That organ served the church and its organists well until 2003 when our current organ was purchased. In 1957, Dale and Roxie Detwiler donated the piano which we still use in our sanctuary.
During the pastorate of Carl Myers, his wife, Doreen, started to work with the youth training them in music. Three choirs were formed of various age levels. Each choir sang several times a year.
Today, we have an active choir directed by Terry Hershberger and accompanied by Cathy Hoover Petre. The choir practices and sings for worship services approximately nine months of the year. They do special music for Easter and Christmas services.
In 1955, there was some controversy over a recommendation by the Commission of Christian Education. Catherine Long, representing the commission, asked for a change in the Sunday morning schedule. It had been brought to their attention by the Official Board of the church that something needed to be done to improve attendance at Sunday morning worship service. It was decided to reverse the order of worship and study for a trial during the months of August and September. Worship was 9:30am-10:30am and Sunday School was 10:30am-11:15am. It was understood that the issue would be reconsidered at the October Board meeting. After much discussion it was decided on these times: worship 9:30am-10:20am and Sunday School 10:20am-11:00am. After the trial period, the church decided to stay with the change, but times were worship 9:30am-10:30am and Sunday School 10:30am-11:15am. Some didn’t like the lack of opening exercises. Others complained about children being dropped off for Sunday School and wandering around the building during worship and not taking part. There was some opposition to the change of order, but it’s still used today.
At a special Council Meeting on November 24, 1968, the Board of Administration recommended the purchase of the George B. Replogle property at 901 Franklin Street, Roaring Spring, and the adjoining Hickory Street lot for the sum of $12,000.00. There was a plan to make the house suitable for a parsonage and demolish the present parsonage and use that property for the church parking lot. The Council approved the plan on October 8, 1969.
A self-help handcraft or SERRV shop was started by Betty Jean Hoover and Sara Hoover, under the Women’s Fellowship and the Witness Commission in January 1988. The handcrafts continue to be made in over 40 third-world countries and the proceeds go back to the artisans. Unfortunately, the shop is no longer open.
In 1988, Rev. David Witkovsky was hired to a newly created staff position as Pastor of Nurture with emphasis on working with the youth and using his counseling credentials. The position was later held by Rev. Kate Gandy with a change in job description. She had an emphasis on youth but was considered an Associate Pastor.
A Congregational Business Meeting was held on January 19, 1992, to present a proposal to study a procedure to make the church building handicapped accessible at the front and back entrances. A Steering Committee was named: Robert Over (chair), Dan Hoover, Ron Walters, and Ralph Glass. A special Congregational Business Meeting was called February 28, 1993, to report the bids for the complete construction of the accessibility project. Voting by ballot, approved the start of the work by the Orr Group, Inc. of Altoona, PA as the low bidder. The cost including contingencies amounted to $150,000.00. The project was dedicated on Sunday, January 30, 1994.
Continuing with an emphasis on our children & youth, a kid’s club, called Venture Club for grades K-5 was started in February 1994. The club met on Wednesday evenings for choir, crafts, bible stories, supper, and other activities. Also, a mentoring program was started by Janie Myers and Harry Brubaker for youth in grades 6-12. Each participating youth was matched with an adult of their choice from the congregation to spend time with and share and discuss problems. The mentoring program began in 1996. Both activities have been very successful. Senior High Youth attend National Youth Conference in Colorado every four years. Our church supports this event and the youth participating by supporting their fundraisers to raise the necessary funds needed to make the trip.
At one time, Dr. Joseph Long gifted the church funds in memory of his sister, Christine Long. The money was used to renovate and improve the Fellowship Hall. The project was completed in May 1995.
There has been much growth at First Church over the past one hundred thirteen years. There is much to be proud of. We are a large, closely knit family made up of many smaller families. Many of us descend from one or more of the founders; those who had a vision and a desire to worship in a Brethren congregation in the borough of Roaring Spring. God has blessed them and us by fulfilling that dream.