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History Corner

2011 marked the 150th Anniversary of Leola UMC.  

The following articles contain some of the church's history that captured our attention during the celebration of our 150th Anniversary at Leola United Methodist church.

History of Methodism in Leola, PA

posted Sep 22, 2011, 2:42 PM by Steve F

Leola Methodist Church, Leola PA
In 1895 Rev. Robert E. Johnson was appointed to our Circuit, and a fall revival was held to revitalize the church and to encourage growth. People drove by horse and buggy as far as 10 miles to attend this revival which ran every night for a period of six to eight weeks. Records show that during this revival the church was often filled, and the doors were opened in spite of cold weather so the people standing on the outside could also take part in the services. Children were often seated on the pulpit steps when all of the seats were filled.

The church continued to grow and in May 1897 a class of forty people joined the church. Three different pastors served the Circuit from 1895 through 1904. In March 1904 a decision made at the Philadelphia Conference, our church was transferred from the Bird-in-Hand Circuit and became known as the Leola and New Holland Circuit. Rev. E. W. Rushton was appointed as the first minister of this new Circuit. Since this new Leola - New Holland Circuit had no parsonage, it was required that any pastor appointed be single.

It was in 1904 that plans were formulated to build a new and much larger church building. The last worship service was held in the old church on June 9, 1907.The new brownstone church constructed across the street on the north side of the “pike” was dedicated June 16, 1907, and with additions and renovations remains there in 2011

History of Methodism in Leola, PA

posted Sep 11, 2011, 4:54 AM by Steve F   [ updated Sep 11, 2011, 4:58 AM ]

The church built on the land purchased by John W. Bender was a plain red brick building similar to a one-room schoolhouse. There was no center aisle, but, rather, an aisle on each side. Large stoves made of cast iron stood on each side. Large cardboard signs warned: “Tobacco Prohibited.” However, it is recorded that one tobacco user always used the coal bucket while others spat on the floor. During this period the women sat on one side of the church and the men on the other.

June 11, 1864 is the first recorded date of the Methodist Church of Leola being represented in a Quarterly Conference. That Conference was held in Georgetown. Other churches of the circuit  represented at the Conference were Soudersburg, Bird-in-Hand, Intercourse, New Holland and Hinkletown. The preacher in charge of this Circuit was paid $650 a year and the Junior preacher received $300. This was called the “Enterprise Circuit.”

On September 17, 1864 the Second Quarterly Conference was held at the Bareville Church. The Bareville Church was the name used for what was to become the Leola Methodist Church. This was the first  Quarterly Conference of the Enterprise Circuit of record that was held at our church.


History of Methodism in Leola, PA

posted Sep 4, 2011, 8:35 AM by Steve F   [ updated Sep 4, 2011, 8:39 AM ]

On April 2, 1861, John W. Bender purchased an acre of land from Amos Batten, located diagonally southwest across Route 23 from our present church. On this one acre lot was to be built the first Methodist church in the Leola area. Signers for the deed were Rev. Abram Hook, Samuel R. Trainer, Joseph Cooper, John Binkley, Lewis C. Light, William Hoar, Cyrus Batten, John W. Bender and William K. Bender.

William Bender hauled brick and lumber to the site with his own four-horse team. The brick were made in Leola. William Kreamer was the carpenter. Much of the building was paid for by Mr. Bender himself. A portion of the land in the rear of the church was used as a small cemetery.

Those in attendance at the little church in its early days would gather for Sunday afternoon service of preaching and Bible class. In the evening young people would come from all around the neighborhood because it was the only place of in the area where they could meet to socialize.

It was a small group in these early days of the 1860’s, but it was growing.

History of Methodism in Leola, PA

posted Sep 1, 2011, 1:19 PM by Steve F

From 1838 on, “brethren”, as they were referred to, from Bird-in-Hand came to this area and held prayer meetings.  Among those converted during a meeting at the home of John Weidler Bender were Mr. Bender himself and his wife Annie W. Bender, who became the founders of the very first church which was built in 1861.

From mid 1800’s until 1860 there is very little of historical significance recorded on the development of Methodism in Leola. But in the summer of 1860 a Sunday School under Methodist auspices was started in what was then the Bareville School House. It was started as the beginning of a society by a group of local people, and before starting it they canvassed “the pike” for children.

There had been Sunday Schools, called “unions” held here before. However, Dr. H.V.Givler writes that “when the Methodists took charge, a number of people stood aloof for fear of contagion as there was an impression that the Methodists practiced hocus-pocus to entrap people into their belief….A report went out that when a man and his family ‘jined’ the Methodists then the preachers, like the Egyptian locusts, came and ate up all their substance.”

Such were the stories as Methodism began to take root in Leola, Pennsylvania.

History of Methodism in Leola, PA

posted Aug 9, 2011, 2:50 PM by Steve F

The year 1838 is generally regarded as the beginning of Methodism in Leola, PA.  1838 was the year Cyrus Batten was converted to Christianity at Bird-in-Hand at the age of 27, two years before a church was built there.

Cyrus Batten was a Bible agent and he sold religious books. Often he walked up and down “the Pike” (now Route 23) talking religion to the people of the community.

Later his mother had a religious experience, and her home in Leola became a “preaching place.” That home was a log cabin on the northeast corner of the present Route 23 and North Maple Avenue. It was then, and still is, known as Batten’s Corner. It was the custom of the early Methodists to meet at preaching places such as this. It was truly the nucleus of Methodism in Leola.

A Centennial Address by Rev. Merritt Godshalk

posted Aug 5, 2011, 7:02 PM by Steve F   [ updated Aug 5, 2011, 7:57 PM ]

This 'speech' is the preface to a church history published in 1961 for the 100th anniversary of Leola Memorial Methodist Church.  Fifty years later, the anniversary committee is working on an update, bringing our history up to date.   

The booklet began with A Centennial Address by Rev. Merritt Godshalk.  

Fivescore years ago our fathers brought forth in this community a new Methodist Church conceived in love and dedicated to the creed that all men need Jesus Christ and may be save by His grace.

Now we are engaged in a great struggle, testing whether that church or any church so conceived and so dedicated can fulfill its purpose.

We worship in a beautiful sanctuary of that church.  We learn in a most adequate building.  We honor those who gave sacrificially and lived courageously that these blessings might be ours a members of the Leola Memorial Methodist Church.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot honor, - we cannot revere  -  we cannot glorify  -  these saints of God.  The great soldiers of the Cross who served here bring honor, reverence and glory far above our power to add or detract.  This community will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget that they did here.

It is for us, the present members, rather, to be dedicated to the unfinished work which they who labored here have thus far so noble advanced.  It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored saints we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave a full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these saints shall not have labored in vain; that this church, in Christ, shall have a new birth of Spirit; and that the fellowship of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the community.

Merritt Godshalk

Rev. Merritt Godshalk served LUMC from 1958 - 1963.  He was a veteran of World War II and a magna cum laude graduate of Lafayette College and Temple University.  Rev. Godshalk retired from the Eastern Conference of the United Methodist Church in 1978 and died at the age of 86 in 2000 .  

Leola UMC's 150th Anniversary Celebration

posted Mar 31, 2011, 11:42 AM by Steve F   [ updated Oct 29, 2011, 12:25 PM by Lois Kerchner ]

The 150th Anniversary Committee has announced a number of celebration events.
Events in the planning stage include:
  • Outdoor band concert with a corn and hotdog roast
  • "History of the church" moments during worship
  • A special "renew your wedding vows" service followed by an Amish wedding dinner.
  • A special unity service followed by dinner out at a local restaurant.
  • Hymn sing
  • Banners outside the church
The committee is seeking your suggestions and feedback.  Committee members are: Don Gehr, Paulette Bledsoe, Sally Bures, Bill White, George Robinson, Floris Steinruck, Bob Steinruck, Bob Kerchner, Lois Kerchner and Pastor Tim Smith.

I have a story...

posted Dec 29, 2010, 12:09 PM by Steve F   [ updated Feb 5, 2011, 8:04 AM ]

Recently the following note was found in a safe deposit box at the Fulton Bank.   I believe it was placed there by Sally Kennedy Stauffer.   

The jewelry in this box was made from stain glass windows from the Leola United Methodist Church.  The project was known as "Operation Re-cycle".  It was headed by Mr. & Mrs. Donald Gehr and a group of church people worked on the project in the years 1974 and 1975, when the project was terminated.  The stain glass was removed from the window sash, cleaned, cut and polished.  The stones were then glued into findings (rings, necklaces, pins, ear rings, etc.).  The project realized almost $7,000.  It paid to completely furnish the church parlor, panel the upstairs adult class and redo the Pastor's study.
The Stones in this box were placed in the bank safety deposit box on Friday evening, January 30, 1976.

During 1974-75, a group of members of our church worked every Monday night and Wednesday morning in the basement of our parsonage on Blaine Ave.  Rev. Whitby was the pastor at that time.

The stained glass window we used was removed during the remodeling of the sanctuary the year before.  Nelda and Arthur Shoemaker from Lancaster Moravian Church had overseen a similar operation the year before at the Moravian Church.  Being best friends of ours, they taught us how to proceed.  

Some of our group of approximately 20, some that I remember are Midge and Ed Lilly, Dal Kendt, Charlie and Kay Coon, Marian and Don Keneagy, Jay Plank and wife, Sally Stauffer, Pat and George Robinson, and more that now slip my mind and some are no longer with us.
We had a wonderful time and it was a dedicated group of craft people.  Jewelry sales were held about 3 times a year in Fellowship hall.  We netted between $7,000 and $10,000 dollars.  

I am now requesting everyone and all to search out remaining pieces in your possession or your parent's jewelry boxes.  We would like to display these pieces of history.  Please tag each piece and bring your collection to Don and Shirley Gehr by January 25th, 2011.  We will try to have a showing around Valentine's Day.   

Thank You, 

Don and Shirley Gehr  

Originally published in the January 2011 church newsletter

1907 dedication book

posted Nov 22, 2010, 12:53 PM by Steve F   [ updated Nov 22, 2010, 2:00 PM ]

In 1907 Leola United Methodist Church dedicated the brownstone church that we worship in weekly.  For the first time, we are publishing pictures of the original dedication book.  The booklet consists of the program of events for the week of the dedication, advertisements from local businesses and a history of the church.  Things are a lot different 100 years later.

Trivia Quiz:
A special speaker presented a talk (in native garb) about his homeland, what biblical land was he from?
How many advertisers are still in business today?
How many preachers (Rev.) participated over the week long event?

Special thanks to Historian Bill White for sharing from the Leola UMC historical archives.

1907 Leola Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church Dedication book

History of Our Buildings

posted Nov 22, 2010, 12:51 PM by Steve F

Leola United Methodist Church first church building
    The first Methodist Church in the Leola area, a small brick building that stood on an acre of ground diagonally southwest across Route 23 from our present Church, had its beginning on April 2, 1861.
    The 2nd Church Building was occupied on June 16, 1907, when the members and friends of the church marched across Route 23 toward the stately brownstone structure, which they dedicated as the new Leola Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church.  This was the beginning  of our present Church Building 103 years ago.  (See pictures of the 1907 dedication program here, including the advertisements.)

1907 Dedication picture

    The Educational Building was occupied on February, 1958.  In 1910 the first parsonage was located at 7 S. Maple Ave.  In 1911, the 2nd parsonage was at 30 E. Main St.; the 3rd was at 70 W. Main St. in 1915; the 4th at 7W. Main St., built in 1926, and the 5th on Blaine Ave. in 1971.  We currently do not own a parsonage.
    In 1972, it was voted to remodel rather than to demolish and rebuild the church, built in 1907.  On September 26, 1972, the work began.  The entire inside of the church building was removed.  The only thing standing was the outer walls.  The old interior had the chancel area in the north, semicircular pews in the Nave, and  two isles from rear to front.  Everything in the remodeled sanctuary was new: furniture, floors, ceiling, lights, roof and organ.  The new sanctuary was ready on September 30, 1973.
    In 1984, the church constructed an addition to the Narthex.  In 1997, the church purchased the house at 7 W. Main Street, and moved the offices to that building, called "Fellowship House".  In 1999, the church purchased the Scout House from the Lions Club, and land from Greenleaf Enterprises, behind the church, to allow for more parking.

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