Connellsville's Central Fellowship Church provides 'food for the soul'
Editor's note: As part of It's a Connellsville Christmas, several area churches will open their doors for tours during the event on Saturday and Sunday. Throughout the week, the Daily Courier will take a look at the history of some of the churches participating in the tours.
On March 21, 1968, fire destroyed Central United Methodist Church of Connellsville, the former church home of many of today's Central Fellowship Church members.
Impelled by a strong desire to stay together as a church family, a number of individuals gathered to seek a place to worship. It was learned that the Odd Fellows Temple was available on Sunday mornings and worship services began there on April 20, 1969, with about 150 adults and 30 children in attendance. Sunday services continued each Sunday with guest ministers. Mid-week Bible study and prayer meetings were held each week at the homes of members.
“In June 1969, due to crowded conditions at the Odd Fellows Temple, the possibility of securing a permanent worship place was investigated. At that time the Lord revealed that the Acme Supermarkets were giving up their lease on a property located at the corner of Peach and Water streets. In August 1969, the decision was made to become an independent church, named Central Fellowship Church. On Aug. 27, 1969, legal procedures were completed and a charter received establishing Central Fellowship Church as an incorporated independent church. The legal papers were signed on Oct. 14, 1969, making the former Acme Supermarket our new church home. The Acme, as the name suggests, a High Point, would now become God's high point of witness here in this section of Connellsville. The key to the building was received late that afternoon and by nightfall a lighted cross had been installed on the tower establishing a new church in Connellsville. The process began of transforming this supermarket that once provided food for the body into a place that would serve food for the soul,” explained church member Bobbi Lynn Zahrobsky.
A service for reception of members was conducted on Nov. 30, 1969, with 268 persons recorded as charter members of Central Fellowship Church. Through untiring efforts and long hours of hard work on the part of many dedicated members of the church, it was possible to hold the first Sunday worship service in the new church building on Dec. 7, 1969. Those who entered the building were amazed at the transformation. Walls had been erected and plastered separating the chancel and Sunday School rooms. Pews, pulpit and altar were in place.
In February 1970, framework was installed for the kitchen, lounge and restrooms.
The Rev. William R. Keys became the pastor in October 1971. On Oct. 1, 1974, a dedication was held for the front exterior of the building which was remodeled. The Rev. James Raines became the pastor in January 1979. In October 1981, a dedication service was held after the remodeling of the fellowship hall and installation of a new roof. In July 1983, the Rev. Ray W. Keefer became the pastor after the death of Pastor James Raines in March 1983.
The 20th anniversary of Central Fellowship Church was celebrated on Oct. 8, 1989, with the dedication of a fourth major project — the completely remodeled sanctuary. New carpet, upholstered pews, ceiling and lighting transformed the last visible signs of the old Acme Supermarket into a beautiful house of worship. In March 1994, members dedicated the new nursery and a historical marker was erected on the west side of the property to honor the workers of the Connellsville Canteen. A recognition dinner was held in the fellowship hall following the presentation of the marker with volunteers of the canteen as honored guests.
In January 1996, the fifth major project was under way with the construction of new offices for the church secretary and pastor on the second floor. On Oct. 13, 1996, members dedicated two stained glass windows which were placed in the chancel area, along with new choir robes for all three choirs.
Nancy Henry is a freelance writer.