175 years later, East Liberty Presbyterian Church still going strong

| Wednesday, July 10, 2013, 11:49 a.m.

For 175 years, East Liberty Presbyterian Church in Vanderbilt survived and thrived while serving the Vanderbilt area.

“For a church to be in existence for that long means that there are good things happening here,” said the Rev. H. David McElroy, the church's pastor.

The congregation that later formed the church began meeting in 1832, with Henry Leighty of East Liberty being the first and only member of Cumberland Presbyterian Church in that area for several years.

East Liberty Cumberland Presbyterian Church was officially organized on July 2, 1838. In 1845, a house of worship was erected. The building was a small brick structure standing on the present site of the church. Prior to this time, the congregation met in the Methodist Episcopal Church at Liberty, and at times in the school building.

In March 1881, the church had about 300 members. While most worshipped at the East Liberty church, the remainder attended services in a meeting house at Summit Chapel, south of East Liberty.

In 1867, the building erected in 1845 was torn down and replaced by a larger brick building. Known as the East Liberty Church, it was located at Alexandria.

In 1902, the James Clark property opposite the Rainey Store was purchased for use by the Rev. F.A. Sharpe.

During the Rev. James H. Mayne's pastorate, the parsonage was erected at a cost of $8,286. Begun in 1921, it was completed in 1922.

An addition was made to the church in 1913. The Rev. E.C. Musselman, minister at the time, being skilled as an architect, designed the front portion of the building that contains the kitchen, Sunday school rooms, belfry, etc.

The first bell was purchased in 1913. It cracked within a year and was replaced by the current bell without additional cost in 1914.

In 1957, the congregation built a Christian Education Building.

Since 2006, when McElroy joined the parish, many renovations have been made to the church building and on the grounds.

East Liberty Cumberland Presbyterian Church received its Charter of Corporation in 1915. The name of the church was officially changed to East Liberty Presbyterian Church in 1960, when the church ceased to be a member of the Cumberland denomination.

As the building of the physical church improved and expanded through the years, so did the congregation. Even through several years in the 1930s without a pastor, the church remained strong and survived.

“I just think the longevity of the church speaks well of the people that have come and gone and those who are still here and the good work they have done in the church and in the community in God's name,” McElroy said.

To celebrate this special anniversary, the congregation has planned a two-day celebration for this weekend. Event Chairperson Shelia Kurtz said the celebration will kick off with a special dinner on Saturday for which reservations are now closed.

Following the dinner at 7 p.m. there will be an Evening of Remembrance and Praise.

“This event is open to anyone,” Kurtz said.

Three former pastors, the Rev. James Watt, the Rev. David Caves Jr. and the Rev. Jane Young, will talk about their times serving at the church.

Guest vocalist Angie Molinaro will perform two musical selections, and the church choir will entertain those in attendance.

“We are also planning a slideshow presentation featuring photos of past events as well as more recent events,” Kurtz said.

State Sen. Richard Kasunic and state Rep. Deberah Kula are scheduled to attend the Saturday night event, and each will be making special presentations to the church.

On Sunday, the 175th anniversary worship service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Kurtz said Executive Presbytor of the Redstone Presbytery Skip Nofpzger will give the greeting and benediction.

The church will also recognize those in the church who have attended for 50 years or more.

“We have three new 50-year members and approximately 25 members over 50 years, with one with over 78 years. Ruth Fosbrink of Dawson has attended the longest,” Kurtz said.

Communion will be celebrated during the service.

After the service, the church board of deacons will serve lunch in the fellowship hall.

Linda Harkcom is a freelance writer.

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