A BRIEF HISTORICAL SKETCH
TRINITY BIBLE FELLOWSHIP CHURCH
Trinity Bible Fellowship Church was originally part of an Evangelical Mennonite Ministry which began in Fleetwood in 1869. (The Denominational name was changed in 1879 to Evangelical United Mennonite, in 1883 to Mennonite Brethren in Christ, and in 1959 to Bible Fellowship Church.) Meetings in Blandon were held beginning in 1884 under the Rev. W. B. Musselman. Pastors S. H. Frey and O. S. Bitting held meetings in Blandon from 1885 to 1888. The Rev. C. H. Brunner held meetings in Blandon during 1897 and the Rev. J. G Shireman held summer meetings during 1898.
The first church building, which developed into Trinity Bible Fellowship Church, was dedicated on January 15, 1899. "Brother Shireman has been working very hard, collecting and working with his own hands until the building was finished. It is a neat little frame building 28x40, plastered and finished off nicely, lit up by a large reflector chandelier. It cost about $600, of which $400 had been paid, and the balance collected in cash and bonafide subscriptions on the day of dedication.@ (1949 article, AThe Gospel Banner@) Over a period of years the building was enlarged on several occasions with additions added and basement space secured by digging. A large reflector chandelier, which illuminated the original building, was replaced by electric lighting. An organ and pianos were augmented with overhead projectors, while a motion picture projector was replaced by VCR capability.
The dedication of the members and friends of Trinity Church was exceptional. When they needed more room in the form of a basement the members and friends of Trinity dug by hand under the already existing building to build a church basement that was to be used for classrooms.
Discussion about the need for a new building began as early as 1967, though a building committee was not established until the latter half of the 1980's. The present property was owned by Mr. & Mrs. George Barrell and investigated for purchase. At that time the price was felt to be too high. In 1982 and 1983 a large number of properties were examined. On January 17, 1984 the elders and deacons went to Barrell's property and, in prayer, claimed it for the Lord, but Mr. Barrell was not ready to sell. Then, on June 29, 1987, Mr. Barrell offered us the land for $141,960, and with a unanimous vote of the membership on August 9, 1987 the land was purchased. The building committee was appointed in January of 1988. The final payment on the land was made on March 29, 1989. The congregation voted to build in September of 1990.
On October 1, 1990, the pastor felt called to leave Trinity for another charge. The question that now loomed before the Elder Board was, "Do we start the building phase of the project without a pastor?" After much prayer the elders and congregation felt led of God to push ahead and finish the building for the glory of God.
This property was paid in full for and ground was broken for the present building during May of 1991. Built largely by Horst Construction Company, the church held its first services in the new building on November 24, 1991. It was dedicated on January 12, 1992.
On the very same Sunday, Trinity received her new Pastor in the person of The Reverend Carl J. Fischer, Jr. Pastor Fischer was formally installed as the pastor of Trinity in a service of installation on Sunday, January 26th, 1992.
The building, at this point, had only the foyer and the Christian education space completed. Worship was held in the large foyer/fellowship hall/Sunday school room. There yet remained a large unfinished 300 plus seat sanctuary to finish before it could be occupied. After the original church building on Chestnut Street was sold in February of 1992, the elders and congregation unanimously decided to begin construction to finish the sanctuary. The work was completed, and the first service was held on Sunday, August 23rd, 1992. On October 4th, the sanctuary was dedicated for the use of the church to bring honor and glory to God.
In two short years the Lord grew Trinity=s church family. The building was too small with regard to classroom space. In 1994 a committee began to look toward expansion. The Lord was gracious, and in 1996 we dedicated the new Christian Education wing.
The future of Trinity shall be found in serving the Lord Jesus Christ by building up the saints and by reaching out to our community and the world with the life-giving and life-changing message of the gospel.
Personal Memories of Mildred Mengel Oyler
My memories of the little church on Chestnut Street go back to the 1920's. The outside of the church was a gray white. There was no vestibule, only a large metal awning with decorative edges over the door. A picture of the church children
taken across the street shows the church in the background with that awning. The town had no running water, so in the backyard were two outhouses. The windows were frosted glass with a pattern. The woodwork a stained pine with grain. The pulpit area remains as it was then. There was a center row of pews with two side rows and two aisles, one on either side of the center row of pews. Men and women sat alone, but I believe it was in the early thirties we sat as families. On either side of the front were pews against the wall with folding chairs in front of those pews. They were wooden folding chairs. This was the Aamen@ corner. The cellar was only large enough to accommodate a hot-air furnace and a coal bin. The sanctuary was completely redone in the early 50's. (Note the program from the re-dedication service.) Mel Rieser headed the committee with many good ideas. The windows were replaced with stained glass. The floor was redone, the walls painted, and pews changed for a center aisle. The new furnishings were fine oak, as it is today. This was when the vestibule was added with pavement and curbing in the front. The additions were done in phases after the basement was dug out by hand. Some of the men I remember who helped in the work were: Zach Kline, George Brown, Morris Barlet, Melvin Oyler, John Mengel, and many of the other men of the church who could do the heavy work. The additions were used for Sunday School classes. The library, eventually bathrooms and kitchen were added. The first pastor=s study was fixed for Pastor Kirkwood.
There was no piano in my early years. Hymns were sung with the best singers leading off. I remember the hymn AWe=re Marching to Zion@ when the men would march around the church singing and clapping the hands. (I always liked that as a child.) There were no musical instruments. I believe it must have been in the mid thirties when my dad and Mary Barlet, and Dorothy Sweitzer went looking for a second-hand piano. The amen corner on the left was taken out to accommodate the piano. Mary and Dorothy were the first pianists.
As a reflection of our Mennonite traditions, when I was growing up there were what seemed to be many customs and taboos. Pins and watches were allowed but no other jewelry. No wedding or engagement rings. 1940 when I graduated from high school, I was permitted to have a class pin, but no ring. In the forties, wedding bands were finally allowed, and then gradually more pieces of jewelry. Women always wore hats to church and wore their hair long, pinned up. By my generation, girls continued to wear hair short and permed. Definitely no movies. We were reading Heidi in school, and my teacher asked a friend and me to go along to see the movie at a theater in Reading. My dad told me he saw nothing wrong in going, but it could well be a stumbling block for someone else. That was an answer I often got.
The education for the general congregation ended at eighth grade, with only a few completing high school or going on to college.
I=d like to talk a bit about some of the people I remember: APappy@ Haines was a tall, white-haired man who lived next door to the church. He would supply the hot water for feet washing at quarterly conference. G. K. Himmelreich was the delegate to annual conference for the three churches. I believe he served until his death. He would say Agoing to conference and getting the pastor you wanted was like horse-trading@. Those days pastors had no voice in where they were stationed. The delegate and two presiding elders would decide the assignments. It was in 1945 that Alimit of years@ was placed on the assignments. But, I believe it was early seventies when this was discontinued and local churches began picking their pastors.
Harvey Adams from the Fleetwood church followed G. K. Himmelreich as delegate for the conference for the three churches. Ed Rissmiller, a farmer, was class leader for some years. Ralph Barlet was a Trustee and Treasurer. Ella Rickenbach, Dint=s mother was a real Bible student and taught a Sunday School class of men and was an excellent class leader. She was often asked to sing solos. Charles Bertolet, Dorothy Bolognese=s father often lead off the singing and along with his wife, Gertie, was janitor for many years. Morris Barlet served as Sunday School Secretary. He often played his clarinet accompanying the congregation in singing, and played many clarinet solos. Luther Brown, who graduated from a college in Michigan with a Master=s Degree, cum laude, worked at a lumber camp in Oregon and did missionary work there, then went on to be with Wycliffe translators. He was drowned in a jungle training accident in Mexico. It was Luther who started the library. Dorothy Kline took over where he left off. Dorothy set up the right library procedures and gave the foundation of what the library has grown to today. She taught a Sunday school class of girls who worked and helped her in the library.
John and Edna Mengel were my parents. Mother and her friend Katherine Kern rode the trolley from Fleetwood to Blandon on a Sunday morning to teach a Sunday school class which she did for many years. This was around 1917 when she met my dad, and later married him in 1921. She ordered church supplies and took care of the cradle roll. Dad was Sunday School Superintendent from as far back as the 1920's until somewhere in his 70's. He was also a Trustee and then Elder Emeritus when he died. He was delegate to the annual conference from the time Blandon became a separate congregation.
Anna Gehris, my mother=s sister, was janitor for many years. The brass flower stands in the front of the sanctuary were placed in her memory.
Dorothy Wesner taught a young ladies Sunday school class. The class sponsored a baby in Africa, Elizabeth, selected by Olive Rahn. As I mentioned before, women always wore hats. Dorothy=s were special with birds, bees, and fruit. (I=m quoting that hat description.)
The first pastor I remember hearing about was Rev. G. F. Yost. He was the one who married my parents on April 30, 1921. I have their framed marriage certificate with his signature and his wife=s as witness. Marriages took place in the parsonage on Richmond Street in Fleetwood until the 1940's.
Pastor A. G. Woodring was pastor in my growing up years beginning in 1923. His 22 years here speaks for itself. Mrs. Woodring had an excellent voice which she used in quartets, duets, trios, and a chorus. She was originally from Bethlehem.
Rev. J. B. Henry came in 1945. He was married to the daughter of presiding Elder Gehman. Mildred Henry was a good pianist and filled in when needed. Pastor Henry left to become secretary in Africa Inland Missions.
Rev. C. E. Kirkwood came in 1950 and left when he was appointed District Superintendent.
Rev. T. D. Gehret=s time as the District Superintendent was over and he came as the pastor for the charge in 1954. It was at his urging that Blandon became a single church.
Serving for a time before they left as missionaries to Africa were Leonard and Nina Buck. They filled in at Blandon when Pastor Gehret was at another church. Leonard was a good photographer and took pictures of different church groups. He took the one that was used in your directory. (I=d be glad to identify those people for you). There is another picture of the men that (I believe) is in your library.
Rev. E. W. Bean came in 1958. He was the first one stationed at Blandon. The present parsonage, originally the Moyer home, was bought by the church and redone for the family.
Rev. Donald Kirkwood came in 1967 as Blandon=s second pastor. He was a real Bible student and gifted teacher. His sermons were fully prepared and presented in a scholarly fashion. His abilities were never fully appreciated or received the credit due. It was while Pastor Kirkwood was at Blandon that Rev. W. B. Hottel and his wife Edna, and David and Darlene joined us. Mrs. Hottel and David are a vital part in the ministry to this day.
Quarterly conference was the time of fellowship and friendship among the three churches. We would take lunch for the noon meal with drinks supplied by the host church. It was a time of sharing. The presiding Elder was H. B. Musselman in the early years. It was a time for officers= reports, feet-washing and communion. There was a morning and afternoon service. I always looked forward to the quarterly conference at Terre Hill in spring. It was a beautiful drive through the Lancaster County to get there. Annual conference was in October and alternated between Allentown and Bethlehem. That is when pastors were assigned to their churches.
How surprised these old-timers would be to see the old Mennonite Brethren in Christ Church at Blandon now the new Bible Fellowship Church.
This tape was made on Sunday, September 7, 1997 by Mildred Mengel Oyler. It is as I recall and probably can have much added to it.
PERSONAL MEMORIES OF MRS. MARIE BEAN
Wife of Former Trinity Pastor, Rev. E. W. Bean
The women wore long skirts, 9 inches from the floor. The colors were dark blue, black, or dark brown worn with a white long-sleeve cotton blouse with a little tie around the collar (like you would tie your shoe lace) that would hang down. The tie colors were dark like the skirts.
You were to wear a plain hat to cover your head--no flowers or decorations on the hat. No make-up, no white gloves, no high heels--flat, dark shoes, no jewelry of any kind--wedding band okay. They used to give watches to each other sometimes instead of a ring when they married.
The women were to keep their hair long, parted down the middle, pulled into a bun in the middle or top of their head. If a woman had short hair, they were not allowed to teach any class.
When coming into the worship area, you were to bend the knee, bow down and say a prayer before you sat down in your pew.
Women sat on one side of the church, men on the other side. Men always wore a suit with long sleeves, white shirt and tie and did not take their jackets off no matter how hot it got.
Members sat towards the front of the church. Back sliders had to sit in the back. If there was someone sitting in the front that belonged in the back, a deacon or elder escorted them to the proper area. So, when the people starting coming into the church, they filled up the front pews first (not like today--they do just the opposite).
They had an Aamen@ corner in the front of the church for men (on their side), and one for the women (on their side). There were about six people on each side. There was an altar in the front where you could kneel.
There was no nursery or Jr. Church.
A PASTORAL STATIONING LETTER FROM 1900
733 Lance Place
October 1, 1900
Brother E. N. Cassell:
I have consulted with the brothers at Blandon and appointed you to take charge of the work at Athol and Blandon, and trust it will meet with your approval. You are requested to move to Athol, where rooms are rented for the year, at I think $3.00 a month. There are only three rooms, and I think you had better take only the things you need with you, and store the rest away. No house can be had at Blandon at all. I announced services for you at Blandon on Sunday, October 14th. If you move at once you can preach at Athol this coming Sunday. Perhaps you would better go and see the place, and make arrangements, or if you ship goods at once, you could save the expense of traveling to and from. I will give you $10.00 a quarter Home Mission Money. Please write to me at once, how this suits you. Please address me at Berlin, Ontario, Canada, in care of H. A. Hallman.
May the dear Lord abundantly bless you and ever lead you, and make you a great blessing. Please let me know when you expect to go to Athol.
Yours in Him,
H. B. Musselman