A CENTURY OF FAITH
Carl T. Martin
In the grace and providence of God A.D. 1992 marks the year that Faith Bible Fellowship Church of Spring City celebrates 100years of ministry from its inception on January 11, 1892. As a part of the celebration, we undertook to have various persons from the congregation share reflections on various aspects of the ministry during the preceding century. The majority of these were written by R. Stanley Weidner who consulted his mother's diary at some points for clarification.
Faith Bible Fellowship Church, a congregation of some 143 active members and nearly 300 regular attenders has been in the same community for 100 years. Much of the history has been written only in the memories of the deceased and is not available to us today. Yet, a few facts remain for our reflection which we will give in summary fashion here.
Some time in the conference year 1892 a few families under the direction of the Mennonite Brethren in Christ began a mission work in Spring City, Pennsylvania. These families were an outreach from the three year old Royersford congregation of the same denomination. The two families most prominently remembered as founding the mission were the Smoyer family which had moved to the area from Albertus, Pennsylvania, and the Kinsel family. A Book of Records, no longer extant, referred to an A. B. Fisher, Gertrude Fry and long standing member Cora Fox, Gertrude's sister. The first minister, according to The Bible Fellowship Church (p. 218), was H. B. Musselman. The mission was housed in a building at the corner of New and Penn Streets (according to long time resident Harold Keppen based on conversations with Cora Fox). Then the mission erected a building on Yost Avenue in Spring City which is described by Cora Fox in her history of the church. This little building served well until the late 1950's when growth exceeded the capabilities of the building and property was purchased for the construction of the present facility. According to Willard Cassel's remarks (January 12, 1992) there was also another parsonage that was sold for economic reasons during his father's first pastorate here.
According to those still living and aware of the history of the church, the church basically plodded along for her first fifty years with a small but meaningful testimony in the community. At some point after the turn of the century, the denomination decided to build a parsonage attached to the church building on Yost Avenue. The congregation shared their pastors with the Royersford congregation in a circuit until 1959 when under the leadership of Pastor Earl Hosler the two congregations became strong enough for each to support their own pastor. In this shared relationship the pastors were under the constant pressure of assuring both congregations equality of time and ministry.
One of the features at that time for which the two Mennonite Brethren in Christ congregations were noted was their use of "protracted meetings." They were often referred to as the "Many Nights." Through these meetings, many families came to know the Lord and of them several continue to have a vibrant influence in the present day congregation. One example is the Fox family from which many fourth and fifth generation descendants line our pews faithfully on the Lord's Day.
In the early days the officers of the congregation were the Steward who collected money for the pastor's salary, the Parsonage Fund Collector, who sought to raise sufficient funds for the fuel and maintenance of the parsonage, the Exhorter, forerunner of the Class Leader, who led the Wednesday prayer meetings, and the Trustees who oversaw the use of the offerings for the maintenance of the church building.
EARLY REFLECTIONS OF R. S. WEIDNER
One of the outstanding recollections of the past in our little church on Yost Avenue was a few of the older members getting "happy" or as some in other churches called it, "receiving a blessing". Now they never lost consciousness nor acted improperly but just raised their hand or hands and danced up and down a minute or so. These events took place some years before World War One and a very few years afterward. One of the men, Brother Betz, who weighed about 300 pounds, "jumped" sometimes but the floor beneath him was not so sturdy. So extra braces had to be put underneath in the basement to avoid a collapse. One of the choruses which we sang that caused some to "get happy" and show some emotion (principally the ones to which I referred: Brother Betz and Sister Coleman, and I should add Brother Charley Razor, who kept time with nearly every hymn or chorus with clapping his hands):
"O brother ain't you glad you ever joined the army, O brother ain't you glad the sea gave way -
When Moses smote the water and the children they passed over. And they shouted "Hallelujah" when the sea gave way.
Yes, I'm right down glad I ever joined the army,
Yes, I'm right down glad the sea gave way
When Moses smote the water and the children they passed over
And they shouted "Hallelujah" when the sea gave way.
O sister ain't you glad ......etc, etc.
Was the Spring City congregation the first integrated church in the conference? Pastor Jansen Hartman thinks that we were. Very early in the history of the Spring City Church we had a family by the name of Coleman who were of the Negro race but were really loved and accepted by the church people. Mr. Coleman had been killed at the grade crossing of the Pennsylvania Railroad at Parkerford about 1910. Mrs. Rachel Coleman came to church very faithfully until her death around 1930. We all called her Sister Coleman as in those days all were know as Brother or Sister. She was truly a born-again child of God. We remembered her best for liking to march around the church when we sang, "We're Marching to Zion." All would follow her, but as the church had only one aisle (in the middle), it was difficult to do so. I also remember so well that when Brother Kratz, our pastor from 1918 to 1923, was moved to another congregation, she said, "Not everything ain't done in the Lord." But when the Wolfs came, she was praying, "Lord, bless Brother Wolf and Sister Wolf and all of the little ones." So she was loyal to every pastor that we had. Her son, Leon, came to church many years after the death of his mother.
One of the tragedies to befall our little congregation came in October 1918. That was the year of the great influenza epidemic. Many were sick and many died. Our pastor at the time was Horace A. Kauffman, who faithfully visited the sick (maybe too faithfully) and contracted the disease and died after being our pastor just one year. His wife moved out of the parsonage after Brother Kauffman's death but came back five years later as wife of N. H. Wolf. The Wolfs were here from 1923 to 1932 and they were a good nine years. We are fortunate to have in our present congregation Mrs. Ellen Derck who was born a few months after Brother Kauffman passed away.
I like to think of one of Brother Wolf's stories given to illustrate a point in one of his sermons. A train was going up a steep grade in the Poconos. The engineer was really happy when they got up the steep grade and over the top. The fireman said he wondered what would have happened if he had not applied the brakes. He said maybe the train would have slipped and gone down the hill backward! Get the point? (End of reflections of R. S. Weidner)
The ministries of the congregation gradually grew to include a Sunday Bible School, often with the members of both congregations attending both schools since the Royersford school was held in the afternoon. They had a combined Sunday Evening service which brought the two congregations together at the close of the Lord's Day. One of the prevailing characteristics of the people in the earlier days, according to the older members of our congregation was COMMITMENT. If the church doors were open, the people assembled.
With the increase in attendance and the separation of the two congregations from the circuit came the "Crowning Days" of the Spring City Church. A young pastor who had been in Paradise, Pennsylvania, for only one year was called to be the pastor in Spring City. His name - Harvey Fritz. Pastor Fritz and his wife Bertha moved in and began an exciting and innovative ministry for the next nearly seven years. The congregation had a vision to expand. They first began with double services in the Yost Avenue facility. They then purchased property from a farmer, Mr. John Simon, at the corner of Pennhurst Road and Bridge Street Extension in East Vincent Township, Spring City. Funds were collected, plans were made, and approvals from the township were sought.
In the fall of 1964 ground was broken for the construction of the new church building. The Horst Construction Company of New Holland was hired and construction began. Dedication services were held June 20 through 23, 1965 with the main dedication service being on Sunday afternoon, June 20.
In 1967 the congregation also hired Horst Construction to build a parsonage on the new property. (Intention to build where church is now.)
The ministry continued to thrive under the early leadership of Pastor Bert N. Brosius but met with hard times in his later days. They continued to face a period of decline under the leadership of Pastor George Herb in the early 1970's. In 1973 the congregation called Pastor Richard Taylor from the assistant pastorate in Graterford. Under Richard Taylor's ministry the congregation grew to the largest membership in its history - 151. The church developed in many areas and became a growing testimony in the community. Following Pastor Taylor's 1982 resignation, the congregation in1983 extended a call to their present pastor, Carl T. Martin. In January 1991, following five years of planning, toil, and frustration, ground was broken for a new multipurpose facility which could be used as a gymnasium. Stoltzfus Enterprises Ltd. of Elverson was contracted to build the addition. Actual construction began on March 18, 1991. The dedication of this structure was held on June 30th with Mr. R. Stanley Weidner cutting the ribbon. What will emerge in the coming year we can only speculate. For the past, though, we can say: Surely God has honored the faith of this congregation as they have given forth the Gospel. May God's blessing continue in even greater measure.