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Muncy Church celebrates 175 years

By Staff | Oct 22, 2010

Right: Current Elder in Session, Robert Morgan (L) and elder, Harold Davis point out the unique pipes to the Moline tracker organ, one of few remaining in the country. It was built and assembled on site in 1884 for a cost of $1,000.

MUNCY – Muncy Presbyterian Church in Muncy is celebrating its 175 years of life with a special dinner and program this Saturday, October 23 at 6 p.m. in the church’s social hall. Located on the corner of Penn and Main Streets, the church was founded in 1834 and the building dedicated June 5, 1835. At this time the first charter, known as the Cradle Roll, was formed as part of the Presbyterian outreach in the Muncy Community. The original charter and roll with signatures of 26 members is on display at the back entrance of the church that was added on in the 1950’s.

The original wooden doors are over 4 inches thick and were custom made and hand carved from walnut. Sunday school classes are held in the loft that can be divided by large sliding doors.

“We started as a national mission church, but what makes this church exceptionally unusual is its organ,” said the Church Elder, Robert Morgan. The Moline Tracker pipe organ is one of few located in the United States today according to the pastor. It was installed in 1884 at a cost of $1,000. “It is unique because it was built and assembled here on the spot,” said Harold Davis, previous elder and long time active member of the church. “Not very many people can play this organ,” said Morgan who is the current Elder on the Session at Muncy Presbyterian Church.

The organ has 508 pipes controlled by a single manual keyboard and pedals. Each key and foot pedal has a direct contact movement that “imparts a more personal musical expression.” The organ was restored in 1970 and the manual air pump that required firm pressure from the organist was replaced with an electrical one. “These tracker organs have become cherished musical instruments whose preservation is being encouraged,” reported the Luminary in October, 1984.

In 1961 the size of the congregation increased under the new minister, Earl Brooks. At that time the “giving” became self-sufficient according to Davis. “By 1962 the Muncy Presbyterian Church became an independent self-governing congregation,” Davis said.

The church was completely restored on April 18, 1985, when a Sunday School classroom was added to the back along with a restroom, vestibule and a pastor’s study.

Davis has tracked the history of the church since the time the Presbyterians migrated to Pennsylvania from Ireland in the late 1600’s. “The Church is now part of the National Historic Registrar,” noted Morgan. The earliest known record of Presbyterians in Muncy, then known as Pennsborough, is found in the Carlisle Presbytery minutes of 1786 almost ten years after the Indians attacked the Muncy Valley.

In 1984 an extensive history of the first Presbyterians in the area and the formation of the Muncy Presbyterian Church was written in Now and Then, a historical publication of the Muncy Historical Society. It is recorded that Reverend Shedden was ordained the first minister in 1835 during a dedication of the Presbyterian Meeting House. “The plan of the church was quaint and interesting; the rostrum or pulpit in the center, flanked on either side by two square roomy box pews, seating a whole family,” described the author, Judge Thomas Wood. Families would pay rent for their seating back then which was a way of financially supporting the church. Since 1834 there have been a total of 30 ministers on record and 3 are still living. They are Earl Brooks, Paul Toms and Leon Morgan.

The former ministers, congregation members, and the public are invited to attend the special anniversary ceremony on Saturday to hear an organ recital played by organist Jeff Harvey from Picture Rocks. He has selected 4 Presbyterian hymns to highlight the sound of the organ. “I enjoy playing this organ. It is so rare. It has only one keyboard, whereas most organs have two,” replied Harvey who is a self-taught musician and has been playing percussion instruments for about 30 years. The program will begin at 7:30 p.m. inside the church sanctuary and the public is invited to attend.