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‘God go with you’: Congregation at Salem disbands

By Staff | May 20, 2014

Couples returning to Salem UM Church in Unityville who were wedded there include (left to right): Larue and Pearl Johnson and Grace and Stanley Lore. (Rear): The Rev. Beth Jones and Pastor James Sutherland gather for the final service held May 18.  

UNITYVILLE – “God go with you now and forever” are the words posted on the exterior bulletin board at Salem United Methodist Church at Unityville.

Sunday, May 18 marked the final service conducted jointly by Pastor James Sutherland and the Rev. Beth Jones, District Superintendent of the Susquehanna Conference of the United Methodist Church.

It was announced the church had donated its sound system and hymnals to Kedron UM Church, the baptismal fount to Point Bethel UM Church, and monetary donations went to Camp Victory, the Ronald McDonald House and the Unityville Area Fire Company.

Pastor Sutherland spoke of his memories over the past four years in shepherding the flock at Salem. “Upon being shown around by the previous minister, we encountered Mary Stackhouse mowing the lawn on her John Deere. I was told she’ll be one of your most faithful members.”

The pastor also noted that for 52 years, the church had sponsored Easter Egg hunts, and had a long tradition of hosting Vacation Bible Schools. “More than 100 prayer shawls made by Vera Lewis were given to the sick,” he said.

Carol and Raymond Ovelman exit Salem UM Church at Unityville following the final service on May 18.

Those in attendance also shared memories by enumerating fundraisers, the most notable being the church’s Labor Day Festivals.

Attending the final service were two couple who’d been married at Salem. In February 1957, the Rev. Warren Baker presided over the ceremony uniting Grace Ryder and Stanley “Pete” Lore; and on April 3, 1959, Pearl Duncan wedded LaRue Johnson.

In 1973, Carol and Raymond Ovelman relocated to Unityville from Bucks County. Mrs. Ovelman said, “We saw the church standing on the hill and with our four sons began coming to this church the very first Sunday after moving here.”

LaRue Johnson read the church history sharing that the congregation formed in 1845 with deed being transferred from land owner Gordon F. Mason on May 25, 1846, to church trustees Michael Harschner, Syrus Robbins and Phillip Dirk.

First named a church of The Evangelical Association of America, the name changed to the Evangelical United Brotheran and eventually the United Methodist Church.

In the late 1940’s, a cellar was dug beneath the building; then in 1969, an addition provided Sunday School rooms, a cloak room, office space, rest rooms, and a rear entrance. In the basement, a kitchen was installed.

In 1946, a century celebration was held. Mrs. Glen (Leona Feister) Steinruck wrote and recited a seven paragraph poem entitled “Our Church.”

During the solemn final service, Rev. Jones read from Ecclesiastics 3:1 which refers to everything having a season. “A time for weeping, a time for laughing, a time to be born and a time to die.” The speaker consoled attendees by saying, “We must be brave enough to let go and make way for a new season to begin. You are released from the effort to keep door open, to go and do in ways we have yet to find. Saying good-bye to this church will not be the end. It will continue to live out its life through those who’ve been touched by the congregation at Salem.”