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Church marks 236 years in rural Moreland Township

By Staff | Nov 1, 2018

CAROL SHETLER/The Luminary Community bibles from Moreland Church with a history of 236 years

MUNCY “We think of ourselves as the church by the side of the road, a dirt road that is,” said Corey Shaner, Master of Ceremonies as he welcomed attendees to the History-Memory Day held October 21, 2018 and marking the 236th year of the Moreland Community Church.

Instrumental music, vocalist and oral memories were shared, in conjunction with memorabilia assembled for the occasion.

Instrumentalists included a stringed psaltry on a small harp by Lois Teufel-Hicks, who indicated similarities to the harp King David used in Biblical times.

Prior to playing “Amazing Grace,” Tom Henninger prefaced his performance by saying, “With no previous musical knowledge, I’ve had only 18 months experience with the bagpipe.” Regardless, the strains of the perfectly performed familiar hymn wafted through the sanctuary.

Solos, duets and church choir participants included Lakeisha Burgett, Michele Burgett, June Myers, Bea and Steve Shaner and Corey Shaner. Other selections were given by Bill and Ruth Gibson.

A 26-page church history was available with in-depth research by Kay Burgett. A time line evolved using original church documents, newspaper files and court house records. Added to the booklet are memories of several current and former members. During the service, those who expressed memoirs included former pastor Harry Harter, Anna Berdean Smith, and Kay Burgett.

Giving her personal account with the church, Kay Burgett said, “When my dad, Harlan Rupert came home from WWII, he, mother and I left Greenwood moving to where Bill and June Myers now live. As my dad drove a milk truck seven days a week and mother did not drive, another parishioner drove us to church.” Kay recalled advancing through various Sunday School classes to eventually become a teacher herself. Unlike the veritable newcomer, Kay’s late husband, Edward Burgett was at least the fourth generation residing near the church. Of the times Kay recalled, “My husband and son Greg played on the church ball team.”

The meeting place has been integral in its member’s cycle of life beginning with dedications, on to marriage and finally funerals. In summary Burgett said, “Some memories have been heart-warming; some heart-breaking, but God is always here.”

Weddings were among the many heart-warming events. Some included Helen Sherwood and her 1948 marriage to Clay Reed. Phyllis VanDine Weikel and four of her siblings wed there. In 1949 Lester Snyder wed there and in 1953 Dio VanDine and Jane Ellis were married. In 1956 Shirley VanDine and Stanley Foust wed. In 1960, Norma VanDine and Robert Charles were married and the same year so were Lester VanDine and Shirley Corson.

Listing a few heart-breaking moments included the funerals of Burgett’s mother and husband Edward, Pastor Harold Teufel in 2003, Corey Shaner’s mother Pat Shaner, Laura Shetler Burgett in 2003 and infant daughter Angela Dena in 1972 plus many more.

Its founding in 1781 occurred 9 years after boundaries were laid out for Lycoming County and 32 years prior to lands ascribed to Moreland Township. A docket dated 1862 notes the congregation’s identification as the Moreland Sabbeth School at Moreland Lutheran Chapel, one of several name changes to follow. It’s constitution for governing was signed by the Rev. George Eichholtz. Part of a charge of churches, it shared pastors with two St. John’s Lutheran sites, one at Lairdsville and the Katy Vandine church near White Hall.

An example of one of the financial record states (note spelling): “Feb. 28, 1881, the colehouse was build at the Moreland church. Build by Theodore Houseknecht, Isaac Shipman, Charles Johnson and Jacob Allbeck.”

For a time in the early 1940’s, the church was vacated due to a chimney fire. During that time services continued at Hilltown School. Festivals, the highlight and fundraisers for many congregations at the time, were held on the church lawn. Names noted either in expense or income columns included in 1889, Elias Salm and in 1909, Orlando Houseknecht.

One solemn tradition was the gathering on the Sunday nearest Memorial Day at the grave of Miss Mary Elizabeth Lowe (1868-1919). Relatives would join the congregation in honoring the missionary serving in India from 1911 to the fall of 1918. Due to a 2-year bout with stomach ulcers, Lowe returned home on furlough in October dying four months later at Bloomsburg Hospital. Born near Lairdsville, Mary was the daughter of Sarah Poust and Civil War soldier Charles Lowe. Mary’s brother, George A. Lowe, was the informant on her death certificate. This annual remembrance was carried out at least into the early 1940’s as evidenced by dated bulletins.

Persons possibly traveling the greatest distance to the recent service were Anna Berdene Burgett, husband Rex Smith and daughter Susan Kline of Horesheads, NY.

Moreland Community Church is located at 1300 Church Road, Muncy, PA.