WILLOW STREET UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST
In 1874, four lay people of the Willow Street area, longing for a place of worship, began gathering on the third floor of Frick Hall (now Pyfer & Reese attorney practice). They met every four weeks to listen to the word of God. The congregation grew and on May 21, 1876. the Willow Street Reformed 1876 Church was formed by Rev. A. B. .Shenkle, according to the direction of the Lancaster Classis. Some of the founding members were Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Mylin, Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Dagen, Harry S. Mylin. Amos Hollinger. Dr. J. H. Mayer and John Kendig, Jr. (note: May 21, 2001 will mark WSUCC’s 125 th anniversary.) By July 16, 1876 the cornerstone of the church was laid, with the building being completed within the next year. The congregation grew over the next flfty years, shepherded by the following succession of pastors: Rev. D. W. Gerhard-1 887, Rev. Orville B. Wehr 1898, Rev. Herman S. Shelley 1902, Rev. George A. Stauffer 1916 and Rev. David Scheirer-1 924. An addition to the original building was added in 1913, but it was razed and replaced by a larger Sunday School addition in 1926.
On June 26, 1934 the congregation became the Willow Street Evangelical and Reformed church. Rev. Raymond C. Strine became pastor in 1936, followed by Rev. Norman Shollenberger in 1939. During his pastorate, the interior of the church was remodeled in 1940, in walnut (now In the chapel and the balcony.) The altar was a gift from Mr. and Mrs. Ira Shenk. Also in that year, the pipe organ was given by Mr. John H. Hollinger Sr., in memory of his wife. (It was refurbished in 1967 by Mr. and Mrs. Ralph W. Snavely.)
Rev. Elden Spangler began his pastorate at Willow Street in 1949. During his time of service the congregation celebrated its 75th anniversary in May of 1951. The first annual Oyster Supper was held in 1953 and sponsored by Abe Hamish and the Men’s Bible Class. Due to the growing church school, youth activities and Bible School, a new educational wing was added to the building in September 1954.
Rev. Gerald Hinkle became pastor
in 1956. During his time of service, the Church
Library was started in August of 1957, and in that same year the congregation became Willow Street United Church of Christ (WSUCC.) Advent Family Night was held for the first time in 1956, and through the years families hove gathered to make ornaments and advent wreaths, share potluck dinners or snacks and sing Christmas carols. In 1958 a building planning commission, headed by Mi. Robert Keen, was established to explore the possibility of replacing the old sanctuary. the mortgage on the educational wing was burned in 1959. In 1960, Betty Witmer was the first woman to serve on Consistory.
In 1961 Rev. Fred H. Irwin came to WSUCC. During this time plans continued for a new sanctuary, lead by Mr. Paul B. Eshelman, Mr. Roy Eby, Mr. W. Klink Myers and others. Finally the new sanctuary was completed and dedicated on March 16. 1969. (The mortgage was burned March 25, 1979.) A new constitution and bylaws were adopted in January of 1974. And in May of 1976 a centennial celebration was held, marked by the confirmation of 11 new members.
Rev. Francis Daugherty was pastor here from 1980 to 1983.
Rev. Robert Townsend became the pastor of WSUCC in 1983 and during his time of service the congregation grew. Informal Saturday evening worship services were held. In 1986 an elevator, expanded office area and A/C were added to the church, funded by the Alive and Building Drive. In 1984, Mrs. Kitty Fisher became the first woman president of the Consistory;
On December 29. 1989 a one stay brick office building at 8 Rees Drive. Willow Street was purchased for $96,500. This building purchase was made to house a branch office of the Samaritan Center of Lancaster County. The lease agreement between the Church a nd the Samaritan Center was signed on June 1, 1990. The Samaritan Center provides individual and group counseling, education and consultation to the general population.
In 1992 Rev. Michael Weiser became the pastor at WSIJCC. During his first year the congregation purchased and stocked a trailer for a family whose home was lost in hurricane Andrew. Christmas 1993 the congregation saw its first Chrismon tree, thanks in large part to Mrs. Ruth Leidich. The Board of Christian Education sent Christmas gifts to the Dakota Association in 1993 and Stewardship sponsored a silent auction to raise money for Larry Don Schaffer in 1994, a little boy in need of a heart transplant. A new constitution was approved and implemented in January of 1995.
In the last twenty years a number of programs and activities have occurred in the church and many continue today. Fellowship puts on a summer church picnic, a Mother-Daughter banquet in May. Men’s night in April. An Advent breakfast and an Easter egg hunt usually held on Palm Sunday weekend. They also organize “cookie Sunday’, held between worship services on the first Sunday of the month. Music has been heard in the congregation as well, thanks to the adult choir, the children’s choir and handbell choir. In past years, Christmas and Easter Cantatas have been performed as well as special spring children’s musicals.
The Board of Christian Education has organized Christmas pageants, vacation bible school, day camp and Kerygma adult bible Study. In the last five years a youth director has been on staff part-lime to implement youth activities. (There have been five different people in this position to date.) In addition, a Director of Christian Education position was created in the spring of 1995 to oversee and implement many of the Christian Education programs. Finally, some of the many mission activities include sending cards from Sunday School students to shut-ins, collecting Christmas gift for residents of local UCC homes, providing meals to fellow members recently released from the hospital (Rainbow.) raising funds for Heifer Project International and Blanket Sunday.