Reborn Church Celebrates Its Heritage
EDITOR'S NOTE: This blog post is another in a series of glimpses behind the scenes of the day-to-day workings of the historical society. In this post, learn how the society was called upon to provide artifacts, ephemera, and information about the history of Spring City Methodist Church. A gallery of pictures from the recent celebration follows this blog post.
By Sandi Van Buren, Museum Co-Director
The Spring City Regeneration Church celebrated “Homecoming Sunday” on May 15, 2022 and the rededication of five brass plaques being returned to their original home in the Church. The Spring-Ford Area Historical Society was pleased to be included as the congregation celebrated the return of the plaques and the 100-year anniversary of the Church Sanctuary Building. After 1964 it became known as a “Lighthouse on the Hill”, due to the illuminated cross atop the bell tower, which can be seen shining at night from many locations throughout the valley.
This event was made possible by the work of the 100th Celebration Church Committee, including Pastor Bill Beck, Pastor Sharon Seifrit, Lynette Beck, Kristy Caruso, Bill Burdette, Jerri Herbert, and Gary Seifrit of the Regeneration Church, with Wendy Tenney of the United Methodist Church.
The Spring-Ford Area Historical Society was pleased to provide exhibits including pictures and artifacts from their collections. Many of these historically significant items were rescued by Mr. Harry Meitzler, and we are forever grateful for his years of diligently preserving the history of the Methodist Church, as well as the Spring-Ford area. We also thank Mr. Brian Gumpert for the loan of a 1909 edition of the Methodist Hymnal as reprinted in 1923.
The Spring City Methodist Church building saw its last Methodist service held on January 31, 2016 but now has a new life as the home of the Spring City Regeneration Church. The Regeneration Church held their first service on October 13, 2019, with Pastor Bill Beck officiating. The story of how the Church building came to house the Regeneration Church is nothing short of a miracle and this story will be shared in a future blog post.
At the time of the closing of the Methodist Church a number of brass plaques commemorating events and members of the congregation were donated to the Spring-Ford Area Historical Society for their preservation and care. On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Sanctuary Building the society was pleased to return these plaques to their original home.
To fully appreciate the significance of this celebration, the history of the Methodists in Spring City and the history of the Church building must be shared. The Spring City United Methodist Church had its beginning in Springville, as Spring City was then named, when a junior circuit pastor from Pottstown, The Reverend Peter J. Cox, conducted an evening service at the Lyceum, located at 3-5 Main Street in 1854.
A Union Meeting House had been built at the corner of what is now Church Street and Central Avenue in 1848. The congregation of twelve members organized themselves as a Methodist Episcopal Church in 1855 and subsequently bought the Union Meeting House at the cost of $1,125. As the congregation grew too large for the Union Meeting House to accommodate, a decision was made to build a new church. The last service in the Union Meeting House was held on Sunday, July 14, 1872 and the building was then demolished as it stood on the site where the new church would be built. During the period of the demolition and building of the new church, which lasted from July 15, 1872 – July 6, 1873, the congregation worshipped on the lower level of Mechanic’s Hall (later known as the Tall Cedars Building). A two-story stone building was eventually erected, with the lower level being used for six years for the church until the upper level was completed in 1879. This building is referred to as the “Old Church”. An Annex was added in 1892 at the rear of the building.
As the Church continued to grow, an architect from Lebanon, Pennsylvania, A. A. Ritcher, was hired to design two new Church buildings. A Sunday School building would stand to the left of the “Old Church” (as one stood on Church Street facing the Church) and on the site of the “Old Church”, which would be demolished, a Sanctuary was planned. (The Regeneration Church proudly preserves the set of original blueprints, dated October 23, 1908 and one of these blueprints was a part of the historical exhibits displayed at the “Homecoming” celebration.) The scope of the project determined it would be completed in two stages, the first being the Sunday School section and the second would be the Sanctuary.
The corner stone for the Sunday School Building, was laid in 1909 and the completed structure was dedicated on November 14, 1909. John Jones, the founder of Jones Motor Company, Inc., transported the supply of stone needed for construction from King-of-Prussia to Spring City in two trips daily by horse and cart. The corner stone for the Sunday School Building contains a Bible, hammer, and trowel, donated by John Jones. The stonework was done by the firm of Keiser, of Pottstown, Pennsylvania.
The groundbreaking for the Sanctuary of the Church, which contains the beautiful bell tower, was held on May 3, 1922 and the 100th anniversary of this milestone was celebrated by the Regeneration Church on May 15, 2022. The completed Sanctuary was dedicated September 9, 1923 and the congregation celebrated the burning of the mortgage on February 27, 1938. Once again, a new building had risen on the site of the original Union Meeting House and “Old Church”.
The Church was not yet done growing and in 1974 a Community Center was added to include a kitchen and auditorium, facing Central Avenue. Today this space also serves as a meeting place for youth groups and houses the church offices.
Over the years, projects to maintain the beautiful stone buildings have included the 1986 renovation of the bell tower, the painting of the interior of the church in 1987, the replacement of the old organ with a new Allen organ in 1994, and the 2005 project to repoint the stone exterior of the church. A wooden pipe from the old organ, now belonging to the Spring-Ford Area Historical Society was included in the exhibits for the “Homecoming Sunday” celebration.
Today many original stained-glass windows, large and small, remain filtering sunlight into the serene 1922 Sanctuary and 1909 Sunday School Building. Many of the windows contain the names of loved ones to whose memories they have been dedicated. Huge stained-glass windows depicting Davinci’s “The Last Supper” and Hoffman’s “The Boy Christ in the Temple” dominate the space overlooking the altar and pews. These beautiful windows were dedicated in a service on November 25, 1923. The bell tower no longer tolls actual bells but beautiful computerized musical bells ring out over the valley at noon and 6:00 PM.
On Sunday, May 15, 2022 the Spring-Ford Historical Society proudly returned five plaques, including the 1964 plaque, dedicating the lighted cross atop the bell tower to the memory of Mr. and Mrs. Ammon W. Hoffman, to their original home. Plaques honoring the memory of Homer A. Erb, “Who gave his life in service to his country in Korea” (1955); Mrs. Myrtle Channel Garber, the first president of the Woman’s Society of Christian Service (1940-1941); Reuben E. Hunter, “A faithful Sunday School Superintendent” (1934); and to the memory of M. Bertha Brower and Robert T. Brower (the children of Dr. Charles Brower) in deep appreciation of the “Memorial Endowment Fund,” were also returned to the church. It should be noted that an endowment fund was also given to the Spring City Library, which was Bertha Brower’s other passion.
During the preparation of the exhibits, two old Bibles which were on a table of items to be sold upon the closing of the Methodist Church were purchased by Wendy Tenney, who has generously donated them to the Regeneration Church. The owners of the Bibles were unknown but they were beautifully constructed old books with tooled covers and intricate metal latches. Among the items found pressed in the pages of one of the Bibles was a list of the Garber children and their birth dates. The 50th Anniversary Church Bulletin, from the historical society’s collection was able to connect one of the children, John Fredric Garber, with the Church as a Sunday School teacher.
Today the Regeneration Church also serves the community by generously providing space in the lower level of the Sanctuary Building to the You Are Worth It Foundation, a non-profit organization which provides free food and clothing to anyone in the community who visits, no questions asked.
As one walks by the present Church complex, they cannot help but admire the beautiful stone structure, the bell tower, and massive stained-glass windows. The cornerstones, seen on Church Street, from 1909 and 1922, make one wonder about the history of the building and the people who have loved it for over a hundred years.
PHOTO GALLERY: Click on any image to enlarge. Use arrows to scroll through pictures.
SANDI VAN BUREN - After volunteering at our 2021 Royersford Community Day, Sandi Van Buren was elected as a board member in October 2021. Sandi was born and raised in upstate New York, moving to Pennsylvania 26 years ago. She has been a Royersford resident for 16 years. “I love the small town feeling here,” says Sandi. “History, especially the Civil War era, and old houses have always been an interest of mine.” Since retiring five years ago, Sandi now has time to knit, crochet, and quilt, with many projects given as donations to various local causes. Sandi is happy to be a part of our organization. “I am pleased to have the opportunity to volunteer with the SFAHS and look forward to working on upcoming projects!” Sandi serves as a host at the museum and on the board’s museum committee. She was recently appointed museum co-director, along with vice president, Amy Demchik.