Lancaster Wesleyan Church observes 125th anniversary

Rev. Doug Sharrard (right), pastor of the Lancaster Wesleyan Church, and his wife Cheryl Sharrard stand in front of the church, which is celebrating its 125th anniversary with a hog roast and time of fellowship on Sunday, Oct. 28. Photo provided.

The Lancaster Wesleyan Church, like many early churches, traces its roots to a meeting in the home of one of its members.

In less than a year, the congregation had built and paid for a small, plain structure that - 125 years later - remains at the heart of the church building.

The church, located at 3147W-543S in the Huntington County town of Lancaster, will celebrate its 125th anniversary on Sunday, Oct. 28, with an invitation to all members, former members and pastors and friends to join in the morning service, a meal and a time of fellowship.

The morning service begins at 10:30 a.m. and is preceded by Sunday school at 9:30 a.m.

Members and guests are invited to join in the service, sing and share testimony.

A catered hog roast will be held from noon to 1 p.m. and will include a display of memorabilia and photos. An informal time of fellowship will be held during the afternoon.

Lancaster Wesleyan was organized in early 1887 and dedicated its church building on Nov. 13, 1887.

Early pastors made good use of that small building. Their 90-minute sermons were lengthy enough to require the church custodian leave his seat mid-service to pump up the kerosene lights and stoke the coal heating stoves.

For those sermons, the pastor got a place to live and an annual salary of $235.

The building has grown larger and the sermons have gotten shorter, but the country church remains active well into its second century.

"We like to think it's because of God's blessing, but I'm sure God blesses a lot of churches," says member Norma Etherington. "It's just God's blessing, and we're grateful for it."

Etherington is a 40-year member, becoming a part of the church family when her own family moved to a property near Mt. Etna in 1972.

"We knew a family at Lancaster Wesleyan," she remembers. "When we got there, they had brought us a nice meal for the evening."

The church, pastored for the past 12 years by Rev. Doug Sharrard, draws between 50 and 60 people to its Sunday morning services.

In addition to the Sunday services, members gather at the church on Wednesday evenings for a meal and activities for men, women and youth.

The congregation supports a number of community organizations, including Love INC and Huntington County Right to Life, and is active in missions work.

"We all pitch in," Etherington says. "It's a very cooperative church. People are always willing to do things when we ask."

For many years, the history of the church was preserved by member Helen Shellenbarger, a descendant of one of its founders.

Shellenbarger, who taught many years at Lancaster School, died in 1997.

"She was carried into the church as a baby and carried out as a 93-year-old," Etherington says.