By Evamarie Socha
The Daily Item
LEWISBURG — There have been four buildings called Dreisbach United Church of Christ in the last 225 years, and while the structures have come and gone and new ones erected, they’ve all stood on the same three acres some six miles west of Lewisburg.
That is something the church elders want to celebrate this year. While Union County kicks off its bicentennial celebration on Friday, it’s a kid compared to Dreisbach, which was around 25 years before there even was a Union County.
“This is a welcoming, friendly, rural church,” said Pastor Michael Romig, who has been there more than 20 years now. “The people here are just like family.”
And there are families with generations of Dreisbach members: The Waters have had three generations and the Moyers have had five, said the elders gathered at the church Wednesday.
A left turn off of westbound Route 45 onto Dreisbach Church Road leads to the church, named after Martin Dreisbach, who donated about seven acres for it. Martin and his wife, Mary Dreisbach, are buried in the adjoining cemetery, although church officials aren’t sure where.
German Reformed settlers and their Lutheran neighbors worshipped at Dreisbach Church, which became a union church as a result of the two congregations sharing the building.
Today there are about 400 members on the rolls, though Sunday services usually see about 125 people. The congregants are young and old, laborers and professionals, some new to the area and some with far-reaching roots.
Church President Larry Snook said many people ask to stay on the church roll after leaving the area to stay up to date on its happenings.
What keeps them tied to the church?
“Belief,” Snook said. “I hope that’s it!” he laughed.
The first Dreisbach church was made of logs and built in 1788. Snook said there was a pile of old logs on the grounds believed to have been cut for the original structure.
The second church was built in 1839 and the third in 1860, a sturdy, traditional red-brick structure with the sanctuary on an upper story, common of German-founded churches at the time.
“The congregation built the church. They originally did everything,” said David Beckley, a church elder and historian.
But the third church had a loose stone foundation, Beckley said, and in 1963 the walls collapsed. That same year, the Lutheran side of the church split off, he said, and UCC Dreisbach members decided to build a new church, the present structure that opened in 1964.
Today’s church has the sturdy, curved oak pews lined with velvet cushions that had been in the third church. A southern exposure makes for a backlit, ethereal sanctuary. It’s peaceful as well as historical.
The 225th birthday celebration kicks off with a re-dedication service April 7 — which happens to be the same date the papers were signed to form the church 1788.
There will be special recognition of a “50 and over” club, members who have been with the church at least 50 years. Doloras Maurer is one of them. The 71-year-old church secretary has been a Dreisbach member since she was 3.
“It’s always felt like home to me,” she said. She recalled a time during Sunday school when she was a child and the class walked to a nearby field to play softball.
“We had a blast,” Maurer said. “That’s always stuck with me that we were in church and then we were outside playing.”
The family feeling as well as faith is what Maurer believes have kept people coming back to the church.
Since announcing the anniversary celebration, there have been artifacts coming in from various places. For instance, Mabel June Walter, the former organist, has donated her mother’s scrapbook filled with church bulletins. An old Bible believed to have belonged to Mary Dreisbach was found, Maurer said, and that also will be displayed.
“You find a lot of spiritual well being here,” Maurer said of the church. “If I miss church, it’s like I miss a whole day of the week. It’s a soothing feeling.”