Antes Fort UMC celebrates 150th anniversary

D. EVERETT SMITH//Sun-Gazette Correspondent
Shown here from top: a photo of the Antes Fort United Methodist Church after the first major renovation; Max Furman, pastor readies to preach on Sunday; organist Elaine Harmon prepares for the service; members of the adult Sunday school class getting ready to discuss the Bible; congregants worshiping during the service; the Antes Fort United Methodist Church today.

D. EVERETT SMITH//Sun-Gazette Correspondent Shown here from top: a photo of the Antes Fort United Methodist Church after the first major renovation; Max Furman, pastor readies to preach on Sunday; organist Elaine Harmon prepares for the service; members of the adult Sunday school class getting ready to discuss the Bible; congregants worshiping during the service; the Antes Fort United Methodist Church today.

ANTES FORT — On Oct. 15 members of the Antes Fort United Methodist Church will celebrate their 150th anniversary with a special service, lunch and music.

Former pastors will return to speak along with local Methodist District Superintendent Rev. Beth Jones and Methodist Bishop Jeremiah Park.

“We celebrate with thanksgiving that Antes Fort church’s 150 years in ministry has produced many amazing stories of changed lives, serving the community and transforming the world with ‘the old, old story of Jesus and His love,’ “ Park said in an emailed statement.

The small white church sits in the heart of Nippenose Township in Antes Fort, its simple white steeple stretching above the surrounding buildings.

Members of the church pride themselves on being a traditional congregation with a traditional worship service.

“I would say the members of the church are known to show kindness and they have a deep-seated love for Jesus Christ and they try to impact the world in a positive way,” said Pastor Max Furman, who has served as pastor for the last two years.

The church attempts to impact its community by regularly collecting money, food, clothes and other items for people in need. The church hosts dinners and events several times a year.

“Ever year we open the doors to the community and we offer a free Thanksgiving dinner,” church member Gerrie Snook said. “We do this because we want the community to come together.”

Another member, Jackie Fox, said the church will organize Easter Egg hunts and fun events for Halloween and Christmas.

“Back in May we gave money to three families who’s homes were damaged during the wind storm,” said Fox. “We just want to help.”

Fox said the church also has supported Toys for Tots, single mothers in Williamsport and the Love Center Food Pantry in Jersey Shore.

Furman explained these type of actions as typical of the church attendees and he believes he is just part of the chain of positivity that was established long before he became the pastor.

“The preceding pastors did some marvelous work and had a vision and they were willing to spend their money on the future,” said Furman.

Church member Ed Snook, who also served on the anniversary committee, estimated the congregation has about 20 families, which is about 60 people, who regularly attend the church for worship and this makes for a unique character that will attract people.

“Our church is traditional and we don’t make any bones about it,” Snook said. “We have people driving from Avis who come to our church because they enjoy singing the old hymns.”

And because of this, the small church is working hard to celebrate their 150th anniversary.

“As we strive to celebrate the history of this church we love,” said Furman in a prayer during an Oct. 1 service, “I think of the professions of faith, marriages celebrated and the deaths observed.”

He added that his hope was that the church would continue to be “God’s church” in the years to come.

According to the earliest records associated with the Methodist church, “Johnathan and wife Sarah sold (the parcel of land) to the First Regular Baptist Church, of Jersey Shore, for the sum of $1” on June 7, 1867.

However, there was one stipulation to this purchase.

“The parcel shall be used for religious purposes and any building erected on this lot of land, and the pews, shall at all times forever be free to all who may congregate there for worship and instruction,” said the records.

The Baptists built a “commodious meeting house” with 25 members. In 1895, the Methodists acquired the property and added on to the existing structure.

“The original building had a porch across the entire front, with two doors and two aisles, one side for men, one for women. There were two heating stoves at that time,” said a document, from 1981, celebrating the church’s history.

For the next several years, the church continued to expand and be brought up to 20th century standards, such as, in 1922, the basement was excavated out and an additional room was built at the front of the building. In 1933, the church was able to purchase an electric organ thanks to “an intensive campaign sponsored by choir members and many others.”

On July 29, 1959, “John Cook, grandson of Johnathan and Sarah White, passed away and bequeathed his estate to the Antes Fort (United Methodist) Church,” the church publication explained. The money was used to purchase new equipment for the church because “it was much needed for our growing Sunday School and already has proved to be a great asset to our church.”

After several other improvements to the basement in 1969, a “dream came true, (as) a new modern kitchen was built.”

Of course, over the years, more and more improvements were made to the church culminating in 2007’s “Miracle Sunday” on April 22.

This “Miracle Sunday” was the celebration of a new addition that began construction “on May 28, 2006 and the project was completed on Dec. 1, 2006” and that included a “new addition; entrance way at front of the church; 22-foot drive through canopy over new entrance way; vertical lift making all levels handicapped accessible; two handicapped accessible restrooms located on the worship level and the lower level; new vinyl siding; insulation and energy efficient windows around the entire church; central air in the sanctuary and new edition; additional seating capacity; (and) expansion of the parking area.”

Now, 10 years later the church released a program for their 150th anniversary service.

Events will begin at 9 a.m. with Park speaking, followed by music from the choir. After the service there will be “a time of fellowship” and at 10:45 a.m. the Graybill Family Singers will lead a hymn sing.

At noon, lunch will be catered and at 1:30 p.m., the Graybill Family Singers will provide more music. At 2 p.m., Jones will speak along with Furman and other former pastors of the church.

“One of the great joys as a resident Bishop is to have the opportunity to share in the celebration of a church anniversary,” Park said. “It is particularly a joy when that celebration marks 150 years of service and ministry on behalf of almighty God and the United Methodist denomination.”

Furman believes the church will play a role in the area for the years to come.

“My goal as pastor of this church is to continue to build on the work previous pastors established,” Furman said. “We have a dignified and traditional form of worship that is seasoned with a contemporary flavor and I pray this church will continue to have a ministry and presence in this community.”

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