GREENFIELD — Julian Nicholson could look at the sheet music, transpose it and keep going, making the organ sing.
Jesse Konkle taught Sunday School for years. A carpenter by trade, he built a pulpit, a cross and other furnishings for his church — then felt uncomfortable when fellow church members dedicated a stained glass window in his honor.
Myron Applegate remembers these and other faithful people who’ve been part of Mt. Lebanon United Methodist Church through the years. Sunday, the congregation will mark 175 years of ministry with musical guests, cake and ice cream.
“My earliest memories of life started there, I think,” said Applegate, the church’s lay leader.
Applegate remembers there was an outhouse outside the church when he was a very young boy, before the church added an annex with fellowship hall, indoor restrooms and kitchen to its building in 1959.
But more than structural changes, he remembers people through the years who did their part in the church’s work and set an example.The Montrose sisters, Beverly and Rosalind, kept up with church history and accounting. Flora Jean Arthur was a faithful pianist for many years.
Robert Truitt was a longtime lay leader who recruited people for different tasks and roles, “and if we wanted to change something, he’d say, ‘We’d better think about that biblically,’” Applegate recalls.
Nicholson and Konkle “had humble hearts,” he said. “They did not want to be in the spotlight for anything, but they were important to the church.”
Yet the story of Mt. Lebanon does not start with that group of people or the building in which they have gathered. It begins with pioneers who arrived in Brandywine Township around the 1830s and cleared land and began farming, and/or brought their trades knowledge and started businesses. Some of their names are visible in two cemeteries flanking the church; the earliest burials appear to have been in the 1850s. The cemeteries are separate organizations from the church, Applegate said, but various families of the church are among the people buried there: Milbourn, Andis, Low, Richardson, Pope, Smith and others.
Mill operator James Smith welcomed a circuit-riding minister, Thomas Shipp, when he came to the township and proposed starting a church. According to a book of church history — “Mount Lebanon: A Frontier Faith,” edited by Hancock County Historian Joseph Skvarenina — a revival meeting in a nearby home yielded a group of 16 who organized Mt. Lebanon Methodist Protestant Church in 1848. Smith offered land for the first building, a log structure that stood in what’s now the cemetery south of the present building.
The log structure burned in 1858, and services continued in area school houses until a brick structure was built at 3447 S. State Road 9, south of Greenfield, in 1882.
This is the building Applegate began attending as a boy. This is the building where young people grew into pastors, and missionaries and future church leaders. The church history book includes a list of ministers and missionaries sent out from Mt. Lebanon.
This is the building where people worked to expand and improve the space. Young people sold sloppy joes at local auctions and apple dumplings at the Riley Festival to raise money for some of the stained glass windows. The church added on in 1959 and 1982.
This is the building where a congregation gathered for homemade doughnuts and one-act plays on New Year’s Eve, where children carefully recited their rehearsed parts for Christmas programs and children’s day programs. “We were scared to death to get up before the church,” Marie DeShong writes in the church history book, “but people always said we were good.”
This is the building where present-day members gather crutches, wheelchairs and medical supplies to provide to those who need them. It’s where they organize electronics recycling days to allow people to properly dispose of computers, TVs and other electronics. It where they exit, under Konkle’s hand-made wooden “Depart to serve” sign, to go out and volunteer at the local hospital, or homeless shelter, or food pantry.
This is the building where the congregation has prayed together through the decades. Both Applegate and another longtime member, Linda Virt, mentioned prayerfulness as a foremost characteristic of the church. An anniversary banner outside notes the congregation is “Celebrating 175 years and still praying together!”
The prayers continue as the church looks back on 175 years and celebrates with music, cake and ice cream.
“We just want to have a good time that we’ve been there 175 years,” Applegate said. “We pray that we’ll have more years to come.”
CELEBRATING 175 YEARS
Mt. Lebanon United Methodist Church will celebrate its 175th anniversary on June 11, and the community is invited.
The Victorious Trio will lead a service at 10:30 a.m.
At 6:30 p.m., Fred Powers will lead a hymn sing. Powers was part of the Melody Masters that for many years would play hymn sing concerts at local churches and the Hancock County 4-H Fair.
After the hymn sing, cake and ice cream will be served.