175 years and still providing
By JULIE A. WAGNER
VINDICATOR RELIGION EDITOR
BERLIN CENTER -- Members of the Mount Moriah Lutheran Church will keep in mind the meaning of their church name when they celebrate the church's 175th anniversary Sunday.
It means "God will provide," and they say they believe he has certainly done that since the early members began meeting in a log cabin church in 1829.
The church will have daylong activities to observe the anniversary including a morning service at 9:30 a.m., a dinner, and an afternoon service at 2:30 p.m. followed by refreshments. Bishop Marcus Miller of the Northeast Ohio Synod is expected attend. The church has about 50 members but is expecting about 100 people to attend.
Through the years the rural Mount Moriah congregation has grown and shrunk, seen pastors come and go, and expanded their building, according to a history written by member Myron Kale, 65. The book, which will be sold as a fund-raiser, tells about how the church has always weathered the times when the members weren't sure how they were going to make building changes or find another pastor.
There's never been a tremendous number of people coming here, Kale said. But, "there's always been a core of people who stayed here and kept the church going."
The first group of people built that first 20-by-30-foot log cabin in 1829 across state Route 534 from the church that stands now. The area was then known as North Berlin.
The church was occupied by two congregations: the Lutherans and the Dutch Reformed. The Lutheran church, founded on May 31 of that year, took the name Evangelical Lutheran Congregation of Moriah Church. For several years services were conducted in German. The building also was used as a schoolhouse. A public cemetery on the original site used to belong to the church. The Dutch Reformed church disbanded in the early 1900s.
The church moved to the other side of the road, and the sanctuary of the current building was built in 1847. The building has been moved twice. First, it was moved back from the road. Then, in 1947, it was moved to the side while church members built a basement beneath it, Kale said.
Kale, a young boy at the time, said the church sat on blocks in a nearby field for a month as the members still attended church there.
Since then, the congregation made an addition on the rear of the building in the 1960s, added a steeple in the mid 1980s, and expanded the narthex in 1998 to include an elevator and restroom for people with disabilities. Kale's book details how members of the congregation did most of the projects themselves. When they had to hire professionals, somehow the money would be there in an unexpected way, either from a donation or a memorial.
That spirit carried through the anniversary celebration, when a quilt meant as a fund-raiser became so precious to members they didn't have the heart to raffle it away. Member Ruby Yeager spent six months stitching the king-size quilt using panels designed by church members. When it was finished, no one wanted to see it go, explained Kale and Yeager, but the church still needed the funds. It was then a member stepped forward and donated enough money to cover the raffle and allow the church to keep the quilt.
The church also celebrated a significant event when its current pastor David Phoenix was ordained in 1997. It was the first ceremony of its kind at a church in the area. Usually, clergy are ordained in larger churches, Kale said.