By LINDA M. LINONIS
Lowellville United Methodist Church holds the distinction as the first church built in the village situated on the banks of the Mahoning River.
For the small but faithful membership, the church has a special place in their hearts.
Recently, four longtime members gathered to discuss the church. They are Kay Edwards, a member since 1945; Phyllis Lupo, a member since 1977 and baptized there; Sandy Moretti, a member since the 1960s; and Lorine Schrader, a 70-year member.
Edwards said the church celebrated its 175th anniversary Oct. 14 with a comedy-magic program by Drip E. Faucet, an afternoon program of speakers and music followed by a dinner at the church attended by about 95 people. “We had a good turnout,” she said.
A slight mystery at the church is the location of a time capsule. “We’re still looking for it,” said Moretti. Though there are some clues to its location, they yielded nothing yet. “We wanted to find it for the celebration,” Edwards said.
As with many mainline denominations, the church membership has dwindled from a high of some 250 to between 50 and 60 with an average attendance of about 25 at Sunday worship.
Those who attend praise the church for its welcoming atmosphere. “We like it here,” Edwards said. Sunday services are at 9:30 a.m. followed by refreshments.
Schrader added, “We’re a close-knit group. I can’t imagine going to any other church.”
“The fellowship here is something special,” Moretti said.
And that’s not the only thing that is exceptional. The church has built a solid and tasty reputation for various food sales.
A chicken and biscuit dinner will be from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Nov. 10, and customers may eat in or carry out. “It’s been a fixture for as long as I can remember. The church was bigger when it started, but we carry it on,” Schrader said.
The church also sells roast- beef sandwiches as takeout only during Lowellville Day in the summer and then again in January or February. “People always tell us how good the sandwiches are, and we usually sell out,” said Lupo, who confided it must be the wine in the recipe.
Another food attraction that gets rave reviews is the church’s takeout pasta fagioli sale on Good Friday. Lupo’s daughter, Elizabeth Hartman, who attends the church, provided the recipe and helps cook. “People can’t believe a Methodist church can make an Italian recipe so good,” Lupo said.
The women agreed the popular food sales benefit the church coffer and help maintain the church presence in the community.
The group also praised the quality of the choir, which helps enhance worship services. Craig Wiencek is pianist.
Darlene Masetta is the church pastor. She usually presents a children’s sermon for the younger crowd. At services, Moretti said, there is a practice to shake hands with members.
Two large stained-glass windows highlight the sanctuary. An unusual round window depicts Jesus praying. The other, located on the wall opposite the altar, is of Jesus, the Good Shepherd. The windows were installed to remember the first members. Other smaller stained-glass windows include nameplates that are memorials and of those who provided funds.
Pulpit chairs and a small pew, which were rescued from a fire in the second church, are treasured items in the church and are links to the past. The sanctuary also features rounded pews, creating an inviting seating arrangement. Handcarved in wood is a verse from “Amazing Grace,” which is in memory of Elaine Dennis, who was a lay leader and choir director.
“It’s like family here,” Moretti said.
Lupo admitted she “liked a smaller church ... it makes me feel at home.” She said that feeling motivates members “to work to keep the doors open.”
Members with church duties are Elizabeth Hartman, lay leader; Sarah Hartman, lay servant; Jeffrey Hartman, treasurer and sexton; Carol Ann Tirotta, secretary; Walter Schrader, chairman of official board; and Walter and Lorine Schrader, communion stewards.