Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Our Heritage

July – 100 years ago
July 1915 was a big month for the Stevens Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church in Harrisburg and its energetic preacher, Clayton A. Smucker. The son of Evangelical Association preacher Cyrus Smucker (1840-1902), Clayton was originally licensed by that body but left it during the 1894 denominational split to become one of Methodism’s “big church” preachers. He came to Stevens Memorial in March 1914 after pastoring large churches in the cities of Pittsburgh and Baltimore, and during his first 18 months the congregation added 507 members to reach a membership of 1,301. In conjunction with the regular services in the church, a special July 1915 summer campaign featured a series of open air meetings with preaching by Dr. Smucker, music by the 25-member Men’s Club Male Chorus, and use of the “gospel autocar made to carry thirty or more” persons at a time – although details of its exact design and purpose are no longer known. In addition, it was reported that the church “is aiming at more modern and more effective advertising” and installed “two electric out-door bulletin boards.” This property, on Thirteenth Street in the Allison Hill section of Harrisburg, is in a constantly evolving neighborhood. In 2004 Stevens Memorial UMC became Stevens Emmanuel UMC, an Hispanic congregation, and in 2013 the congregation voted to discontinue and the property was sold.

August – 50 years ago
The ad hoc Child Care Study Committee created at the 1965 Wyoming Annual Conference met for the first time on August 26, 1965. The committee was charged to investigate the care “for neglected, dependent, handicapped, and delinquent children within the area of the Wyoming Conference … with special attention to the Children’s Home of the Wyoming Conference” – which was begun in 1913 through the Women’s Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The committee noted the general societal move away from traditional orphanages to the use of foster homes, the need for counseling services, and a shortage of temporary residential facilities for emotionally disturbed and at-risk children. It concluded that the Children’s Home was not a resource used by the parish minister, but that it provided a vital and needed service deserving of continued conference support. While the committee was careful not to “invade the prerogatives of the board,” it made several specific suggestions that have since been implemented. Located in greater Binghamton, New York, the Children’s Home (which as of this writing still has the web address chowc.org) presently describes itself as “a multi-service child welfare agency … offering residential, educational, preventative, and therapeutic care.”

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