Hometown Views is a feature hosted by Erin and me where we focus on an aspect of the area we live in. Erin lives in an urban area and I live in a rural area so it’s been fun to compare our various locations in these posts.
This week Erin and I are showcasing the churches in our towns/cities for Hometown Views.
I decided to focus only on the churches in our town for this one. There are four located within the town limits, but there are also a couple of country churches outside the limits. I’m going to focus on the four within the town limits.
I honestly don’t know tons about three of the churches. The largest, most prominent church in our town, the catholic church, St. Basil’s, receives the most attention because it sits on a hill overlooking the entire town.
If you take a photograph anywhere downtown, the church will be in the background.
It’s a stunning example of architecture and draws the eye even of those who are not religious. It is flanked by a beautiful, historic cemetery that stretches back to a wooded area.
The bell in its tower tolls five times each day: 6 a.m., 9 a.m., noon, 6 p.m., and 9 p.m. and you can hear it no matter where you are in town. Three years ago, the copper from the beautiful bell tower was stripped away by a tornado which also removed 100-foot trees from in front of the local apartment complex and damaged homes in our town, including the one we now live in. Many of the homes on this street have metal roofs, replacing shingled roofs after the tornado. My neighbor told me the shingles from their roof were embedded in the siding of our house.
The grove of trees next to us and beyond the neighbors on the other side is still a tangled mess from that day.
There is a debate in my house on how to pronounce the name of St. Basil’s. However, I know I am right when I pronounce it with the long vowel sound of “a” (saying the “a” sound) and my husband is wrong when he says it with the short vowel sound. His sounds distinctly British to me while my way to say it is distinctly American. Since we drove the British from our midst over 200 years ago, I know I am saying it correctly. *wink*
Ask around town, though, and you’ll hear it pronounced both ways and most who attend it don’t care which way it’s pronounced. It’s the same place either way.
According to some history, I gathered through a local history and genealogy site, St. Basil’s was one of two Catholic settlements first started in this region of Pennsylvania. The parish was established in the mid-19th century by Catholics who gathered here and supported themselves from the land, versus some kind of industry.
The first reference to the “settlement on Loyalsock Creek” was made by Bishop Francis Patrick Kenrick in his diary in 1836. The priest wrote about traveling 70 miles up the creek to reach this tiny settlement of “some Irish and even more German families” and present them Mass in the home of a settler.
“Some of these people have lived hidden away here for fifteen years,” Kenrick wrote. “During that time, they never saw a minister of religion. I remained there about four days, and each day I celebrated Mass in the home of Darby Deegan. About thirty came to receive Holy Communion. They have agreed now to build a church of wood [probably a log chapel], hoping that a priest may visit them four times a year. I have decided to place them under the care of the Rev. Henry Fitzimmons.”
The church was built of stone between 1868 and 1871. The first Mass held there was in 1871.
Besides the amazing stonework, some of the most impressive views of the church are inside where a breathtaking painting of the Ascension of Christ appears above the altar.
There are also paintings on either side. I would love to know more about them, but I couldn’t dig up any more history on them before this blog post needed to be finished. Perhaps I can gather some more information about the interior of the church for a future blog post.
My great grandfather, a mason, worked to help build the school next to the church. The school is no longer used as a school, but it is used by the church for Sunday School and church and community events. The fellowship hall has magnificently high ceilings and is very picturesque.
The school was called St. Basil’s Parochial School and a wood structure was originally built in 1877. The current stone structure was built between 1924 and 1925. For the first three years, Sisters of Christian Charity, The Mallinckrodt Foundation, was in charge of the school. Later, up until the school closed (I’m not sure of the date for its closure), it was run by The Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, of Scranton.
The school once offered classes for grade levels from Kindergarten to 12th grade. Again, I’m not sure when that stopped. Most of the Catholic schools in our area only offer education up until 8th grade and then students either go to the local public schools or the Catholic High School 35 miles north.
So yes, St. Basil’s is the premiere church in town.
The other churches in town include the United Methodist (called St. Paul’s, which is weird since I thought only Catholics referred to Paul as “saint”):
The Lutheran Church, or Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church, Zion Chapel (I could not get a photo of this building without the electrical wires in front of it):
And a non-denominational church, The Redeemer Bible Church:
Now, when I was writing this, Google told me there was another church in town, the St. John Lutheran Church. I checked Google to make sure I hadn’t missed a church. I had no idea what they were talking about, and I can’t be sure the church building is still there (I only discovered its existence as I was finishing this post late yesterday evening, so I will investigate its existence at some point this week), but this is what a website I found shows as being the church:
I believe it is outside of our small town a little bit.
Obviously, you should not use my blog post as any kind of historical reference for the churches in my town.
There are many small country churches around us as well and I wish I had made time to visit each of them for this blog post. I might have had time, but quite frankly, it would have taken up at least a couple of days with all the driving.
Many of the small country churches in our area were built sometime in the early to mid-1800s and made out of wood. The fact they are still standing is a miracle in itself. The buildings are often still intact because the ancestors of those who attended or founded the churches took it upon themselves to become the caretakers of the buildings. Not only do these caretakers preserve the history of the church by maintaining the buildings, but they also preserve the history of the settlers and people of our area.
The people who attended these small churches were the people who built our roads, farmed our land, created our industries, produced food for their families and the families around them, and were essentially the backbone of early America. Without them, we wouldn’t be where we are today — a nation built on some sadness and incorrect behavior, yes, but also a nation built on freedom and free will, a gift bestowed upon us by our Creator at the beginning of the world.
For the people in these early communities, the church building was where they went to worship God and thank him for all they were given and had. It was also where they gathered to celebrate, mourn, and remind themselves of the importance of fellowship with each other, but, most importantly, with their Creator.
These churches stand as a reminder for us to do the same and honor our founding fathers and the ideals this nation was founded on.
To learn more about the churches in Erin’s area, hop over to her blog.