This compiled history of New Bedford Church was written by Charlotte Wallace and Faye Garrett-Costarell. As the congregation approached the Bicentennial Celebration in the year of our Lord 2000, Charlotte and Faye were given special access to session records. As they have been very dynamic with local history, the passion they both shared, they share with us, yet today.
We are making history without knowing it. In other words, men are rarely conscious of the real importance of what they are doing. In an attempt to review two centuries of church history, we find many missing links. Trying to combine histories of two churches is even a more momentous task. So much has been left unrecorded and hence has either been forgotten or at least vaguely remembered. As this latest history is going to print, we who are compiling it hope to be forgiven for omissions or errors. We hope that remembering or learning a little of our past will prove to be of interest to you and will be a challenge for you in times to come.
In 1800 seventeen charter members organized the Hopewell Presbyterian Church. The first meetings were held under sugar maple trees in Captain Alex Thompson’s yard. Membership grew rapidly because settlers were so happy to have a place to worship together. Their background was Christian and they had a strong belief in God. From time to time new buildings became a necessity. In 1882 the last Hopewell building was erected. After the Presbyterian and the United Presbyterian congregations merged, this building was dismantled because of lack of space to expand the church and add additional parking space.
In 1808 the Deer Creek Church was organized by members of the Associate Congregations of Mahoning known to many as “Tent Hall.” Originally, Deer Creek, Poland, and Liberty had one pastor and one session. As was true of Hopewell Church, Deer Creek congregations also built new buildings as the need arose. The location of the last building was on Main Street in New Bedford. It is now a private residence, having been sold after the merger.
In early times ministers usually traveled on foot or horseback between several congregations. This was most difficult because streams had to be forded and roads were mere paths through the wilderness. As time went on, the New Bedford churches rented or bought homes for pastors that were called manses or parsonages. We know that the United Presbyterian Church rented a home on Main Street that later became a tea room and has since burned. They then rented the house on the corner of Oak Street Extension and Evergreen Road. After that they bought the house now owned by Carl Black. In 1949 they contracted with Robert Wallace to build a house on Main Street that is now the home of Sky Bank. In 1881, Hopewell Church built a manse of Pulaski Road that is now the home of the Sheelers.
For many years the community supported four churches, the Presbyterian, United Presbyterian, Methodist, and Catholic. After the Methodist Church disbanded in the early thirties, most of those people joined either the United Presbyterian or the Presbyterian Churches.
Over the years, both churches that had many organizations and social affairs that have been of benefit in learning and promoting the gospel of Jesus Christ. Prior to the Women’s Association that was organized after the merger, with Mrs. Robert Jonhston as the first president, each church had an active missionary society and at one time a junior missionary group meeting on Sunday afternoons. In early church history there was a temperance society and also prayer breakfast for men, Koininia groups, Christian Endeavor, and a men’s group. There was a very active group which met monthly called the Young People’s Council that involved seven churches. It was part of the Pennsylvania Sabbath School Association and promoted camping and retreats. There was also a community band.
There is not much information regarding social events in the early years of the two churches. It is recorded that the Hopewell Church gave receptions to three of their young ministers with their new brides. These were Rev. T.B. Anderson and bride, Mrs. Lida A. Brown Anderson, 1872, Rev. R.B. Love and bride, Mrs. Jennie Coe Love, 1881, and Rev. B.M. Paul and bride, Mrs. Mae Coville Paul, 1908.
Hopewell Church celebrated its 100th anniversary on Thursday, September 6, 1900. Rev. H.C. Foster offered a welcome address. In 1925, Hopewell celebrated its 125th anniversary, at which time a book of the church was published. In 1950, this church celebrated its 150th anniversary, and it was at this time a new Hammond organ was presented to the church by Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Nesbitt. This was a surprise feature of the celebration where more than 400 people attended.
As long as can be remembered by anyone, at least as far back as the early 1900’s, the Hopewell church held their yearly congregational meetings on New Year’s Day. The dinner was the same each year, featuring chicken pie, canned peaches, cake, and various casseroles women would bring. This remembered tradition continued until the merger in 1964.
In celebrating our 200th anniversary, we can look back and see what a blessing the faith of previous generations has been for us. As part of the expression of our faith now, we continue to find new ways of fellowship with our church and community. We remember and look forward to activities such as family fun nights, pancake breakfasts, dinner for eight, Lenten soup suppers, Sunday School and church picnics, the softball team, women’s circle meetings, women’s retreats, and community church services with Mahoning Presbyterian Church, St. James Catholic church, and Barnstone Ministries. Most recently we had the joy of a churchwide baby shower to welcome the Voland quadruplets.
In the last 25 years, we remember and are thankful for the ministries of Rev. John McClure (1965-1972) and Rev. J. Wallace Huber, Jr. (1973-1995), along with three fine interim ministers, Rev. Bruce Milligan, Rev. John D. Rickloff, and Rev. Charles Van Dyne, D.D.
Under Rev. Huber’s 22 years of service to this congregation, several new activities began in New Bedford Church. The camping ministry was built up, with children attending Camp Lambec and Westminster Highlands and also more recently Seneca Hills. There was also a successful navigators 2:7 series taught and the Cropwalk and Life Chain became well attended projects. Rev. Huber was well known in the community to which he devoted much service. His son Steven Huber has also gone into the ministry.
In the past 25 years our church has had many exciting new changes. We have hired Lilian Fulkman as a youth director and have seen new growth in children’s ministries. We have also purchased a bus which has been used for church and youth activities. The church has also been blessed with the addition of the Bell Choir and a new sound system. We also enjoy the ministry of Heaven’s Hands puppet ministry that has won numerous awards for performance in competition. Our church has also sent mission teams to an orphanage in Mexico, which proved to be a wonderful experience for all involved.
Since 1997, we have had the privilege to have Rev. Douglas Runyan, D.Min., serving as our pastor. He and his family have been a blessing to us through their faith, fresh ideas, and sense of joy and fun. We are very grateful to have the Word of God preached so faithfully and well each Sunday morning.
Prefacing a history of New Bedford Presbyterian Church, it seems fitting that a brief history should be written concerning the settlement of this region, especially the village of New Bedford.
The village was well laid out and was named for Dr. Nathaniel Bedford, who was one of the first settlers. Settlers who came were usually from Christian background and were anxious to establish a place for worship. A church building was used for worship on a Sunday and for school during the week.
In 1802 a road was laid out between Mercer and Youngstown, passing through New Bedford with a postal route being established in 1827. The next year New Bedford had its first post office, with Dr. John McCreary acting as the first post master as well as the village doctor. In 1808 Sharon was also connected to New Bedford by a road. These were not roads as we know them today. Hopewell Cemetery came into being in 1800 when a young lady was accidentally shot. Buried there among others are the parents of the famous William McGuffey. His grandparents are buried in Deer Creek Cemetery.
Good things came about as the village grew. Some of the businesses that have existed include a grist mill, which became a general feed mill and later a cement plant, two general stores, and a creamery. There were also at least two blacksmith shops, a tannery, distillery, tavern, inn, tea room, millinery, a meat market, and an ice cream parlor. At one time the village was served by a street car between New Castle and Sharon with a transfer from Sharon to Youngstown and later a Greyhound bus provided transportation. In the twenties, the road between New Castle and Youngstown was paved and more people were buying cars, making it easier to get around.
Until 1935 young people wanting to attend high school had to find their own transportation. One family drove their pony to the three-year high school at Coitsville. Some rode the street car to New Castle and after it was discontinued, they rode the Greyhound bus. Several found rides to South High School in Youngstown.
About 1950 churches again were shared with the school system. New Bedford Elementary School was so overcrowded that the former Methodist Church was used for first grade. By 1956 the class there was so large that it was divided with a class being in Hopewell Church too, until a new school could be built in 1957.
New Bedford was incorporated into a borough on April 23, 1852. This was discontinued on January 1, 1961 and has been governed by the township trustees or supervisors to the present.
In the years 1837-1838 the anti-slavery movement was shaking and dividing churches throughout the state and country. Deer Creek Church was caught in the controversy. There was a decided difference of opinion on the question of slavery among the members of the church. Many were avowed anti-slavery in sentiment, others were undecided on the issue, and there were a number of pro-slavery people in the congregation.
At first, Rev. James P. Ramsey (1834-1855) would not take a stand either way on the slavery issue. He mostly passed it by in his messages from the pulpit. The climax came in the winter of 1838. A meeting was announced for the church, and it was to be addressed by Rev. Wright of the Westfield Church. The day arrived, and amid a driving snowstorm, the people came in large numbers. Rev. Wright and Rev. and Mrs. Ramsey also came and upon arrival to the church found that the pro-slavery men had been there first and nailed the windows down, locked the door, and stationed a man to guard against access to the church. The audience that had arrived left without any trouble and went home. The next Sabbath, however, Rev. Ramsey spoke out clearly on the issue of slavery, condemning it. Many people that before were undecided joined with him and a large majority applauded his stand.
As an example of some of the disputing, it is recorded that
in December 1862, a man named Charles brought up these points at the session
-that there was too much politics preached from our pulpit!
-that it was preached by our pastor that the present war is a holy war!
-that the New York Day Book was not fit to be read.
After due consideration, session resolved that the New York Day Book, which was a pro-slavery and anti-war democrat newspaper supported by the government, was a treasonable paper. Charges were entered against certain members of the church for having such papers and neglecting public ordinances. Session defended the preacher, but they indefinitely suspended the families charged from communion with the church until they confessed their sins and returned to their duty.
After much disagreement, the pro-slavery element soon withdrew and built a church at Beulah, organizing and Associate Reformed Congregation there. This church merged back with Deer Creek after the Civil War.
From 1839-1844 were stormy years for the Hopewell Church. The slavery question was the cause of differences of opinion and bitter words, followed by division. During the division there was a major battle as to wo would retain the Hopewell building. The pro-slavery side kept the building and the debts, with the anti-slavery group leaving with the money. The church was greatly reduced in numbers and for a time it seemed as though it would not even survive.
In 1837 there was a division in the Presbyterian denomination, into what was called Old and New school churches. Petitions from Hopewell were sent to the General Assembly asking it to reaffirm the action of the Assembly of 1818, condemning human slavery. No action of Assembly being taken on the matter, Rev. John Knox, Rev. A.B. McClain, and Rev. Well Bushnell withdrew from the Presbyterian Church and formed the Free Presbyterian Church, which continued until the close of the Civil War, when slavery was abolished. The building known as the Town Hall of New Bedford was built in 1844 by the Free Church congregation and used for church services until 1871, at which time the Free Church and the Hopewell united, electing five elders at that time.
The elders elected were: Hiram Dalby, Nathaniel Moore, David Anderson, Scott McCready, and Francis Morrison, tow of the number to be elected from the Free Church and three from Hopewell. At the meeting of the Free Church congregation Nov. 23, 1869, it was resolved that “the trustees be and are hereby authorized to convey the church property to Jos. Wright, T.H. Shields, and John Porter, for the following uses and trusts, to-wit: to hold the same for the purpose of the free discussion of all subjects proper to be discussed before the public and for all performances calculated to promote social, moral, and intellectual improvement of the people at large. Resolved further, that upon failure of trustees by death, resignation, removal, or any other disabling cause, the Court of Common Pleas of the County shall on petition of proper person appoint Trustees in their places.”
In the last years of the 18th Century following the American Revolution our country was in a serious moral slump. Atheism, particularly in institutions of higher learning, drunkenness, profanity, and robbery were rife. Then in this dark period of American history concerned Christians began urgent prayer and the result was the Second Great Awakening in the early 1800’s (the First Great Awakening being in Colonial American when Jonathan Edwards was a well-known preacher.) Undoubtedly the wide spread revival was the reason that early settlers in the New Bedford area were so eager to establish places of worship without delay.
Parishioners and pastors alike endured what we today would consider hardship. In winter the sanctuary was cold, the seats hard and the services long. The Rev. Robert Douglas was an exception among pastors in the early day. He was noted for the brevity of his sermons which were only 25-30 minutes. Re. Thompson was so cold he was said to have preached with his overcoat on. Rev. Duncan who liked to chew tobacco, ran out of the pulpit during the service, walked down into the congregation and borrowed some tobacco from a parishioner and then returned to the pulpit to finish his sermon.
Celebration of the Lord’s Supper was always preceded by Preparatory Services on Friday evening and or Saturday afternoon. This practice continued for many years. People often came from distant points on Saturday and were hosted overnight by members of the congregation. As late as 1830 young people walked from New Castle, Plain Grove, and Mercer to attend Communion. At the Preparatory Service participants passed in single file before the Session and the Moderator dropped a lead token in the hand of each member in good standing. At the Communion table the following morning the tokens were collected by an elder. This practice was discontinued around the 1860’s. Guest ministers often came to deliver the messages at Preparatory Services.
After Hopewell Presbyterian and the New Bedford United Presbyterian Churches merged in 1964 worship services were held in the Hopewell Church. The last service there was on January 28, 1968 with 250 people attending. The Fellowship Hall in the present building was then used for worship. To accommodate all the congregation two services were held each Sunday morning. Worship in present sanctuary first occurred on November 13, 1983. The present sanctuary is beautiful, has comfortable pews and a very good sound system. Here there is fellowship of believers who hear the Word of God faithfully preached by Pastor Doug Runyan.
Special services are held during Lent, on Easter Sunday, and the Christmas season. Thanksgiving services are held jointly with other nearby churches. On the last Sunday in November the Women’s Association is responsible for the worship.
During the Sunday church services, a nursery is available for children under three years of age. This is supervised by volunteers scheduled by the Deacons. Junior church is conducted by volunteers arranged for by the Christian Education Committee. The Puppet Ministry directed by Pat Mentzer with Co-director Cindy Bell brings the message to Junior Church once a month.
It was not until the 20th century that we have a record of any organized women’s missionary societies. We know that in the 20th century United Presbyterian Church, Hopewell Church, and the Methodist Church had very active missionary organizations that have continued to the present day with the exception of the Methodist Church. In the minutes from Hopewell, some interesting features were recorded. Even if only eight to ten ladies were in attendance, they would sing at least one hymn. They would often have special music, either a piano solo or a vocal solo. They frequently had a guest speaker, and also had projects such as making quilts, baby clothes, lap robes, and the like. Today it surprises us that minutes always recorded participants as Mrs. J.J Shields or Mrs. Orrin Bailey, always using the husband’s name or in the case of single ladies, Miss Grace Anderson. Going to a home outside the village was always noted as motoring to the home of whomever.
As time went on, Hopewell women saw the need for a junior missionary group. It was called the Mission Band and met on Sunday afternoons. Children who attended were of elementary school age. Mrs. Irwin Ropp was the first sponsor.
Women began to assume more responsibilities in helping the local church. In addition to the missionary society, there was another helpful group known as the Beacon Class. This group served many dinners, made a quilt for each new bride in the class, and had many other projects to help finance church needs.
Following the merger of the two churches, a Women’s Association came into being under the direction of Mrs. Robert Johnston. The association which meets quarterly with a special program, is made of five circles with each circle meeting monthly. A circle meeting includes devotions, Least Coin, Yearbook of Prayer, and Bible study. Each circle has a list of several shut-ins to pray for and remember throughout the year. There are also a yearly national mission pledge and a mission sewing project.
One association program about twenty years ago was entertained with a group called the Good News Singers. Everyone from the church wo as interested was invited to attend. Melvin Kauffman came and was asked to fill a need for a tenor, joined the group, and has been singing with them ever since.
The church women have assumed responsibility for many needs as they have presented themselves. In the past some of tier projects have included providing the church sign, equipment for the church kitchen, baby-sitting, new drapes and tables, and communion table linens, a movie screen, new carpets at entrances, and money toward the organ fund and the copier. Presently, funds are being set aside to refurbish the parlor and beautify the narthex. They also participate in the World Day of Prayer, acting as the host church every third year, and sponsor an annual Thank Offering Service and the Mother-Daughter Banquet.
In 1980 after much negotiating with the Session, permission was given to hold an annual bazaar. A spring rummage sale was added later. One feature of the bazaar is making apple butter each fall. In addition to all the cooperation and work, there is much good fellowship involved with a bazaar. Proceeds are divided three different ways with one third going to each of the following missions, such as Habitat for Humanity, the Heifer Project, the Women’s Shelter, and Rescue Mission, the local church, and the contingency fund.
We pray that the Women’s Association will continue to serve our church and national mission through prayer, study, and giving to advance the kingdom of God. We hope that more women will become interested in being a part of the fellowship of this group.
Music has always been an integral part of the praise to God in the worship services. In our early history instruments were not used. The singing was directed by a clerk who stood in the front of the pulpit to line out the song. He read one line, started the tune and sang the line with the congregation. This was repeated until each line of the song was finished. At Deer Creek a change was made and two lines were given at a time and a few new tunes added to the dozen already used. These changes were a source of much discussion and some disagreement for a time but sere the first step toward a choir and instrumental music.
In 1855 at Hopewell the singing clerk was requested to select a few singers from the congregation to assist him in the singing. This was the earliest record of the choir in the church.
Only Psalms were sung in the Deer Creek Church. In 1914 the Session approved the Choral Class singing at the Sabbath evening services with the stipulation that only Psalms be sung. At a later date hymn books were purchased for use in the Sabbath School only.
As a surprise feature of the 150th anniversary celebration at Hopewell the gift of a Hammond organ was presented. A new baby grand piano was purchased in 1987 for our present sanctuary and on January 4, 1990 a new Allen organ was installed to replace the Hammond. In January of 1998 a MIDI expander was added to enhance the beauty of the organ music.
Our Church is blessed my many talented and dedicated people who provide the music for our services. The Adult Chancel Choir directed by George Fynes sings every Sunday, September through May with special programs for Easter, Memorial Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Organists Helen Anderson and Doris Spence accompany the choir and play the Prelude, Offertory and Postlude each Sunday. A handbell choir is directed by Debi Fynes. During the summer months and throughout the year special music is provided by members, friends in the community and musical groups.
Money was comparatively scares in our early church history so when the first log buildings were erected each family hewed and delivered their log and then helped to raise the building. In addition to materials and labor, church members pledged cash and goods which they produced.
For example, Alexander Wright’s subscription was $4.00 and three bushels each of wheat, corn and rye. Whiskey was a common contribution for a church building or a minister’s support at that time. At congregational meeting in 1823 a committee was appointed to put a price on such produce as the pastor, Rev. Douglas, should receive as part of his pay. The committee placed the price of rye and corn at thirty-five cents per bushel and whiskey at twenty-five cents a gallon.
The 1848 Hopewell frame house of worship was erected at the cost of $1,000. The building was very plain but an innovation was agreed on at a Congregational meeting that the seats should be provided with split boxes.
As the years passed the outreach of the church grew and concern for Missions was very evident. In 1918 the New Bedford United Presbyterian Church pledged $700 to missions and a sum of $52.81 was given to Rev. Robert Walker, missionary to Egypt, to keep is Ford running.
During the depression years, the chimney at the United Presbyterian Church and a number of other repairs were needed. Mr. R. Clyde Sharp of Tulsa, Oklahoma sent a generous gift. Mr. Sharp remembered walking to the Deer Creek Church as a boy and at various times he and his wife gave financial help to his boyhood church.
In 1920’s a small stipend of $2.00-$2.50 was given when a guest pastor came to preach for Communion Preparatory Services. Salaries for pastors gradually increased as times changed and in the decade of the 1950’s ranged from $3,000 - $4,000 dollars plus a free manse, paid pension, one month’s vacation and moving expenses. In the early 1960’s the salary was $5,000 dollars.
A financial campaign was organized in the Fall of 1966 under the leadership of Mr. Arthur Dunn of New Wilmington. Approximately $59,000 was pledged for our present building and a bank loan of $140,000 approved. The congregation accepted bids on June 4th, 1967 for construction including electrical, plumbing, and heating which totaled close to $154,000.
Our last statistical report reveals a membership of 324. The Total Budget for 1999 was $139,196 and a Benevolence Budget of $18,650.
We have come a long way from the humble wilderness structures where our forefathers worshiped God to our present facility with expanded resources and personnel but the mission is the same – spread the Good News and bring honor to Christ.
The word Presbyterian comes from the Greek word for elder. It refers to choosing leaders from among the wisest members in the church. The Session has always been responsible for the mission and government of the church but in the early days Sessions were also used as courts to try both Ecclesiastical and Civil cases. Witnesses were called, evidence taken and judgements rendered. Many cases among the men involved drinking whiskey. Gossip got some of the women in trouble. In one case a charge was made against five members for “immoral and unchristian conduct” in taking a bee tree which did not belong to them. Another case was recorded of a woman parishioner judged guilty of using inappropriate language in a dispute with another woman over a red shawl. Accused members were suspended from the communion of the church until evidence of repentance was given.
Faithful men served the eldership of both Hopewell and Deer Creek congregations. Only partial records of their services are available. They were elected for life. Elder John Shields served for fifty years; for thirty-three of these years he was Clerk of Session. Many others were ruling elders for twenty to thirty years.
A rotation system for election of elders was adopted in the late 1950’s. The term of office at that time was six years and later changed to three years.
As required by the Presbyterian Church (USA) women were elected as elders in 1970. The first women to serve were Doreen Hanna, Martha Paraska, and Charlotte Wallace.
Another change occurred in 1996 when new by-laws were adopted for the New Bedford Presbyterian Church. Under the new plan the Session appoints an Administrative Committee which assumes responsibility for corporate affairs originally entrusted to a Board of Trustees.
- 1800 Hopewell Presbyterian Church was organized
- 1807 Sabbath School was started at Hopewell
- 1850-51 Bible class and Sabbath School organized at Deer Creek Church
- 1883 The last United Presbyterian Church building was erected
- 1892 The last Hopewell Church building was erected
- 1922 The Christmas tree in front of Hopewell Church was first decorated
- 1926 A severe storm badly damaged the New Bedford U.P. Church
- 1926 A parking lot for autos was made at Hopewell
- 1929 World Day of Prayer was celebrated
- 1930 Father and Son Banquet was held
- 1937 The bell tower of Hopewell Church was set on fire by lightning. The bell was destroyed.
- 1946 The chandelier fell from the ceiling of the sanctuary at Hopewell
- 1950 Bulletins were used in the worship services
- 1958 Women’s Association was formed
- 1959 A ping pong table was allowed in the basement of Hopewell for the Westminster Fellowship
- 1959 The Presbyterian Church (USA) and United Presbyterian Church of North America became one denomination.
- 1960 Part time secretaries were hired. Elizabeth Fox at New Bedford U.P. and Nancy Rudzik at Hopewell
- 1964 Deacons were elected (9)
- 1967 Cornerstone laying ceremony for our present building was held on November 5th
- 1968 Last worship service in the Hopewell Church was January 28th
- 1968 The Fellowship Hall and Education Wing were dedicated on June 2nd
- 1970 Two services were held every Sunday morning
- 1970 Women were elected as elders
- 1971 June Smith hired as secretary
- 1973 A nursery was set up and staffed during Sunday morning services
- 1974 Present manse was dedicated June 2nd
- 1977 Doreen Hanna was elected Editor of the Redeeming Times
- 1980 Struck Chimes dedicated on May 25th
- 1983 Worship was held in the present sanctuary on November 13th
- 1985 An Assistant Pastor, Rev. Charles (Deac) Smith, was hired
- 1990 A new Allen organ was installed on January 4th
- 1991 Lillian Fulkman was hired as part-time Christian Education Director
- 1992 The parking lot was paved
- 1992 The church mortgage was burned on May 3rd
- 1996 Two octaves of bells were dedicated on December 1, with a third octave dedicated later
- 1998 A mission team of twenty-two went to Mexico in July
- 1999 Quadruplets Lauren, Kristen, Zachary, and Jacob were born on January 13th to Kerry and Steve Voland. Twin brothers are Joshua and Tyler
- 1999 A church bus was purchased
- 1999 The picnic shelter dedicated in August
The following are the prayers used in the devotional program: March 20, 1958
Dear Heavenly Father, we thank Thee for the reality of this night. We thank Thee for all the prayers and planning that have brought our Hopewell Women’s Organization into being. May each one here tonight feel a commitment to reach out her heart and hands to all the other women of our church, that their lives may be drawn closer in fellowship with Jesus Christ.
Guide each one who has accepted a responsibility within this new organization. May we ever call upon our Heavenly Father for guidance as we consecrate ourselves to a richer Christian service. May all that we do and say be in accord with His love for us. Touch each one here tonight and make us true disciples of Jesus Christ. We pray in Thy name. Amen.
Our Father, we thank Thee for the redeeming power of Christ Our Savior wo has guide this group of missionary women and held them fast to Thy purpose, who has given them inspiration and courage, and hast enabled them to serve as instruments of Thy will, inspiring others to become missionary minded. We thank Thee that they have been willing to give of their time and talents and we ask Thy blessing upon them. Amen.
Our Heavenly Father, as we women of the Church, join together in this new Association, may we ever serve Thee wholeheartedly. O risen Christ, guide and direct the leaders of this organization so that they might build a firm foundation for the future, in our Redeemer’s name. Amen.
Discussion of merging the two churches took place from the early 1900’s. In 1954 Hopewell has a vote to merge that was defeated by one vote. In 1958 the United Presbyterian Church of North America and the Presbyterian Church (USA) united as a denomination and it was then that the serious discussion began to take place, as there was no longer any reason to have two churches. In May of 1960 a committee was appointed to discuss this plan along with many obstacles to overcome, such as how to bring together Sunday School classes, women’s groups, youth groups, and many other practical problems.
The history of our present New Bedford Presbyterian Church began on October 8, 1964 when both churches voted to unite. Hopewell’s vote was 100 yes and four no and United Presbyterian’s vote was 76 yes and 11 no. It can be seen that there was an overwhelming decision to join churches. From a spiritual point of view there was so much to be gained by such a union. Our beliefs and our goals were so similar and we had already joined together for several things such as youth meetings.
The merger had created a congregation too large for any existing facilities, so services were alternated between the two buildings and a need for a new building was recognized. The problem of locating a place to build was resolved when Mr. and Mrs. Nicholas Paraska offered the church five acres of their property located on the corner of Woodland Drive and Marr Road. The cornerstone for a new fellowship hall and an education wing was laid on November 5, 1967 with a contract given to Wallace Builders. The building was completed and dedicated on June 2, 1968. By June 2, 1974, a beautiful new manse had been erected and dedicated. Having paid off the debts incurred, on March 20, 1983, ground was broken to build a sanctuary and also the narthex, office space, pastor’s study, and a bell tower at a cost of $400,000. The bell tower housed two bells, one from the United Presbyterian Church and one a replacement for the Hopewell bell that had been destroyed by fire. This building was dedicated on November 13, 1983 and was debt free less than ten years later. In August of 1999 we had an outside church service to dedicate our new picnic shelter which had been built the year before.