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‘I want to fill it up’ – Marshallville church has final services at Christmas and New Year’s Eve

DGKN staff

Marshallville Trinity United Methodist Church has its final services at Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Amid dwindling attendance, the church closes its doors at the end of the year. The building at 3 E Church St., Marshallville, was built nearly 150 years ago.

MARSHALLVILLE  Evelyn Kirkpatrick has been playing piano, as well as organ, since she was in her early 20s at Marshallville Trinity United Methodist Church.

At 81, she is one of the oldest – if not the oldest – members of the church.

She joins others who can easily rattle off a list of memorable milestones and special moments in their lives involving the church such as being married there, baptized there and their children being baptized and married there and so on. Sadly, they also have had loved ones’ funerals at the church at 3 E Church St. But the church has always brought comfort. For generations, the church has served as a place for family and friends to mark those all important milestones, to celebrate and mourn, to worship and share their faith, and to gather and make those all important connections.

What has helped provide strength to Kirkpatrick, who still gets teary-eyed thinking about her beloved church closing at the end of this year, is a Bible verse in particular from Ecclesiastes: “For all things there is a season, and every will under the heaven has its time determined. A time to be born, and a time to die …”

“That was my strength in knowing this is something that we truly had to do,” she said. “This is hard for me. I’ve been in this church my entire life.”

Marlene Keith says the spirit of the church certainly isn’t dying. Members will attend other area churches and she hopes to still have informal get-togethers with fellow former church members after the church has closed Dec. 31.

The church continues its 10:30 a.m. Sunday services through the end of the year and will have its 6 p.m. Dec. 24 Christmas Eve service with Carole Evans performing the service. The last worship service before the church closes its doors will be 10:30 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 31. Everyone is welcome to bring a covered dish to share.

“I want to fill it up,” said Marlene Keith, who hopes to see people come back in town to attend the church they may have attended growing up, or were married in, or their family members attended. “I want to fill the church.” 

For more information about the last service or for any questions regarding the covered dish dinner, Keith said people may call her at 330-988-4388 or 330-855-1751. The church typically has a coffee hour before the service begins at 10:30 a.m. The covered dish dinner Dec. 31 will be a way to reminisce and say farewell in a graceful manner, according to information provided.

Keith has fond memories of a women’s group and after school program for children that provided meals for them and also encouraged community service. The church had Sunday School and adult Bible studies and other programs. Attendance dwindled over the years and programs began to go the wayside. Many volunteers kept the church going. For the past few years, the church hasn’t had a pastor and lay speakers have stepped in.   

Phyllis King said she grew up in the church and her grandmother attended the church. She worked a rummage sale last week where anyone was welcome to make donations for items. She said many people came in and reminisced and shared they were surprised to learn of the church closing. King remembers monthly spaghetti dinners which the community enjoyed, the church opening its doors during special events like the Bucket ‘n’ Beans car shows in the fall put on by the Marshallville Historical Society. Volunteers raised money for the church at the annual Yankee Peddler festival. 

“This is the church I went to growing up,” Connie Shane Clark wrote on The DGKN’s Facebook page. “I attended many weddings, funerals and whatever one attends at their home church. Our grandparents lived next door to it. It’s also the church Mick and I were married in 52 years ago.”

She wrote that her grandma, mom and aunts would be broken-hearted.

Proceeds from the church’s rummage sale last week will go toward Marshallville community organizations. Keith said that people were generous with donations. 

Tim McGuire, a trustee of the church, said that after the last service, the church will be in the hands of the conference. Proceeds from the sale of the church would not stay in the community. But like proceeds from the rummage sale, funds that are in the church’s bank account after the church closes will be distributed among community organizations such as the historical society, fire department and lions club. 

Gloria Barrowcliffe, who was a lay leader for about 15 years, said an organization called Breakaway to benefit students at Smithville would also be one of the recipients of funds. Most Marshallville students attend Green Local Schools.

McGuire and his wife, Rhonda, who grew up in Marshallville Trinity UM were married in the church and they raised their kids there. She passed away this past year. Her parents attended the church and her father was a big part of the church, McGuire said. 

“We had a packed church at one time,” he said. 

He was active in helping to take care of the church and mowed there every week and took care of the parking lot. He said someone used to ring the bell on Sundays, and Sunday School saw a lot of children. Rhonda also used to play piano at the church.

Barrowcliffe is another member who was baptized and married in the church. She said there’s something special about your home church that keeps you coming back. She said the attendance has dwindled as the congregation aged and people passed away or became housebound. It was a sort of domino effect as the number of families with young children decreased then parents began to look at other churches with more children. Soon there weren’t enough kids for a youth group or Sunday School.

“We’re all sad about it but it’s been coming for awhile,” she said.

She called Kirkpatrick the “backbone of the church” playing piano and doing other activities to upkeep the church such as running the sweeper.

For the past few years, the church hasn’t had a pastor. Allen Bauman, Deb Sloan and Carole Evans have served as lay speakers. Evans said she felt immediately embraced by the church members and even her daughter was so touched by the warmth of church members that she invited members to her wedding.    

Marshallville Trinity United Methodist Church had its sanctuary dedicated in February 1875, according to a book celebrating the church’s 125th anniversary in 2000. 

“It has been 167 years since Bristol, later in 1866 named Marshallville, saw the first Evangelicals begin work for the Lord here,” according to information in the book compiled by Florence Galehouse. “They were faced with difficulties, but they felt that the need was great enough to justify the trouble, the opposition, and the discouragement that they would have to face. The result is our Trinity United Methodist Church today with 147 members.”

In June 1861, J. Powell and his wife sold lot #10 in Marshallville, to the trustees of the Evangelical church for the purpose of building a parsonage. The recorded price was $45. The building was built under Rev. J. Kinzley and was completed in 1868.

In 1870, Rev. J.W. Walkey reported: “One protracted meeting in Marshallville began with a series of prayer meetings on Sunday before Christmas. The watch-night meeting was already a blessed season. Thirty were converted and 20 joined the church. The Sunday School has an average attendance of 100. The singing is excellent, and the school is kept up during the winter season. The library secured from our book store in Cleveland renders good satisfaction.”

Because of the growth plans were made for building a new church. The name was changed from “Immanuel Church” to “Trinity Evangelical Association” and on Nov. 7, 1874 the church was incorporated under this name, according to the book marking the church’s 125th anniversary.

“At the time of this incorporation, there were 115 members. On Feb. 21, 1875, the church in which we now worship was dedicated by Bishop Rudolph Dubbs, under the pastorate of D. F. Wonder, with John Stull, Presiding Elder. Bishop Dubbs later wrote: “It was a delight to behold such a large congregation with the gallery and every classroom filled.”

The church was built of brick, 38-by-68 feet, with a large tower and a bell costing $500. The interior was beautifully frescoed and the structure was a model and excellent in that day, according to the history. 

In 1946, the Evangelical and United Brethren Churches merged in 1946 to become the “Trinity Evangelical United Brethren Church” and the Ohio conference placed Trinity of Marshallville and Easton United Brethren in one parish.

A new roof was put on the church in 1951. In 1968, the church was remodeled and decorated and an addition was built to the west side, having a Fellowship Hall, kitchen, classrooms and office. The cost was $20,000 with a remaining debt of $5,171. A few years later the church was sand blasted and the bell tower and trim were painted. The pews were purchased from the College Chapel of Wooster, and revarnished by church members and installed.

A poem at the end of the book about the church’s history called “What is a church?” by Dan Valentine includes: “A church is more than bricks and wood and steel and concrete … A church is hope and heart and faith and love and kindness … and people. A church is more than land and lights and windows and doors … A church is warmth in a man’s heart, comfort in a woman’s soul, faith in a child’s eyes …”

Barrowcliffe said she has many good memories associated with the church. She said a time capsule was located at the church. They don’t believe it’s too old – about 20 to 40 years old – but they plan to open it on Dec. 31.

A correction has been made to a name that was incorrect in the print edition.

1 Comment

  1. Richard Thomas on December 28, 2023 at 9:08 am

    As I read this brief summary of your church history, it brought tears of joy, as well as, sadness; joy in the wonderful memories of family and friends from my childhood Methodist Church on East Main St. in South Zanesville, Ohio some 75 years ago. However, it is also sad to see so many Christian churches closing due to declining attendance as I search for plausible reasons. However, as our Lord has always done, I’m certain He has a great plan for those who believe.

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