Bloomingburg Presbyterian Church, celebrating its 200th anniversary this Year of Our Lord 2017, plans an entertaining, informative afternoon on Sunday, Sept. 17 to re-dedicate the historic church—currently housed in the oldest structure (1847) in Fayette County still serving as a church—to its mission since 1817 of serving its faithful and its community.
The first Record-Herald article of this anniversary-year series, printed on Feb. 4, provided general background: the establishment of the church in November 1817, the construction and subsequent renovations of the present-day building, and the congregation’s emphasis on education from the very beginning.
The second article, printed on April 14, focused on the church’s active Underground Railroad involvement in pre-Civil War times. This third article looks at the music that has long “made a joyful noise”—and will again on Sept. 17—in the stately white structure on Wayne Street in the village of Bloomingburg.
The very first reference to music this writer has found dates back to 1883, when a time capsule with records from various local organizations was placed in the cornerstone of the Fayette County Court House. During renovation of the court house less than a decade ago, this time capsule was discovered and opened. It contained a wealth of information concerning all aspects of Bloomingburg Presbyterian’s first 66 years of existence, including this fact: In 1883 the church’s organist was Miss Mary Manara, along with Miss Minnie Creather as assistant organist and J.A. Pinkerton as Chorister.
Let’s skip forward now to the 1950s, of which present-day readers of the Record-Herald may have some memories. Mrs. Paul Elliott, whose husband served as the minister from 1952-57, built up the adult and junior choirs with her considerable musical talent; and she nurtured the earlier of the pianists listed here: Hazel Engle, David Foster, Anne (Craig) Droste, Linda (Parrett) Juillerat, Alice Craig, Wayne Locke, Becky Sollars, Phyllis (Locke) Matthews, and Sharon (Cory) Webb.
As the above-mentioned young pianists graduated and moved away to college, jobs or marriage, generally they returned only infrequently to play the piano for services at the church of their childhoods. But Mary Foster and Theresa Craig, longtime members of the congregation, continued as pianists until near their deaths; and for several decades now Becky Sollars, a retired Miami Trace High School teacher, has borne the responsibility for music at Bloomingburg Presbyterian.
Anne (Craig) Droste is returning as the pianist for the 2 p.m. afternoon service on Sept. 17. While an eighth-grader at Bloomingburg School, she first began playing in 1955 for occasional Bloomingburg Presbyterian church services—she especially recalls playing preludes of the sacred classics that she was studying under Mrs. Robert “Sweetie” Willis—and she continued playing at the church until leaving for The Ohio State University to major in music. Additional Drostes and Craigs are expected to join her on Sept. 17 to provide brass instrumental music for this special occasion.
The First Presbyterian Church choir from Washington C.H. will enrich the 2 p.m. service by presenting two joyful anthems. The choir is directed by Richard Glass, retired vocal teacher from Miami Trace High School, and accompanied by David Penwell, also associated with First Presbyterian’s music program since the late 1980s. In a nod to tradition, the guest choir will make its appearance in the sanctuary during the processional hymn “The Church’s One Foundation,” a constant during Bloomingburg Presbyterian’s heyday in the 1950s and 1960s.
Starting at 1:30 p.m. and again immediately after the 2 p.m. re-dedication service upstairs in the sanctuary, Cassandra Furlong will entertain downstairs in the Annex. Cassandra will play her keyboard and sing from her extensive 250-song repertoire, ranging from the 1950s to the present and encompassing oldies, country, pop, rock, and of course religious songs. While a student at Miami Trace High School, she had accompanied all the school’s choirs and several of the musicals, and had won various awards for her classical piano playing. During the open house, enjoy refreshments in the Annex—and feel free to sing along with Cassandra if you can’t resist the temptation!
Fascinated? You can enjoy live music—and much more—during Bloomingburg Presbyterian Church’s 200th-anniversary celebration on the Sunday afternoon of Sept. 17. If driving from Washington C.H., turn right off Bloomingburg’s Main Street at the intersection just before the village’s post office. Wayne Street is one block away and parallel to Main Street/Route 38.