July 23 – POTTSVILLE – A historic church with roots dating back to the 19th century recently held its final service, the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of The United Methodist Church confirmed Friday.
“The United Methodist Evangelical Church is closed and has not merged with any other church,” John Coleman, conference communications director, said in a news release. “Bishop John Schol and his cabinet voted to approve the closure of Evangelical UMC on June 14.”
The Evangelical UMC held its last service July 10, Coleman said.
Reverend John Wallace is pastor of the church, which is located at 305 S. Center St. He is also pastor of First United Methodist Church at 330 W. Market St. on Garfield Square.
Wallace could not be reached for comment. In its statement, the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference did not give a reason for the church’s closure.
Although the churches did not merge, First United Methodist recently welcomed former members of Evangelical United Methodist into its congregation, the church’s website says.
The Reverend Julian J. Milewski, president of the conference’s northern district, was at the church on Friday.
Milewski, who oversees church assets in the area, said the church building and some of its contents are for sale.
Items of religious significance, he said, must go to other United Methodist churches.
On Friday, a delegation from Wade United Methodist Church in Saint Clair repurposed clothing, a portable pulpit and a brass candle snuffer.
The first Evangelical Church, a red brick structure etched into the mountainside above South Center Street, was built in 1896, according to a cornerstone.
It apparently became Evangelical United Methodist around 1968, when two branches of Methodism merged.
Touring the spacious second-story sanctuary, Milewski explained that the curved pews were designed so worshipers could focus on the altar from anywhere in the room.
Large stained glass windows overlook the sanctuary on the Center Street side. A section is dedicated to the memory of Katherine S. Medlar. A painting of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane rests above the altar.
Although undated, Mrs. H. Sterner’s Bible Class donated an exquisite “In Loving Memory” baptismal font from LH Super.
After World War II, the congregation of the First Evangelical Church dedicated a large marble plaque in a hallway outside the sanctuary to members who served in the war.
The names of Harold R. Cartwright, Bruce W. Evans and Albert E. Thomas, apparent victims, are designated by stars.
Milewski, pastor of Aurand United Methodist Church in Ringtown, marveled at the engineering involved in building the church into the rugged mountainside.
“This building,” he said, “was solidly built.”
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