Clark Presbyterian Church
Clark Community Presbyterian Church celebrates 175 years
By Shelly Webb
of The Bargain Hunter
Two hundred thirty-three years ago America became a nation and just a short 58 years later, in 1834, the First Presbyterian Church of Clark Township was orga-nized. To put the timing in perspective, consider this: both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams had been dead only eight years before the first official service at the Clark church was held.
The first pastor, Rev. Nathaniel Conkling, started the church with 13 members, most of whom had moved here from western Pennsyl-vania. The first service was actually held in the log house or barn of William and Mar-garet Craig. The Craigs later sold land to the trustees for one dollar so that a church could be constructed. The original church was built in 1837, at a cost of $200, and the congregation continued to grow. The church grew so much that a new build-ing was erected in 1855 and served the people well until 1902 when a new site was selected for a new building. The present location of the church was purchased from Elizabeth Patterson for $300.
The church joined togeth-er with the Millersburg First Presbyterian Church in Feb-ruary 1973, and decided to share one pastor. This decision allowed the Clark church to adequately main-tain a pastor despite tight finances. In 1981, the church gained several new members when the Clark Methodist Church disbanded due to its small membership. The two churches merged at that time and got along quite nicely.
The church continues to grow and is a mainstay in the community today. On Oct. 18, the church held a celebration service to mark its 175th anniversary. Ann Stotler serves as the church historian and thinks that pre-serving the history of the church and conveying that history to present members is vitally important.
“It’s very important to pass down the history of our churches,” she shared. “It helps to preserve the past and allows future generations to know how things happened. Knowing the history and hard work that others before us did helps us to better appreciate what we have.
”Stotler was born in the house across the street from the church and has been attending since birth. While researching for the celebration, she and others stumbled upon the original blueprints from the 1902 construction. She said she was surprised to find those blueprints in such good condition.
“I couldn’t believe how professional and precise those old blueprints were,” she said. “The builder knew what he was doing. The wood work and other fea-tures of the church are just beautiful. They did excellent craftsmanship during that time, too.
”Stotler said approximate-ly 138 individuals were in attendance on the celebration Sunday and everyone stayed after for the church meal and fellowship. Each person also received a beautifully engraved solid wood pen and key chain created espe-cially for the occasion by the renowned P. Graham Dunn.
Church member Shirley Starker thoroughly enjoyed the celebration. She has attended the church for 60 years. Her mother, Evelyn Lowe, has attended for the same length of time, bring-ing Shirley when she was a small child. Evelyn has played the organ for the church for many years and Shirley serves as pianist and choir director. Both ladies appreciate the church and love being a part of it.
“For me, this church means ‘family’,” Starker shared. “I have a great fam-ily so it’s not because I don’t have any family around; the church is like family to me because of how close knit we all are. I look forward to seeing each person all week long, and if they’re not there on Sunday, I really miss them.
”Some would argue that a small church can’t offer the same programs, fellowship and worship opportunities as a larger church, but Starker prefers a smaller congrega-tion and always will.
“I would never want to go to a huge church,” she said. “I don’t want to feel like a number. Knowing each individual personally is important to me. We help one another, we share, we work out problems. It truly is like a family and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
”The church recently bid Pastor Eldon Trubee farewell as he embarked upon retire-ment. Interim Pastor Burt McGlawn is presently filling the pulpit at both Millers-burg and Clark. McGlawn is enjoying this interim and should be with the church about a year. The church is staying active and is hap-pily going strong after 175 years and is looking forward to celebrating 200 years in 2034.