A History of the Glenwood Church
The Church of the United Brethren in Christ was the first church to be organized on the American continent. It was strictly an American church in the sense that it had no European predecessor. Its inception took place in the Isaac Long barn on or about 1767. The words “we are Brethren” had been spoken by an educated Philip William Otterbein to a less learned preacher named Martin Boehm. From that moment on, they began to work together to establish and expand the Gospel in and among people and their communities, especially the German people in Pennsylvania. In its future, their church was to be a foundation for the Glenwood Church.
In 1800, Jacob Albright led great evangelical work in America that gave rise to the Evangelical Church. Many years later, the fruits of that denomination would be a second influence in the life and growth of the Glenwood Church.
John and Charles Wesley would also touch Glenwood Church. Their mission to our country began in its early years. The great Wesleyan movement, which spread almost naturally to people who were under the English crown, continues to flourish today in America as well as internationally as the United Methodist denomination.
There is reasonable evidence to suggest that United Brethren ministers conducted services in the vicinity of Erie after the year 1853 but before 1861. In was in that latter year when the “new’ Erie Conference of the United Brethren Church was formed from a larger conference by the same name. That year, the new “Erie District” included (1) Harbor Creek (2) Amity (3) French Creek (4) Oil Creek (5) Sugar Lake (6) Pleasantville (7) Oakland Circuits, and (8) Rockland Mission. The district remained largely unchanged until at least 1936. Today, the Erie-Meadville District of the United Methodist Church is inclusive of these earlier “circuits.”
[It is interesting to note that the Erie Conference came into being the same year that the Civil War began. In those tumultuous times, the ministers of the conference agreed (1) to support the U.S. government in its efforts to “crush the unholy rebellion” (2) to “sympathize with fellow citizens” serving in the military; “pray for them and their families, that they may be sustained, their lives spared, their country saved, and peace restored to them and us.” (3) to “endorse…the recent… proclamation of emancipation [of slaves]… to pray that God will bless Abraham Lincoln… for the speedy and thorough wiping out of this unprecedented rebellion.” (taken from the report of the Committee on the State of the Country of the United Brethren in Christ Church that year) Their concerns eerily echo in some ways today’s world hostilities.]
Even so, it was not until April 2, 1878, that a class was organized in the Erie vicinity by Rev. John Hill. The place was in the home of John Reed. Services were next held in an abandoned Presbyterian Church located at the corner of Tenth and Cherry Streets. That same building was purchased the following year. The services were continued for an uncertain period of time, during which several men of God served the class: Revs. John Hill, W. W. Pringle, and John Thomas.
Some time later, for a reason unknown, the services were stopped and the building was sold. Only years later was evangelistic work started again in the city of Erie.
The Early Years of Glenwood Church
The present-day Glenwood church is the outgrowth of a Union Sunday school, organized in January, 1893. The group met in Bowers (or Bauers) Hall – the old Sunflower Club. It was located about two blocks from our present church building. As the school grew, a chapel was needed. One was built on Myrtle Street, near Peach Street – the present site of the church parsonage. The chapel was dedicated in 1895. It was called the “Glenwood Chapel.” In 1896, the school was named the Glenwood Sabbath School For almost twenty years, the Central Presbyterian Church continued to help the school.
In the spring of 1911, Rev. W. B. Nelson was sent to Erie to find United Brethren in Christ Church candidates. His attention was called to the Glenwood Sabbath School. It had become a growing and thriving group. Rev. Nelson gave the Sunday school his full support. As a result, the school voted to become affiliated with the United Brethren in Christ denomination. In the fall of 1911, a charter class of 19 people was organized and the property was purchased. The “Glenwood” church had begun.
In January, 1922, during the term of the third pastor, Dr. N. H. MacAllister, the triangular lot located at Peach and Myrtle was purchased. According to the 1923 Glenwood U. B. directory, ground for a new building was not broken until May, 1923 – sixteen months later. The reason for the delay was the “strikes and the embargo placed on all roads leading to Erie.”
Less than a year later, on March 25, 1924, the building was dedicated to the service of God. The bishop conducting the event, W. M. Bell, and his assistant, Dr. R. S. Showers, noted at that time that the building was the most beautiful in the Erie conference. With the new building in use, the “old chapel” on Myrtle Street was remodeled on the inside to be used for social events and services. A gymnasium was also included.
The Glenwood United Brethren Church reached its 25th anniversary in 1936. The church’s membership grew in number through its first twenty-five years to a total of 518. The indebtedness remaining on the church building was liquidated still some years after that event, all of this during the term of Dr. O. E. Shafer. Also, while yet in his tenure at Glenwood Church, the old chapel was torn down completely. In its place, a beautiful parsonage was constructed by Fred Bovee, a member of the church, with help from his son Howard and others in the congregation.
The pastors which had served the Glenwood Church through its early years include:
Rev. W. B. Nelson (five years) 1911-1916
Rev. W. P. Hanks (one year) 1916-1917
Dr. N. H. MacAllister (eight years) 1917-1925
Rev. G. L. Graham (one year) 1925-1926
Rev. J. R. Love (two years) 1926-1928
Rev. S. Paul Weaver (six years) 1928-1934
Dr. O. E. Shafer (twelve years) 1934-1946
The Later Years at Glenwood Church
A decade later, on November 16, 1946, at Johnstown, Pennsylvania , a decision was made that would alter the name and the affiliation of the Glenwood Church. On that day, both the United Brethren in Christ and the Evangelical denominations voted to unite to form the Evangelical United Brethren Churches. As a result, Glenwood Church would become known as the Glenwood Evangelical United Brethren Church. During that same year, a full-time secretary (Jane Scott) was hired for the first time to assist with growing administrative duties.
Sunday school attendance had peaked at 444 people in 1950. During the early 1950’s, the present-day three-floor educational building was constructed to facilitate the growing program. It was dedicated on October 31, 1954 during a ceremony conducted by Bishop G. T. Gregory. During the same decade, the first assistant minister of the church, Rev. Wayne Hogue, was employed from 1957-1960.
While continuing in its mission of Christian service in the community, the Glenwood Church celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1961. Its recently renovated sanctuary was dedicated in the same year on Sunday, October 8. The theme of the dedication was “Building For Tomorrow.”
In 1968, yet another change would affect Glenwood Church. In that year, both the Methodist and the E.U.B. denominations had voted to merge into one Christian body and form the United Methodist Church. Four years later, the Erie Conference of the E.U.B. churches voted to join that merger. Thus, in 1972, Glenwood assumed its present identity as the Glenwood United Methodist Church.
Glenwood Church recognized its 75th anniversary in 1986 with a series of activities for its members. The events were centered around mission work and service, member recognition, and worship. The 1990’s would bring about a further renovation of the chancel area in the sanctuary. In 1996, after much prayer, sacrifice, participation, and cooperation, the Glenwood Church members completed and celebrated the building and dedication of the New Ministry Center.
The pastors which have served the Glenwood Church through its latter years include:
Dr. Glenn Donelson (nine years) 1946-1955
Dr. Harold V. Lindquist (twenty-one years) 1955-1976
Rev. Dick Sanford (six years) 1976-1982
Rev. Jerry Gray (fourteen years) 1982-1996
Rev. Bill Kemp (six years) 1996-2002
Rev. J. Patrick Lenox 2002-2014
Rev. Matthew R. Judd – 2014-present
“In Glenwood Church the stranger will find a home; the poor, a friend; the rich, a Savior; and to him who seeks to serve his fellowmen we give a noble place and task.” (copied from the 1918 directory of the Glenwood U. B. Church)
Jesus was born in a stable 2,000 years ago. The seeds of the United Brethren Church were planted in a barn in the mid-18th century. Still today, in the 21st century, the will of God through his Holy Spirit steers the hearts of the people of Glenwood Church. We are filled with God’s presence as we worship and serve the living God, revealed to us through his Son, Christ Jesus. We seek to be God’s tools to build his kingdom today as well as each tomorrow.
Written by Roy Himrod