Donna, a member of the church, speaks on the church and it’s history. Donna teaches Christian education from the middle and high school students.
INTERVIEWER: Thank you, Miss Donna [INAUDIBLE], for joining us today here at Pleasant Valley on March 2, 2011. How are you today?
INTERVIEWER: Well, today, we’re here to discuss a little bit about the history on St. Matthews United Church of Christ. Currently, what is your position with the church?
SUBJECT: Currently, I am a member of the Church who helps to teach Christian education. I teach the middle school and high school students. And I sing on the choir, and I just assist. I’m on several committees, or ministry teams, as we call them, on worship and mission and outreach.
INTERVIEWER: And how did you get involved? How– was your family originally involved with the church? Or is it something that you took on by yourself?
SUBJECT: I’ve been involved in St. Matthews since I was a small child. My father was a member of the Lutheran congregation here. And of course, my mother joined when they married 60-couple years ago. And I’ve always grown up in the church.
INTERVIEWER: OK. After a reading a little bit about the church’s history, I realized and found out that this was originally a joint congregation, a Reformed and Lutheran congregation. When did this transfiguration into the United Church of Christ take place, and how was that received by the congregation?
SUBJECT: Well, St. Matthews, on the cornerstone of the building says that St. Matthews was built in 1879. It was incorporated in like 1882. It was two congregations that worshipped in the same building. This– I know it’s hard to believe when you come through Pleasant Valley, but this was a very bustling community. And it had people that were of Lutheran– evangelical Lutheran Church and the German Reformed Church.
Neither one could afford a church of their own, so they built one church. And on the front of the building, it used to say St. Matthews Union Church. The congregations met separately and alternated times of meeting, but their Sunday school met together. And what they– actually, their Sunday school was a nondenominational Sunday school.
And as time changes and congregations change, the Lutheran congregation became very small and the German Reformed congregation had, by this time, been converted to the United Church of Christ. Because the United Church of Christ was founded, I think it’s in the mid-1950s, and the German Reformed Church became part of that. And as the one congregation was getting much smaller and the other one was getting larger with more families, it was decided that they would become one congregation.
Now, I have to explain that the Lutheran Church here was yoked with St. Mary’s Lutheran Church in Silver Run. We shared one pastor between the two of us. And– and the United Church of Christ Church shared a pastor with Crider’s United Church of Christ.
So it was about in 1992 when we became one church. The union with St. Mary’s dissolved and the union with Crider’s had dissolved. And so St. Matthews, neither congregation could stand on their own. And so together they made the decision to become United Church of Christ.
A lot had to do with the fact that the UCC church had more families. And most folks that were members here preferred to stay as a member of the church in Pleasant Valley than be loyal denominationalists and choose one over the other.
To be honest, my– I was raised Lutheran. My husband was United Church of Christ. We came every week. It didn’t matter which service it was. But I prefer the United Church of Christ as I became more familiar with that. Initially, it was a hard thing. We were trying to maintain denom– traditions of both denominations. And then slowly, we have gotten away from some of the Lutheran traditions.
INTERVIEWER: So you said it’s more blended now. It’s no longer leaning to one side.
SUBJECT: Yeah. I’d– I’d say in the last five years, it’s definitely has all sort of blended together.
INTERVIEWER: OK. Who was the main individual responsible for finding the church back in– when did you say? 18–
SUBJECT: I really am not sure of the exact names. But if you go back through the records that we do have, and actually we do have the original book from 1879, there are family names that continue to appear even on our rolls today. And– and that’s very interesting that you can trace them back.
INTERVIEWER: Now, St. Matthews is the first church that was founded in Pleasant Valley or was there prior to that?
SUBJECT: No. That– this is the only church that was ever in Pleasant Valley. Before the building was built, I understand that they would hold Sunday school and some church affairs at a building on South Pleasant Valley Road that still exists today. If you leave Pleasant Valley on that way, it’s the blue– first blue house on the left as you’re heading out of Pleasant Valley.
INTERVIEWER: OK. Has worship taken place in the same– the same building between those two, or–
INTERVIEWER: –have they ever had separate meeting places even during the, you know, the transfiguration, or has it ever–?
SUBJECT: We’ve always had worship in this building. There was a time when we were adding the addition on the back of the church that we couldn’t meet here because of construction. But that was only a temporary thing that we met at the firehouse.
But the church has changed a lot. There used to be theater seats instead of pews. There used to be stoves at the chimneys that heated the church. Used to have white windows instead of stained glass. I mean, there– those kind of changes. There were balconies in the back of the church.
INTERVIEWER: When did those kind of renovations take place?
SUBJECT: A lot of renovations took place around 1916 because we actually have a photograph of all the membership standing in front of the church that had been newly renovated. The stained glass was added in the 1940s, we think. But it was hard– it’s very hard to read the handwriting to– to go back through the records.
INTERVIEWER: Now, what kind of renovations have taken place here in the past, let’s say, 10 years, other than the addition, like you said before?
SUBJECT: Actually, the addition is the only thing that took place in 1995, ’96.
INTERVIEWER: What are the future plans for St. Matthews in regards to construction, renovation, progress of the church?
SUBJECT: As far as renovations, this is an old building. So it takes a lot to maintain an old building. But you know, it’s just upgrading simple things. Carpet and sound systems and those kinds of things continually need to be upgraded and changed.
INTERVIEWER: Yes. I read a little bit about the carpet for cash. Can you explain what you’re trying to accomplish there?
SUBJECT: We’re trying to help folks, relieve them of the extra ca– change that’s in their pockets because all of us hate to have lots of change in our pockets. So I guess we started it about a year ago, encouraging folks to dump their extra change in our buckets at the end of church.
And we’re almost to the goal, where we have about $900 more to raise. And then we are going to replace the carpet in the nursery area and the Sunday school area because it’s been down for almost 25 years. Yeah. But it’s maintained well.
INTERVIEWER: What other kind of activities does your church provide for its parishioners and visitors?
SUBJECT: We have a lot of variety of activities. We have– they call themselves the ABC Group. It’s a group of basically widows that meet, or singles, that meet once a month and go out to lunch. The ladies really enjoy that. It is basically a group of ladies right now. But they really support one another with phone calls and caring for one another, and that has been very positive. There’s probably about 8– 18, 15, 18 ladies that get together on a regular basis.
We have Sunday school for all ages on Sunday morning from– we have a nursery. But the children, once they learn to sit about age two, from two up we have activities for them. We have a youth group that has been newly– newly formed again. We were– had a very active youth that it sort of fell by the wayside, but we’ve been able to get it up and running. And that’s a middle school and high school group that has been started.
We also have a quiet prayer service on Tuesday evening from 6:45 to about 7:15 each Tuesday night. We’ve also got a new Bible study that started last week called Unbinding the Gospel that’s on– meeting on Wednesday evenings at 7:00. And also another group that started was the Great Book, and it’s a study of the Bible. And they’re meeting at least once a month, maybe twice a month on Sunday evenings.
And we have a book club that’s very active, and they read all different kinds of novels and gather once a month to discuss that. On Tuesdays, we have a quilting group that is small in number but mighty in what they accomplish. And they quilt every Tuesday and really enjoy themselves doing that.
Now, let me think. Is there anything I for– oh, choir. I can’t forget choir. We just recently got an organist. We were without an organist for several years and the choir director. And our choir grew from 6 to 15 by just acquiring a new person to run the music ministry here. So we meet on Tuesday evenings about 7:30 and practice for an hour.
And then we have lots of activities throughout the year. We usually try to involve the community as much as we can. On Tuesday the 8th, we’re having a pancake supper, and it’s from 4:30 to 7:00. And we– there’s no fee for that. You just come and enjoy pancakes and sausage and the fellowship.
We also have a community yard sale that we sponsor, a consign– a kids consignment sale. Our Fall Fest is a big event that we hold. We actually have to hold it at the firehouse because we can’t hold it here. But we celebrate fall and all the good things that go with fall and have a car show.
And we’re always trying to come up with new ways to involve our community. We had a movie night last summer that was really a lot of fun. It gets cold in the valley, though, once the sun goes down. But we have block parties sometimes during the summer and other activities like that.
INTERVIEWER: Now, it sounds like with all these extra committees and activities that are going on you have a lot of participation from your congregation. How does that differ from when you first joined the congregation? Has it improved? Has it kind of went by the wayside? Or is it status quo?
SUBJECT: Well, I would venture to say it has probably improved in the last two years. But we had a very, very active congregation. And as the– the culture changes, it really does impact what a church does because now we are competing with all different kinds of sports and activities that years ago never occurred on Sundays. And now they’re– they’re all any time. So it’s really hard to compete with what the– the teenagers have to compete with.
And right now, we have kids going to four different high schools. So when we have youth events, sometimes it’s really difficult to organize them because we’re dealing with all these different high schools and their activities. So you know, churches wax and wane in their participation, and right now things are up. And it just depends on what’s happening at the time.
INTERVIEWER: Now, how do you feel that this church can further its outreach program affecting the community, like you were saying? How do you feel personally they could improve that?
SUBJECT: I think we’re doing a lot even just to sit down and think about what– what we can do, to realize that we need to reach outside of the boundaries of this church. Religion has changed in America. No more is Christianity the majority religion. And now, many times young people don’t know the Christmas story.
You know, when I grew up everybody went to church. Now that is not the case. So it’s very important that we realize that and reach outside of St. Matthews to let people know all the love that God has for them. And I think it’s just very important that– United Church of Christ is a very mission and justice-oriented religion.
But we really do need to not talk in terms of missions across the sea but realize that the mission field is right outside our door because we need to spread the word of Jesus Christ.
INTERVIEWER: And what do you personally feel is the future for St. Matthews?
SUBJECT: I think the future is very positive for St. Matthews. There’s some really good changes that are occurring. We have, on any given Sunday morning at our children’s time, children are Welsh– welcomed to the pastor up front. We have between 12 and 18 children under the age of 10 that– and so when you see that many children that are willing and want to learn about Christ, then that’s the future.
And St. Matthews has a lot of room to grow. I mean, we need to nurture children and nurture families because it’s a tough world to live in. And it always concerns me if people don’t have faith because it’s a hard life to live without it. And I think the future’s very bright for St. Matthews.
INTERVIEWER: Well, thank you very much for your time. I greatly appreciate it. We all–
SUBJECT: You’re very welcome.
INTERVIEWER: –thank you very much.
SUBJECT: Thank you.