By: John Geiselman
For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them. Matthew 18:20
A Lutheran congregation was organized on July 22, 1851. The first church cornerstone was laid April 27, 1852 and the church was dedicated October 24, 1852. Jacob Maring Sr., the donor of the ground, died July 13, 1852. The transfer of the deed had not yet been completed and his widow, Anna Margaret, signed the deed by making her “mark”. The deed dated January 28, 1854 records one acre and 26 perches of land from Jacob Maring to Christian K. Shriver and Abraham Waybright as Trustees for the Mt. Joy Church. An Indenture dated April 10, 1883, describes a transaction relative to one acre and 16 perches (parsonage and lot) located between George Maring and wife and Mt. Joy Church Council.
A third deed dated May 28, 1887 for 80 perches of land was signed by Edwin H. Benner and wife, John Sharetts and wife, also Jacob E. Sharetts and wife as executors of the Matilda B. Spangler (Mrs. Jonas Spangler) estate. In 1916, Edwin H. Benner provided some additional land for the cemetery.
This first church was destroyed by fire on March 2nd, 1890. Just as the pastor, Rev. Howard M. Heilman, announced his text, it was discovered that the edifice was on fire. The strong March winds fanned the flames. Nothing was saved except the organ and a Bible. A congregational meeting was called on the 3rd of March to decide if the old church should be repaired or a new one erected. The congregation proceeded at once to rebuild.
The lumber came from a northern county in Pennsylvania and was brought by boat down the Susquehanna River to Wrightsville. From there it was hauled by horse and wagon to the church site. Many of the old bricks were used for the inner walls of the church.
The new bricks were made on the McQuigan Farm about two miles away. The total cost of the new church was $4,531.34. After many generous subscriptions, the sale of old lumber, collection of $1,000. of insurance, and a donation of money raised by the Ladies Aid Society, there was a balance of only $39.44 left to pay to clear the debt of rebuilding. In addition, much hauling and labor was done gratuitously by the members. The corner stone was laid June 15th, 1890 and the church was dedicated on November 30, 1890.
It was also during the pastorate of Rev. Heilman that 38 of the members were dismissed from Mt. Joy Church in order to form the St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church of Harney, Maryland. This church was to be a part of the Mt. Joy Charge. Ever since then the minister called would serve both churches.
The parsonage is located directly across the Taneytown Road from the church. Built in 1880 at the cost of $1,900.00 it was 24 feet by 44 feet in size. The 56,000 clay bricks for the home came from the John Waybright farm.
Back of the parsonage was a picnic grove, not belonging to the church, where many functions took place. Many referred to this as Benner’s Woods or Benner’s Grove. At one time the buildings were owned by the Barlow Community Association which dissolved sometime in the 40’s. The buildings were then sold to Mr. Charles Benner, the owner of the land.
The Barlow Community Picnic and Fair was always held at Benner’s Grove in August. It was like a little country fair with all kinds of livestock and chickens. Sometimes a few of us boys would stay all night to tend the animals. While we were there at night we would raid the sandwich building. During the Fair there were all kinds of eats and amusements. I liked the “Milk Bottle Pitch” and “Duck Willy”, where you would pitch a ball and duck someone in the water to win a candy bar or a cigar. Farm machinery was displayed by John Deere brought by Donald Scott, International Harvester brought by Ellis Schwartz and Allis Chalmers brought by Harry Stambaugh of Spring Grove. This was just one of the events held in the grove besides many church picnics and family reunions.
The first Sunday after I came to the Geiselman home, Mother said, “We are going to Sunday School and church.” I didn’t have many good clothes for Sunday School, but they soon dressed me up to go. Sometimes we would take the horse and buggy and later years the Buick Coupe. It was an open car and I liked it very much.
Here I got acquainted with the other children in the Sunday School. They all made me feel welcome. My foster parents brought me up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. They put my feet on a solid rock. That rock is Christ Jesus.
Later I took Christ as my personal Savior. It was when I was in Christian Endeavor and had a chance to go to Camp Nawakwa. This particular Adams County Christian Endeavor retreat was held Sunday afternoon and evening on September 14, 1947. I was 31 years of age.
During our personal meditation we thought about the strength we need to carry on. We were reminded that during the three short years that Jesus walked among men here on earth, He tried to get His disciples to understand that the world could only satisfy the bodily needs. By personal example, He showed that only through prayer and private meditation could the spiritual side of life be strengthened. Thus, out of another rushing day of life, we should pause to find that much needed strength by seeking the Lord in our meditation.
Now with the Spiritual Strength to carry on, we went to the Christian Endeavor Chapter to study Romans 12:1-21 to decide if there were any improvements which we could make in our Christian living. And we were asked if we meet these standards?
“I plead with you therefore, brethern, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. Instead of being molded to this world, be transformed by the entire renewal of your minds, so that you may learn by experience what God’s will is, namely, what is good and acceptable, and perfect.”
“Through the grace given me I warn every individual among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; he must take a sane view of himself, corresponding to the degree of faith which God has assigned to each. Just as we have in the one body many organs, and these organs have not all the same function; so collectively we form one body in Christ, while individually we serve as organs for one another. Our talents differ with the grace that is given us; if the talent is that of prophecy, let us employ it in proportion to our faith; if it is practical service, let us mind our service; the teacher must mind his teaching, the speaker his words of counsel; the contributor must be liberal, the superintendent must be in earnest, and one who gives help should do it cheerfully.”
“Let your love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good. Let your love of the brethern be true mutual affection; be forward to honor one another; not slothful in business. Have your spirits aglow as the Lord’s own servants; let your hope be joy to you; patient under affliction, persistent in prayer. Supply the needs of God’s people, always practice hospitality.”
“Bless those who make a practice of persecuting you; bless them instead of cursing them. Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be too ambitious, but associate with humble folk. Do not be conceited.”
“Do not pay anyone back with evil for evil, aim to be above reproach in the eyes of all. If possible, for your part, live peacefully with everybody. Do not take your revenge, dear friends, but leave room for God’s anger for the Scripture says, “Vengeance belongs to me; I will pay them back, says the Lord.” On the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing, you will make him feel a burning sense of shame. Never let evil get the better of you; get the better of evil by doing good.”
After applying these scriptures to ourselves in meditation we closed by singing the “C E Pledge in Song” to the tune of “Break Thou The Bread Of Life”. Following this we gathered in the big Assembly Hall and we hiked together to “Upper Temple” for evening Vespers. Our speaker was the Rev. H. W. Sternat of Biglerville, pastor of Benders Lutheran Church. From our seats on the semi-circular rock steps at the top of the mountain we listened to the service right before sundown. It truly was a “mountain top” experience. I felt God there and accepted Him into my heart and life.