A YEARLONG CELEBRATION
By CRYSTAL SCHELLE
The same year that Frederick officially became a city, the Evangelical Reformed United Church of Christ officially became a church.
Schoolmaster John Thomas Schley founded the congregation in 1745. The church’s edifice at 15 W. Church St. in downtown Frederick is the fourth building constructed for the congregation.
In its 275 years, the congregation has witnessed every historical event since the Revolutionary War. To celebrate the anniversary, church staff and members are reflecting on its history and preparing for a yearlong celebration with a variety of events.
As long and varied as the history of the city of Frederick, so is the history of the church.
The church’s services were originally in German, but by 1825, it began transitioning to hosting English services. And in 1848, the congregation broke ground for the main sanctuary, but didn’t open it until 1850.
By 1851, those wanting to only have services in German formed St. John’s German Reformed Church. At the time, Evangelical Reformed was considered the mother church. It supplied St. John’s with German preachers and allowed the church to meet in Trinity Chapel.
During the Civil War, all of the churches were used as hospitals for the wounded from the battles of South Mountain and Antietam. And several rooms in Trinity Chapel were used by the Federal Provost Marshal.
In 1891, the main sanctuary went under extensive renovations like the removal of side balconies and the addition of stained glass windows.
The church was host to important figures like Francis Scott Key, who was baptized there in 1779. He later returned in 1825 to deliver an address. Barbara Fritchie was a member until her death in 1862 at age 96. In 1931, Helen Keller visited and addressed the church.
The Rev. Barbara Kershner Daniel has been overseeing the congregation at ERUCC for 13 years. She said the church rolls have about 400 members, but about 200 regularly worship at the church. Daniel said the anniversary committee members have been busy planning the event since last year.
Because the church was founded by Schley, a schoolmaster and one of the city’s early settlers, education has always been an important aspect of it. Hood College, for example, was founded by the German Reformed Church. Daniel said that means many events will center around education.
“We just had a ton of topics, so we just picked out ones we thought would be interesting to the community,” she said.
The official kickoff for the anniversary was Jan. 5, but activities will continue throughout the year, with at least one scheduled every month. The next scheduled event is set from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Feb. 3, with the Rev. Fred Wenner, the pastor emeritus, who will discuss “Pastors of ERUCC.”
Daniel said she is looking forward to a historic German worship service set from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. July 19.
“Those were our roots and we have a partnership with a region in Germany and they’ll be with us,” she said. “They’ll be leading the services that day.”
The following weekend, on July 26, the church will host its homecoming celebration and luncheon. The event is from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and past and present church members are asked to return.
“We’re gonna have a big party picnic out behind the church with brats, and all kinds of good German food and some beer just to (See CELEBRATION D2)
Evangelical Reformed United Church of Christ and the church offices to the right are seen from atop the steeple of Trinity Chapel across the street.
Staff photo by Bill Green
(Continued from D1) make it all authentic,” Daniel said. Ed Hoffman has been a member of the church since 1963 and is a member of the anniversary planning committee.
“I enjoy working with other people in planning special events and as a member of our 250th-anniversary celebration I was able to share some of the highlight events that we experienced 25 years ago,” he said. “To me, each year is a celebration of life as God has allowed us to live it and every 25 years we should pause and reflect on what we have experienced during that time period and celebrate some of those events.”
Jennie Russell has been attending the church for about 12 years. She is also the archivist and a member of the anniversary planning committee.
“As the archivist at ERUCC, it has been fascinating to delve through the oldest church record books and histories and to learn the role of our church and its members have played in the history and development of our local community and beyond,” she said. “Our church was here in the earliest days of Frederick and is still a strong and vibrant presence. I’m very excited about the coming year and the special activities we have planned.”
Russell said as a Frederick native, “it’s been fun for me to learn about past members, some wellknown and others not so well known, but they all have a story to learn and to be told about.” The church has always been a place that welcomes people with open arms, she said.
“Throughout its history, ERUCC has been a place of action, acceptance and service to the community,” she said. “And as our history grows, I know these values will continue to be a part of its future.”
Daniel said as a congregation they not only look at what the church and its members need, but also the community.
“I think Sunday morning is not the only time that we ought to be thinking about it in terms of people being engaged with the congregation,” she said.
Daniel said an exercise awhile ago had members of the congregation come up with words that described the church. They used words such as open, welcoming, progressive, and engaged with the community. She said those words best sum up the type of church ERUCC is.
“We hope that this is a time for people to come through our doors and participate and get to know a little bit about us,” Daniel said. “And this is a good thing for our congregation. We have a lot of new members who don’t know a lot about our history. So they’re going to learn along the way.”
Follow Crystal Schelle on Twitter: @crystalschelle.
LEFT: The Women’s College of Frederick Maryland,now Hood College,was founded at the church. RIGHT: The current sanctuary and building of the evangelical Reformed United Church of Christ on West Church Street is the fourth building built by the congregation. The current building was constructed in 1848 and has undergone a number of additions and revisions over the years.
Staff photos by Bill Green
Rev. Barbara Kershner Daniel stands with a set of Mother of Pearls pieces that are mounted on the back wall of the sanctuary. The pearls carvings depict the life of Christ and were part of Bethlehem at the centennial exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876.