New Castle News

Local News

October 4, 2013

Photos, Story: Calvary Independent has moved a few times in 75 years, but its focus has not budged

NEW CASTLE — In 75 years, members of Calvary Independent Church have built three structures they’ve called home.

One may or may not have had walls. Another featured a baptistery set against a background made to look like a river. And the third has an annex that used to be a funeral home.

Despite their differences, though, the buildings had one thing in common: the congregation’s cornerstone.

“What started back in 1938 was because of a doctrinal issues,” present-day pastor Chuck Fombelle said of the congregation, which formed when members of what was then Calvary Presbyterian Church withdrew from the Shenango Presbytery.

“They saw some differences there, and they chose to stand on the word of God,” Fombelle continued. “And that has continued to be the mainstay: the word of God and the power of God to change us.

“That’s one of the things we push when we celebrate anniversaries — the priority of the word of God and faithfulness in service to God.”

BEGINNINGS

Though the church counts only 75 years of existence, its seeds actually were sown in 1912 when two local laymen launched the East Side Mission, a Sunday school that met a public school building in East New Castle. The group moved to a room over a blacksmith shop in 1915 before building a church in 1919-20, which stood across Ellwood Road from the old Shenango Township Fire Hall.

In 1931, the worshippers approached the Presbyterian Church for membership and were accepted into the Shenango Presbytery as Calvary Presbyterian. However, in March 1938, the congregation would renounce its membership over doctrinal differences, and wound up being locked out of its building.

Undeterred, members built a pavilion — or tabernacle — in which to hold services and carry on the work of the church.

“I was 7 or 8 years old when that happened, and I can remember it pretty vividly,” said Miff Peterson. “It was kind of like a picnic shelter. I don’t remember if it had any sides on it or not (although Fombelle says that old photos indicate it may have had hinged walls that could be opened and closed). But there was a big coal stove to heat it. It was a dirt floor.

“Every summer for six weeks we’d have  Bible conference. We had to go every night, work in the garden first, then go to the meetings.”

When it became apparent that the congregation was going to lose all rights to its church building, members got to work putting up a new building on Vogan Street (which today houses Allegheny Wesleyan Church).

“I can remember carrying food down to my dad,” Peterson said. “He was down in the basement hole with the other men.”

The first service in the new building — using the benches from the pavilion — took place in December 1938, with the congregation now calling itself “Calvary Gospel Tabernacle.”

Photos of the Vogan Street building show a baptistery installed as part of a scene meant to look like a river setting.

“It looks like they had rocks and other things around,” Fombelle said.

Still, despite that attention to detail, Peterson recalled that when she was married in the building in 1948, there were still parts of the church that were not completed.

“The interior of the building hadn’t been finished,” she said. “They started putting ceiling tile and probably wall stuff. My future father-in-law was on the board and he was very pushy about getting this done before the wedding.

“My wedding was on Nov. 25, 1948. So the men hurried and got that finished in time for it.”

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • 01.jpg Photo Gallery: Church’s tradition of Easter countdown continues

    Easter is keenly anticipated by Christians around the globe. But perhaps nowhere is its arrival more heralded than at Independent Methodist Church.

    April 18, 2014 11 Photos

  • Lawrence county receives state grant

    Lawrence County will receive state funding to update its comprehensive plan. The county will receive $47,000, in the form of a Municipal Assistance Grant, from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, according to state Sen. Elder J. Vogel.

    April 18, 2014

  • Mahoning Township sets spring cleanup

    Mahoning Township will have its spring cleanup the weeks of April 28 and May 5. Residents should place items at the curb the day before their scheduled collection. They should be neatly bagged or bundled.

    April 18, 2014

  • Vo-Skills.jpg VoTech team claims silver medal state honors

    The Lawrence County Career and Technical Center boasts a team of disciplined, well-spoken winners. The school’s SkillsUSA team, comprised of 21 students, stood against other schools from throughout Pennsylvania last week in Hershey.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Columbia Gas announces pipeline replacement work

    Columbia Gas has scheduled a pipeline replacement project for New Castle. Beginning this month, the company will replace approximately 2,800 feet of existing steel pipe along Eastbrook and Paper Mill roads and Cascade Street. The project is expected to be completed in July.

    April 17, 2014

  • ESB Financial reports earnings increase

    ESB Financial Corp., parent company of ESB Bank, has announced an increase in earnings for the quarter ended March 31.

    April 17, 2014

  • Author.tiff Arthur the author: Children’s writer/illustrator visits Neshannock Elementary

    A story about a grandmother and her granddaughter flying over a city grew from the vivid imagination of children’s author Arthur Dorros. “Abuela” also spurred the creativity of students at Neshannock Memorial Elementary School who had eagerly awaited a visit from Dorros yesterday.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Greer House changes name

    Greer House, a provider of assisted living services and care to seniors, has unveiled its new name. “We are thrilled about our new name — Clen-Moore Place,” said executive director Susan Leise, “because it better reflects our commitment to provide a vibrant environment where our residents thrive each and every day.

    April 16, 2014

  • Huston.jpg Greg Huston: Pirates pitching is porous and LeBron’s a phony

    The Buccos got swept this past weekend in their own personal house of horrors, otherwise known as Miller Park in Milwaukee. The Pirates will hover around .500 this year mainly because they do have some stars in Marte, McCutchen and Alvarez, and they play the right way with grit.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • 01.jpg Photo Gallery, Story: Students team up on paper pantry

    Food is not the only thing that sometimes is in short supply for those in need. With that in mind, students from seven Lawrence County high schools joined Westminster College sororities and fraternities Saturday in preparing a paper pantry for local residents.

    April 14, 2014 8 Photos