New Castle News


September 10, 2013

Photo Gallery, Story: First Church of God celebrates 100th anniversay

NEW CASTLE — In 100 years, First Church of God has never had to leave the kitchen because it couldn’t stand the heat.

That’s not to say, though, that the kitchen has never been a problem.

When the congregation built the education wing and basement fellowship hall that includes the cooking area in 1975, there was an issue right from the start.

“We had someone come in and dig the hole for us,” recalled Jim Bromley, trustees chairman for the church that hits the century mark this month. “But when we started to lay the foundation, we found out that the hole was something like six or seven inches not deep enough. We had to dig the whole thing out, in the winter time, by lifting it out with buckets and wheeling it up

“Oh,” he added with a slight shiver, “it was ugly.”

When the problem was corrected, the next challenge was to get the restaurant-style stove in place. It had to be lowered into the basement with a crane, a process that proved comparatively simple as opposed to its later removal.

“It finally died two or three years ago,” Bromley said of the stove, “and we had to beat it with a sledge to take it out. There was no other way.”

Indeed, since 1913, First Church of God always has seemed to find a way to do what needed to be done.


According to church history, the congregation was formed 100 years ago when Axel Engstrom started cottage prayer meetings in his home and five others. Those gatherings spawned tent meetings in 1914 and 1915, and in 1916, the worshippers met in “the old Presbyterian Church on East Washington Street, across from the Court House.”

The congregation continued to meet wherever it could – in McGowan Hall on Terrace Avenue, in buildings on Wilson Avenue and Morton Street and in the 4. W. Euclid Ave. home of Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Reynolds – until 1937, when Engstrom “purchased the former Methodist Church building at 107 W. Euclid Ave. with his own money.”

The seeds for the current facility were sown in 1947, when the church purchased four lots at the corner of West Euclid and North Beaver, across the street and roughly half a block east of its home at that time. After the Church of God at Hoytdale merged with the New Castle church in 1949, an additional four lots were bought, and in 1952, the congregation broke ground for the present sanctuary.


Erecting what is now the home of First Church of God didn’t come easy. But again, the congregation was up to the challenge.

“Pretty much, we did it ourselves,” Bromley recalled. “I didn’t do much; I was just a youngster then. I remember walking on the platform before the walls were up in the sanctuary. My dad was an electrician; he was doing some work here. I was probably causing trouble (Indeed, Bromley’s lone memory of the 107 W. Euclid church is a bit of derriere discipline he received on its exterior steps).

“But in ’53 (when the church was dedicated), things were different. People would work with their hands; they knew how to do things. A lot of people don’t know that today.”

Eleanor “Sis” Ward, whose grandfather Charles N. Boyer pastored the church from 1915 to 1922 and who got married in the first Euclid Avenue church, recalls her mother helping to carry buckets of cement and her father laying block for the present facility.

Although the new church would provide additional worship space for the growing congregation, other quarters remained cramped. A basement area that now has been divided into two small classrooms originally was one open space that served as one fellowship hall.

“We all crowded in there for our weddings, our receptions and dinners, and things like that,” Mary Lou Garver remembered.

Bromley’s wedding reception took place in that very room. A small space up the hall that now houses the building’s furnace was the kitchen back then.

Obviously, there was more work to be done.


The next phase came 22 years later when the education wing was begun. However, building it necessitated the loading of the adjacent parsonage onto the back of a truck and relocating it two lots down – on the other side of another existing house that was being used as a youth facility. That building was later removed, and an addition built onto the parsonage.

“We’ve had a lot of good pastors who were progressive thinking and hard workers; physically hard workers, with their hands,” Bromley noted of all the church’s do-it-yourself projects. “That’s how we got a lot of this stuff done. We needed it, so let’s jump in and do it.”

About the time that a new millennium arrived, a second church addition was created. This one expanded the sanctuary, added a Sunday school room and created — for the first time — restrooms on the building’s ground level.

The added space cried out for new ministry, and the first to surface was the Underground Refuge, a combination café, home theater and game room launched by the late Paul Ross and now overseen by his daughter, April.

“It started out as a way to reach the youth and college students,” the Rev. Bill Hunley, church pastor said, “but we’ve discovered over the years that it’s become more of a family thing.”

Meanwhile, Ross’ other daughter, Stacy, spearheaded an effort to launch the Precious in His Sight Preschool.

“These are two outreaches that we have as a church to bring families in,” Bromley said, “and we’ve seen results from both of them. We give a discount (for the preschool) for people who attend the church, and that was an effort to get people interested in coming.

“I don’t know if anyone actually came because of that, but we’ve seen results from both the preschool and the Underground.”


Changes in the church haven’t been limited to its infrastructure. Garver and Bromley recall the switch from a service with traditional worship music to one that now features a praise band and a blending of contemporary songs.

“The instruments – that’s something I think people had a little bit of hard time with at first,” Garver said. “But now, when the drums aren’t here, you really notice it. It feels like it’s dragging.”

Bromley admits that he was one of those who didn’t like the idea of drums at Sunday services.

“Drums didn’t belong in the church,” he said. “I don’t know why, they just didn’t – we’d never done it that way before. But now – what an addition!”

Hunley credits worship leader Cami Schaubroeck with blending the traditional and the contemporary in a way that offers something for everyone.

“I’ve never been in favor of ‘Let’s have a traditional service, and let’s have a contemporary service,’ ” he said. “I don’t like dividing the church. We’re all one family.”

Over the course of the last 100 years, that family has likely had its share of disagreements. But, Hunley said, the people remain the church’s greatest strength.

“These folks are so genuine and they care, and they let you know that they care,” he said. “This church has been very supportive in their outreach to people who are hurting. It’s a strong message. People are touched by that.”

Ward recalls leaving the congregation once as a young woman. Her withdrawal, though, lasted no more than a fortnight before she was back.

“There was some kind of problem, and I was upset, I guess,” she said. “But it wasn’t the same going somewhere else. I was brought up here.

“I ended up just missing a couple of Sundays. There’s no place like here.”



Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • VerySpecial.jpg Jameson Hoyt Atrium display spotlights artwork of special needs kids and adults

    Artwork from dozens of area students will take center stage Thursday in the Hoyt Atrium of Jameson Hospital. The Very Special Arts exhibit will kick off with an opening reception at 5 p.m., and the works will remain on display in the glass-enclosed walkway through Oct. 4.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • DougDanko.jpg Census shows county population getting older

    Lawrence County’s population continues to get older. However, it is not alone, as Pennsylvania overall is aging.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • backpackproject.jpg Councilman picks up tab to help lunch program

    Participants of a local summer feeding program are eating this week courtesy of New Castle City Councilman Tim Fulkerson. On Friday morning, the truck dispatched from New Castle to pick up about 3,500 pounds of items from the Pittsburgh Food Bank broke down as it arrived at its destination.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • CRESTVIEW.jpg Outreach: Churches plan to host picnic for residents of Crestview Gardens

    Volunteers from several area churches are banding together in hopes of bringing peace to a troubled neighborhood.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • money.jpg Council OKs funds to remove dead trees

    New Castle City Council has approved spending funds from its contingency account to remove some trees at Darlington Park. Marshall Tree Experts of Ellwood City has given an estimate of $12,000 to remove the large elm trees from the Mahoningtown park.


    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • 12.jpg Photo Gallery, Story: Night light

    The balloons may have been on the ground but spirits were soaring.


    July 25, 2014 1 Photo 1 Slideshow

  • StateFair.jpg 'State Fair' coming to Playhouse

    The fair is coming to town. No, not the Lawrence County Fair, although that is right around the corner. This is the Iowa State Fair, and it will be live on the stage of the New Castle Playhouse for three weeks, starting Friday night.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • accountant.jpg DeLorenzo’s status with authority unchanged

    Deno DeLorenzo’s status as a contract employee with the New Castle Sanitation Authority remains unchanged. Authority board members met with DeLorenzo last week regarding an investigation by the Lawrence County district attorney’s office involving Shenango Township funds.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Shooting.jpg Detroit area man dies in Ellwood City gunfire

    A triple shooting in an Ellwood City street has claimed the life of a Detroit area man. Gunfire erupted in the middle of Loop Street outside the Walnut Ridge housing project around 10:20 p.m. Sunday, according to state police.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Baptism1.jpg Dipped downtown

    John the Baptist identified himself as “the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.’ ” On Saturday, local evangelist Randy Crum once again took a cue from the son of Elizabeth and Zechariah, eschewing the locusts and honey that John was known to munch on but heading out into the wilds to baptize believers and challenge them to share their faith with their community.

    July 21, 2014 3 Photos

House Ads

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives voted to authorize Speaker John Boehner to sue President Obama for allegedly overstepping his legal authority with the way he's handled Obamacare. Good call?

Yes. Obama's been overstepping his authority since day one in office. It's time he pay the piper.
No. The allegations are ridiculous and the law suit is a waste of time and tax payer money.
I don't know. I'm not a huge fan of Obama, but the suit seems a little extreme.
     View Results