A Presbyterian Retrospective

The growth of Presbyterianism in Wheeling, concurrent with the development of the city, will be the focus of a community-wide program offered at the start of the new year.

Members of Vance Memorial Presbyterian Church will serve as hosts for the community program titled “Receiving the Spiritual Bread: A History of the Presbyterian Church in Wheeling.” The presentation will begin at 1 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 5, in the sanctuary of Vance Church, located at 905 National Road.

Light refreshments and a tour of Vance Church also are to be offered that afternoon. The family event is free and open to the public.

Wheeling historian and researcher Jeanne Finstein will present the history-focused program that chronicles the growth of Presbyterian churches from the frontier days to the present. Included will be brief biographies of noted ministers and lay leaders, many of whom have descendants still living in Wheeling.

Members of the Vance committee planning the event include Bettie Steele, Geri Sloane, Janet Hart, Jane Schockey, Beth Ann Dague and Josh Benyo. The Rev. Dr. Charles LaPlaca, minister at Vance, has assisted the group.

Regarding the impetus for the program, Hart said, “We’re trying to think of ways to reach out into the community, to get people into the church.” Steele added that the event is part of ongoing efforts “to share the church with the community.” The initiative began with a Veterans Day program that “was very successful,” Steele said.

The idea for the historical program was sparked when “a couple of people asked to see the sanctuary” when Vance was the site of a blood drive for the American Red Cross on Sept. 11, Steele recalled.

Church members contacted Finstein and asked her to prepare a program on the history of Vance, to be combined with a tour of the church. Finstein suggested broadening the topic to encompass the other Presbyterian congregations in Wheeling and to examine “their histories and their impact on the community,” Steele said.

Rather than exploring the spiritual side, the program will offer “a historical perspective of the Presbyterian Church,” Steele commented. “The histories of these churches are so tied into the city’s history. The founding people of these churches were part of the story of Wheeling.”

In preparing for the presentation, Finstein met with LaPlaca and ministers of other Presbyterian churches in the city and was given access to the churches’ archival materials and records.

The program will focus on the history of Vance Memorial, First Presbyterian Church and Stone Presbyterian Church, along with information on two newer congregations, Warwood Presbyterian and Bethlehem Presbyterian. Finstein also will offer material related to congregations that no longer exist, such as Second Presbyterian in Center Wheeling, Third Presbyterian in South Wheeling and Second United Presbyterian which was located in downtown Wheeling.