First Presbyterian Church Looks to Future in Barnesville
By LENNY WITTENBROOK
BARNESVILLE — Members of the Presbyterian Church have been meeting at the corner of West Church and North Chestnut streets in Barnesville since 1859, and with the recent installation of a new pastor and renovations to their historical building they seek to continue a long tradition of faith and service.
The history of the First Presbyterian Church of Barnesville is closely tied to the prominent family of John Bradfield, who built the original church on the site during a time when the Presbyterian Church was in division over the issue of slavery. That information was provided by Emery Stewart, who grew up in the church and serves as its current clerk of session.
The original church building was a common 19th-century wooden church and spire with colored windows. Regular attendance approached 250 soon after the Civil War, but Barnesville’s population and prominence were increasing steadily and as the turn of the century approached a larger sanctuary was needed. The first building was sold to the Catholic Church, which did not have a sanctuary in the village at the time. The structure was moved in pieces to West Main Street, where it stood for 14 years before burning down on Christmas 1914.
Columbus architect Frank Packard designed the Presbyterians’ new, distinctive Oriental pagoda, Arts-and-Crafts Gothic style church using the “Akron Plan” in which wedge shaped classrooms radiate around a central platform. This interior plan was used to allow students attending Sunday school classes to be taught en masse, while also allowing for their quick separation for age specific instruction.
The church took around three years to build and the congregation began holding services there in late 1902. The most striking features of the interior of the church are three large stained glass windows, crafted at the William Willet Studios in Pittsburgh, and the pipes of the Felgemacher organ towering behind the pulpit.
In 2007 an architect did a study of the building and warned that the dome over the sanctuary was in danger of collapsing from the weight of the ceramic roof tiles and age.
The church’s trustees and elders soon voted unanimously to preserve and renovate the roof using acrylic tiles to replace the ceramic to reduce the load on the structure. Church literature indicates the project was made possible by years of planning and the support of the congregation and community.
Many other modernizations have been made to the church over the years and include the addition of air conditioning, LED lighting, a new sound system, wheelchair ramps and handicap accessible bathrooms.
In May 2017 the First Presbyterian Church of Barnesville celebrated the installation of the Rev. Sam Monte as pastor. Monte, who was raised in East Liverpool, Ohio, grew up in the Presbytery, studied at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and now lives in Barnesville with his wife, Gail, and their six adopted children.
“He is full of life and full of spirituality. He is a blessing to us,” Stewart said.
According to Stewart, the church currently has roughly 100 active members on the books, and while the members don’t make a practice of door-to-door evangelism, the door is open to seekers and believers.
The congregation of the church supports mission and service locally and abroad, and the deacons’ annual Pumpkin Festival Soup and Sandwich Sale funds a local mission assistance program.
First Presbyterian Church of Barnesville is a member of Presbyterian Church U.S.A. and a part of the Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery.
Services are held each Sunday beginning at 10:30 a.m., preceded and followed by Coffee Hour. Bible study meets Wednesday at 11a.m. and Sunday at 9:15 a.m.