Today is certainly a red-letter day for Conemaugh Church. Wouldn't we old members, scattered far and wide, give "half our kingdom" to be back there today? To us that is still the most important church in the world. We don't realize it until an event like this comes along - and we know that our old pastors are to be there; and we sit down and think of what that church - its preachers and teachers - have meant in our lives. What would we be without it? Each life would be like unleavened bread - "flat, stale and unprofitable," with nothing to make it rise above mere grubbing for food, and the satisfying of animal tastes. The moral code of the old United Presbyterian church was rigid indeed; but oh, it has meant everything in our lives! Like a high railing, that has let us see all the dangers around us, but has kept us from falling. Certain high standards were set that will stay with us always. We were taught that our bodies are God's temples - not to be defiled; that marriage is a holy institution - not just a cheap contract, to be broken at will; that intoxicating drinks break down the moral fiber of one's being; that Sabbath Day is a holy day; that the Ten Commandments are to be obeyed - not merely memorized; that this is a moral universe, and we are under a moral law - that if we sow the wind, we shall reap the whirlwind; but that the blood of the Lamb washeth away the sin of the world - if we will but believe on Him.
Do you know, just in the matter of starting my letter, I was influenced by Rev. Calvin, whom I haven't seen for 36 years. I started to write "Sunday," as we say it here, in our church and everywhere; but I thought, "Rev. Calvin wouldn't like that." I was too young to remember his sermons. I know I got the fidgets - to the point of misery - in that unrelenting pew. But one thing impressed me deeply; his complete consecration to his task. Before each Communion service he would go around and visit the members of his flock (and this was in the horse-and-buggy days) and ask them to search their own hearts, to be sure they were worthy to partake of the Lord's Supper. Communion was not a mere ritual, but a deep religious experience. I remember I got my first scutching at the hands of Aunt Caroline, in connection with Conemaugh church. It was Communion Sabbath. I am sure I didn't behave as badly as I did two or three years earlier, when I was living with my grandmother, and cut up high jinks in church, because I was thirsty, and wanted some of that nice drink that was being passed around. But, at the age of seven, I still lacked reverence. Aunt Caroline was very quiet on the way home from church. As soon as we reached home, she went "straightway" and broke off a switch from a bush nearby, and invited me to go with her to the upper barn floor. (I did plenty of thinking on the way.) More in sorrow than in anger she told me there was no alternative but to punish me for my misbehavior that day. I could count all her whippings on one hand; but that was the first, and it impressed me far more deeply than a dissertation on reverence.
Rev. Minteer came as an answer to a restless, teen-age person's prayer. His sermons were short and right to the point. He was not only a fine preacher, but a delightful companion. His visits - and, later, his lovely wife's - were gala events in our home. Remember how we all cherished Mary Elizabeth's baby picture in our family albums? In that galaxy of stars (star preachers) in that home-coming today, one is missing. And, because of the big place he had - and still has - in our hearts, there will be a great void. I speak of W.E.M. Copeland, whose untimely death last spring is such a loss to the Christian world. He has passed on - to "greater glory," but his sermons remain in our memories, like beacon lights. May his bereaved widow take comfort in the knowledge of work well done. Their children have a rich heritage. I was not privileged to know Rev. McNary, nor Rev. Funk - and Rev. Dodds only briefly, but from the word of other members, I am sure they have contributed their full share to the glory of Conemaugh. One cannot mention the great leaders in Conemaugh Church without including Mr. Thomas Hart, our Sabbath school superintendent for so many years. He was a noble character. I am very proud of the fact that my grandfather, Thomas Gilkerson, was a part of that church, and began his ministry there one hundred years ago. Yes, the old church burned down; but the little congregation somehow raised the money to build a new one. And what a beautiful church it is! Even after forty years. May its white spire long continue to point "the way toward God," and its doors open to eager pilgrims, seeking the way of salvation.
With eternal gratitude to Conemaugh Church, I am,
Florence Burlingame Taylor
Next - 10/24/40 - Winnie, Roy, and Baby Doris