Plymouth’s First Welsh Baptist Church to mark 150th anniversary

By Bill O’Boyle - [email protected]
The First Welsh Baptist Church in Plymouth is celebrating its 150th anniversary on Sept. 30. - Aimee Dilger | Times Leader

PLYMOUTH — Jim Sanders has been attending services at the First Welsh Baptist Church since he was 5.

Now 72, Sanders remembers celebrating the church’s 100th anniversary in 1968 and the 125th in 1993.

Today, Sanders is one of the church’s 150-plus members preparing to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the church that sits at the corner of West Shawnee Avenue and Girard Avenue.

“We are very fortunate that we are still going strong after 150 years,” Sanders said. “This is a close-knit church — everybody knows everybody. We all have a lot of good memories here.”

The First Welsh Baptist Church of Plymouth will celebrate its milestone anniversary Sept. 30 with a 10 a.m. service at the church, followed by a social gathering that will feature Welsh cookies and coffee and tea.

A luncheon will be held later that afternoon at R&D Memories, 566 Fellows Ave., Hanover Township.

The church was formally established on July 25-26, 1868, by immigrant Welsh miners who came to work in the anthracite coal mines of Northeastern Pennsylvania.

The first meeting place was an old schoolhouse near the Washington Breaker. The first session recorded that 18 persons were present. It was not long until the schoolhouse was too small to accommodate all who came to worship.

During the second year of the church, 1870, the first building was erected only to have it destroyed by fire in 1875. The present edifice was erected in 1876 and it exists today, with some additions and renovations added through the years.

Mary Poremba has been a member of the church since she was 10 — she is 70 now. She said the celebration will offer many things, but what she looks forward to most will be seeing old friends and reminiscing.

“The exciting part for me will be seeing many of the members that we have not seen in many years, coming back to the church, sitting back and reliving things we experienced as children,” Poremba said.

Poremba remembers the church’s Baptist Youth Fellowship that met Sunday nights. She remembers the group roller-skating at Rummages Park in Hunlock Creek, and Christmas caroling through the neighborhoods of parishioners and all streets of Plymouth.

“We would go back to the church for hot dogs and hot cocoa,” she said.

Poremba said Ted Reese has worked diligently in preparing the church for the celebration. She said Reese has some Welsh tea towels that he will place around the room for the post-service social gathering. And there will be many old photos of church activities and members going back decades.

‘Music so important’

All total, there have been 15 ministers throughout 150 years, with Rev. Anita J. Ambrose retiring in November 2017 after serving the congregation for 25 years. Presently, the worship services are being conducted by Rev. John Shypulefski.

Members say the church has been and continues to be a testament to the strong faith in the fundamental truths as taught by Jesus Christ.

Margaret Reese Bau attended services from the time she was 6 until she got married.

“What I can tell you about my years there, is that music was so important in the worship service,” Bau said. “We always sang many hymns — all the verses — and some in Welsh. Children were encouraged to sing solos and recite scripture.”

Bau said the anniversary celebratory service will have lots of singing with some in Welsh, and some guests have been invited to make presentations. After the service, old pictures and memorabilia will be on display.

Rev. Ambrose, now 86, enjoyed her time at the church. She said between 50 and 80 members attended services every Sunday and children would go to Sunday school and Bible study. She said a quilting group meets every week.

“I was born and raised in that church. My uncle was a minister there. He was from Wales — Rev. David Conon Evans — a real Welshman.”

Ambrose said her brother, William Hayden Ambrose, inspired her to become a minister. Her brother died four years ago at 91.

“I am so thrilled that many of the same people are there that were there when I was growing up — the same families,” Ambrose said.

Church history

• In 1876, the present building was finished at a cost of $6,000.

• In 1886, the minister was paid $50 per month and the janitor was paid $8. George Picton was paid $10 for eight loads of coal. The present cost of gas for six months is $1,872.

• In 1886, the church built a house at a cost of $979.

• In 1889, the iron fence was built at a cost of $1.35 per foot, installed.

• In 1915, David T. Morgan painted and decorated the church sanctuary for $300 and Mr. Alfred R. Jones constructed the communion table.

• In 1969, the sanctuary was again renovated. This included the pulpit and choir lofts. An architect, Mr. George Burke of Plymouth, was consulted to do the layout and design. Ruckno Brothers Construction Co. of Forty Fort completed all construction work and James Sanders, a lifelong church member, completed all painting, staining and paper-hanging in the sanctuary.

• On Dec. 10, 1996, the 100-year-old pews were removed, and new ones were installed at a cost of $28,356. At the same time, a seamless quartz floor was installed in the sanctuary and vestibule for $5,337. Also, in 1996, a new sound system was installed for $1,414.

• Pew Bibles were purchased in February 1998 for $950.

• In March 2000, air conditioning was installed for $36,178 and main electrical work was done for $6,560.

• In September 2017, stained glass memorial panels were installed in memory of Mrs. Barbara Futchel and her grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. David S. Jones. Mr. Jones was the music director or the church for many years.

• On July 5, 2015, the first woman, Mrs. Mary Poremba, chairperson of the deaconesses, served communion after it was voted on by the trustees to allow deaconesses to help serve.

• In the 50 years from 1968 to present, the church has had 222 baptisms and transfer of letters.

The First Welsh Baptist Church in Plymouth is celebrating its 150th anniversary on Sept. 30. First Welsh Baptist Church in Plymouth is celebrating its 150th anniversary on Sept. 30. Aimee Dilger | Times Leader
First Welsh Baptist Church ‘still going strong’

By Bill O’Boyle

[email protected]

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.