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 Standing Stone Methodist Church  150th Anniversary 2006
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Happy Birthday in Standing Stone: United Methodist Church marking 150th anniversary this year

By: NANCY COLEMAN  03/05/2006 Daily Review
Colored windows glow like rainbows.
Bright red cushions invite the weary to sit a moment in old wooden pews. In the front hangs a painting of Jesus. And a large wooden cross. Downstairs, happy voices echo through the dining room.
Welcome to the Standing Stone United Methodist Church. Come see the history, and come meet the people.
And come wish it happy birthday.
This year, members are celebrating the 150th anniversary of the congregation and church itself. They're planning for the future, remembering the past ... and thoroughly intending to have some fun.
The anniversary committee -- Faith Jaynes, Kathy Camp, Erma Bishop and Ellen Franklin -- sits in the dining room this afternoon. "Happy 150th Anniversary," reads a sign with red hearts by the kitchen windows.
Are we doing things all year? Erma asks.
"Heck yeah, woman!" Kathy declares. "We're excited!"
The tall, dignified church stands along the east section of River Road, Standing Stone Township. Its steeple gazes into the heavens, while a big pine stands guard at a rear corner. Behind lies the Standing Stone Cemetery.
This afternoon the sanctuary's warm and bright, like a day in May come early. Seven rows of chocolate-colored pews line up front to back, and a rail stretches around the altar. Small antique minister's chairs hide behind the pulpit. The walls hold paintings of the Good Shepherd, and of Jesus teaching from a boat. A small light glows on The Last Supper.
"Century Building," reads a plaque.
Nowadays, between 20 and 40 people attend Sunday services. Some are young, some older. The Rev. Helen Learn leads worship here and in Herrickville United Methodist Church every week, and in the Camptown Community Church every other Sunday.
Ellen Franklin began attending here in fifth grade and remembers the days of wood stoves in the sanctuary. She likes "mingling with the people ... fellowship," she says. "The worship."
You can count on her to sit in a back pew every Sunday. "Good morning! Good morning!" she greets everyone.
"It's nice to walk in and have somebody right there!" Faith declares.
Faith, on the other hand, sits right smack up front, at the organ. A few years ago, the church asked her to play. Instead, she found a high school girl to do it.
But then the girl left for college. "I'll come until I find you someone," Faith said.
That was about six years ago. She never left. "'Cause I just love them so much!"
Faith sits flipping through a thick red hymnal as she talks. She finally stops on "Up From the Grave He Arose."
Kathy's parents and grandparents have attended here. Her grandmother, in fact, was Jenny VanNess Sherman, whose husband, Oscar, served as village blacksmith. Jenny also was related to George VanNess, who donated the church land.
And guess what. It turns out Faith's related to the VanNess family, too.
It all weaves together into a warm, bright quilt of history, tradition and faith.
"I enjoy the feeling of ... continuity," Kathy explains. It reminds her of God -- unchanging. And steadfast.
"I like the food, too!" she adds.
And Erma -- she enjoys "just simply coming. ... I like the music!" she declares. "The music is my thing!"
Erma's a "swayer." Sunday morning, you can see her rocking back and forth to the happy church tunes. ("You can always hear Erma reading!" Faith adds.)
Speaking of music, who can forget Ada McNeal, their organist from a few years back? Ada's almost a legend in Standing Stone, a well-known musician and one of the community's senior residents.
"She gave a lot of years," Faith says. She still uses some of Ada's music.
And remember: When you're singing ... Get the first word! Nail that first word! Ada always taught that when she led the choir.
Faith praises Rev. Helen, too. You see, she's heard many pastors. "What we have right here in this little church, she's a great deliverer!" Faith states.
Sermons and teaching are "down to earth," she says, and "applicable."
"It hits you so you don't forget it."
Once, for Fourth of July, Pastor Helen even had people set off little popper fireworks as part of the message. "And the kids loved it!" Faith says.
Pastor Helen's an "extremely joyful woman," Kathy adds. "Serves God with joy."
And Pastor Helen's son, Gareth Henderson, built the church sign out front as a Scout project.
Sunday worship begins at 8:45 a.m. and includes a children's message. The church offers vacation Bible school each summer and has a women's group, the United Methodist Women, and a men's club, known for its picnics and pancake suppers.
Every third Sunday, members donate to Towanda Area Christian Outreach food pantry. For Valentine's Day, they give baskets to shut-ins; at Christmas, boxes for Third World kids.
Friday Fun Frolics is new. Kids are invited in for a lesson, craft and game, then parents may stop in for supper. And if you live along River Road -- check by your mailbox for a surprise this Easter week.
The picnic probably will be in July. "We've gotta have our ice cream socials!" Faith declares.
How about an old-fashioned box lunch? "Let's do that!" she cries, excited.
And before Easter, they'll slide the tables into the shape of a cross for the Holy Thursday meal and program. "It calls us to service," Kathy explains.
The worship and meals and projects have lasted a long time. For 150 years.
The church has kept going thanks to "a few good people," Faith says -- almost like the Marines. "We keep trying. ...
"There's a need. Each person has a need," she says. "You need to be with other people that have the same beliefs and needs" -- to talk with those people, and to feel close to God.
And in church, "I think you feel a lot closer to Him."
"We feel uplifted" after church, Ellen says.
And Kathy's learned something: "When you praise, God is there."
This year, Standing Stone United Methodist Church will ring with praise. After 150 years, it's time to celebrate.

Bradford County PA
Chemung County NY
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Published On Tri-Counties Site On 17 AUG 2006
By Joyce M. Tice
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