By Dan Walk
CANAL TOWNSHIP —
After nearly 100 years at Canal Wesleyan Methodist Church, a small congregation in Venango County has decided to build anew.
Tucked in farm country in Canal Township, which borders Crawford County’s Wayne Township, members of the Canal Wesleyan Methodist congregation are readying for the new church’s dedication, which begins Sunday at 10 a.m.
The congregation will start services on Sunday in the old building, which stands adjacent to the new one at 165 Deckards Run Road, Utica. Halfway through the service, churchgoers will walk next door to the new, 8,200-square-foot church that stands several hundred feet away.
The formal dedication will be Sunday at 2:30 p.m. and will feature services from many of the former pastors. That evening at 7, the congregation will share communion in the new place of worship while Rev. Brian Covert, former pastor of Canal, will deliver the sermon. The church’s current pastor is David Cope.
“It’s going to be a real mixture of sadness and excitement,” volunteer and member of the congregation Kelly Crouch said. “We’ll say goodbye and then look toward the future. Also, we’re going to need a box of tissues. Some of the elderly ones attended the church their whole life.”
Ground was broken in June 2012, and construction on the new church started soon after. Many parishioners would come to watch as each step in the building process was made, while many volunteered time to help the project manager, Tim Troyer, who is also part of the congregation.
The construction process took eight months, with the exterior completed in February. Since then, most final additions inside have been ironed out, though the new pews have yet to arrive. Crouch said that a fire occurred at the warehouse in Oklahoma where the pews were made, and that set back the pews’ original delivery date. The new pews are scheduled to arrive Thursday.
“We’re holding our breath on the pews,” Crouch said. “That’s the last thing.”
The congregation spent the past three years fundraising in order to pay for the new church. At least $300,000 was raised and put into the construction.
“We’re not a huge congregation,” said Crouch, who added that the congregation includes 80 to 100 people. “We had people working hard and pulling out a little extra here and there to see it happened.”
The church’s committee decided to build a new church after repairs were getting to be more than was workable. There was mold in the basement and water would sometimes flow in, among other things. The church’s committee finally decided that it would be more expensive for the 99-year-old building to be renovated than to build a new church.
The congregation’s ever-growing size also factored into the new church’s construction. The number of churchgoers had started to outgrow the old building.
“We went back and forth on what was the right thing to do,” Crouch said. “We all have a lot of good memories in the building, but it came down to common sense.”
Did you know?
The Canal Wesleyan Methodist Church congregation was established on Feb. 2, 1849, following a revival meeting held in the area. Original membership was 14.
After worshiping in the school building for a time, the congregation met in the old Baptist Church, located at the junction of what was known as Black Top and Swamp roads.
In 1859, the congregation was able to build a church of its own on a hill located just a little northwest of the present building. The group worshiped there for about 52 years.
On Feb. 13, 1912, the little church on the hill was destroyed by fire. However, a new structure was erected and then dedicated on July 19, 1914.
Ground was broken again in June 2012 for a new church, which will be dedicated on Sunday.