Our Heritage

In 2013 CUMC was formed through the unification of Allison, First and Grace UMCs in Carlisle. As CUMC was formed we took time to reflect, share and honor the tradition of the three separate churches.

Each of the three churches represented the three main strains that became United Methodists: Evangelical, Methodist and United Brethren.

The founders made sure the three congregations flourished in the 19th and 20th centuries. Now we as their heirs have the opportunity to honor their efforts and a responsibility to continue their work in presenting the Gospel to the Carlisle area.

heritage videos

In 2013 videos were produced to share the heritage of each congregation.

Grace Church (Dick Ocker)
First Church (Grace Long)
Allison Church (Debbi Goeltsch)
Why I became a member (Grace Church - Ken Kurtz)
Why I became a member (First Church - Katherine King)
Why I became a member (Allison Church - Chuck Bassett)
Vision of yesterday and today (Allison Church - Jim Boytim)
Vision of yesterday and today (Grace Church - Jeff Barnes)
Vision of yesterday and today (First Church - Jack King)

Heritage Newspaper Articles

In March 2013, The Sentinel (Carlisle's newspaper), highlighted our three congregations. The following pieces are not intended to be comprehensive histories o the three congregations that combined to form CUMC. Rather, the focus is on the shared heritage of the congregations and on their successful struggles with adversity.

the heritage of first umc

Jacob Albright had no intention of launching his own church.  But that's what happened, thanks to something echoed even today in the so-called "English-only movement."

Albright, a Lancaster County evangelist, was devoted to Methodist theology and the Methodist form of worship in the 1790s. He preached those ideas to the German-speaking residents of Pennsylvania and as far away as Virginia, according to Kenneth R. Good's "The Life and Times of Jacob Albright" on the website of Albright College in Reading.

But when Methodist leaders refused to sanction Albright's efforts because he was preaching in German, a separate movement was born. What initially was known as "The Newly Formed Methodist Conference" evolved into the Evangelical Association, which established a congregation in Carlisle immediately after the Civil War.

Now, nearly 150 years later, the congregation has merged with two others to form Carlisle United Methodist Church.

That probably would have pleased Albright, who died in 1808. Good wrote that the Methodist "Discipline and Articles of Faith were always the guide to Albright’s religious policies, even though he no longer had an official relationship to the Methodist Church."

english preferred language

The Evangelical Association had enough members in Cumberland County by 1833 that it formed a "Cumberland Charge," but it took another two decades to establish a church in the county seat.

Carlisle's Evangelical Church arose from an 1865 request to the denomination's conference for a "mission" in the borough. The conference minutes from that year included the following:

"Our friends in Carlisle, Pa. desire an English mission as soon as we we are able to supply them; therefore, revolved, that we take up a mission and send a missionary as soon as we can raise the funds necessary...."

A "mission station" wasn't set up till 1867 in Rheems Hall, the old Sentinel building just off the Square, according to "Centennial History: First Evangelical United Brethren Church." But in the meantime about a dozen people had formed a congregation.

Of special note is that the 1865 request to the conference was for an "English mission" in Carlisle. Members of the fledgling congregation realized that the future of the church would not include use of the German language -- but that was long after Albright and Methodist leaders had parted ways. A reunion with the Methodists would have to wait for another century.

In1868 the Carlisle congregation bought West Louther Street land that now serves as the post office's parking lot and, in May 1870/ St. Paul's Evangelical Church was dedicated. By 1879 the congregation had grown to about 150 members, according to the "Centennial History."

However, turmoil nearly destroyed the congregation in the early 1890s, when the Evangelical Association fragmented. Some congregations, including Carlisle's, left to form the United Evangelical Church. Walter Vernon's "Methodist Minutes," written in 1984 in celebration of the American Methodist Bicentennial, said "the disagreements concerned ... use of German vs. English" along with "sectional feelings, growth of Episcopal authority, rivalries for the office of bishop and tendencies for and against greater democracy in church life."

First Church's "Centennial History" referred to an "unfortunate breach in the denomination through which the congregation was obliged to abandon its church property under a court order" in 1894. The Carlisle building was sold to the Church of God.

boom times

But Carlisle's Evangelical congregation came back from this near-death experience with a spirited vengeance.

The "Centennial History" said the congregation worshiped "for a time" at Union Fire Company's quarters across Louther Street from its former church. Then, in 1896, trustees of what now was known as First United Evangelical Church took title to an East North Street lot near Bedford Street and, by January 1897. A quickly growing congregation had a house of worship constructed there. Its membership had swelled to 275, the "Centennial History" said.

Phenomenal growth continued in the following decades, and in 1916 and again in 1926 the church expanded.

The latter project, which focused on Sunday school facilities, may have drawn inspiration from a Columbus Day merger. "Happily, the unpleasantness of 1894 was healed by a merger of the two Evangelical bodies on Oct. 12, 1922," the "Centennial History" said.

By 1939 First Church membership had risen to 800 and Sunday school enrollment was 1,075, it added. In1955 First Church exceeded the 1,000-member mark, as 106 people were received into church fellowship that year, according to the "Centennial History."

"I think we had the biggest congregation in Carlisle at that time," remembered Bob Hench in a 2009 video produced by the congregation.

"One Sunday we had 1300 in Sunday school," added Roy Miller in the same video.

The Sunday school rooms were so crowded many children didn't have seats and had to stand around the tables during the classes, they said.

workers killed

In 1946 the evangelical church merged with the church of the united brethren in christ, a denomination also founded by german-american admirers of methodism in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. but no move was made to unite first church with grace united brethren at the intersection of west and pomfret streets, as both carlisle congregations were flourishing.

Indeed, with an eye toward expansion, what was then known as First Evangelical United Brethren Church began buying adjoining properties in 1949 as they came on the market.

Groundbreaking service for a greatly expanded church came in 1957. Construction of a new sanctuary and remodeling of the old structure were completed in 1959, and the dedication service was May 24 of that year.

The new sanctuary seated up to 600, and hundreds more could be accommodated when folding doors were opened, according to the "Centennial History."

But the project came at great cost. On the morning of June 20, 1958, the 40-year-old foreman of a construction crew and a 45-year-old laborer were electrocuted during a soaking rain while using a crane to unload limestone from a truck for the church exterior.

"The two were standing in water and, as the crane swung to within three feet of the high-tension wires, a bolt of electricity jumped to the crane and followed the heavy wire down to the wet limestone," the Sentinel reported in that afternoon's edition. "The two men were holding onto the limestone to guide it into the unloading zone."

One of the victims sat up after being hurled to the ground by the electrical jolt but then lost consciousness, the newspaper reported.

The two Carlisle men were declared dead on arrival at Carlisle Hospital.

"I remember it was during the week of Vacation Bible School," said Grace Long in the 2009 video, which was produced to mark the 50th anniversary of the enlarged church. "There were a lot of children at the church at the time."

Indeed, the Monday, June 23, 1958, Sentinel reported that First Church Vacation Bible School Director Hazel Lackey had told the congregation at the previous day's worship service that the enrollment was 186 children, "a record for the school." 

another merger

The "Centennial History," which was published in 1966, said church membership then stood at 1,150.

That may have been the high-water mark of the congregation, as changes in the neighborhoods around the church along with changes in society in general had a vast adverse impact. A booklet published in recognition of the congregation's 125th anniversary included the following:

"This period of our history (1966-1991) has seen an increasing secularization of society which has affected the life and growth of the church, resulting in divided loyalties and a decrease in church membership and Sunday School attendance.... There seemed to be less concern for the things of the spirit..."

By then the church's name had changed yet again, to First United Methodist, with the 1968 merger of the Evangelical United Brethren and Methodist denominations.

Now Carlisle's three United Methodist congregations -- First from the Evangelical tradition, Grace from the United Brethren tradition and Allison from the Methodist tradition -- have combined forces in an effort to renew Carlisle residents' "concern for the things of the spirit," the fuss over German vs. English having long been forgotten.

heritage of allison umc

Methodist worshipers and Dickinson College have had a close but complicated relationship through much of Carlisle's history.

And the latest twist continues that pattern. On July 1 the liberal-arts college assumed ownership of Allison United Methodist Church, 99 Mooreland Ave., and the Allison congregation joined with those of First United Methodist and Grace United Methodist to form Carlisle United Methodist Church. The merged congregation's home is the Grace campus at the northeast corner of West and Pomfret Streets -- a site that played a key role in the Dickinson-Methodist saga.

In the early 1850s a college-oriented faction split from the downtown Methodist church to form Carlisle's second Methodist congregation, which built Emory Chapel on that corner. For years afterward the future of both congregations seemed in doubt. Funding for the chapel came primarily from college funds, wrote Warren Gates in a 1991 publication entitled "Allison Trail of History." Odors prevail on 'Methodist Alley' Carlisle's Methodist movement was launched following famed circuit rider Francis Asbury's first visit to Carlisle in 1789, Gates wrote.

In March 1792 Carlisle's "Methodist Society," which may have been meeting in the courthouse, markethouse or members' homes, purchased a lot at the corner of South Pitt Street and an alley now known as Chapel Avenue between Pomfret and South streets. The society built a tiny one-story structure there. It served as Carlisle's Methodist Episcopal Church till 1815, when a two-story 45- by 60-foot brick church was constructed on land now occupied by a parking lot along Church Avenue between South Pitt and South Hanover streets. The structure stood not far from what is now the rear of Carlisle Theatre. This was a much larger church -- but it wasn't good enough once Dickinson College changed from Presbyterian to Methodist sponsorship in 1833. The local congregation was struggling at the time. A letter from Bishop John Emory said the Methodist movement was "feeble in Carlisle... having lost her strength by emigration." "Boisterous behavior in the alley during services was at times disruptive," Gates wrote. "And nearby stables were offensive." A publication entitled "History of the Methodist Church in Carlisle, 1792-1954," written by Ruth White, added some details: "The appeal of early Methodism was always to the poor and unfortunate, and the congregation and their associates would in the nature of things have afforded less decorum than was desired." In short, this church in a smelly, noisy, narrow alley had little appeal to admirers of ivory towers. White wrote that once Dickinson came under sponsorship of the Methodist Church conferences of Baltimore and Philadelphia, the Carlisle church "was used for college ceremonial occasions, and one reporter complained bitterly that the college president 'had to be inaugurated in a Methodist alley'" in 1834. The next year the congregation was persuaded to move to the borough's main thoroughfare, High Street. The decision to buy the German Reformed congregation's old church on the southeast corner of West High and South Pitt streets "was encouraged by indications that supporters of the college outside Carlisle would contribute to the relocation," Gates wrote. The college subsequently used that structure for matriculation, baccalaureate, commencement and so forth, Gates wrote, adding the college literary societies used the church hall for public functions. But the Methodist movement continued to appeal to people of all stations in life, including uneducated laborers and plowboys, and conflicts were inevitable. One can only imagine the college community's reaction to revival services popular soon after the move to the High Street structure.

Professional lecturer and travel writer James Silk Buckingham came to Carlisle in February 1840 and wrote about a crowded revival service at the church on a Tuesday evening: "I had seen the Howling Dervishes in Turkey, the Faqueers and Pilgrims in India and Arabia, the Santons in Egypt and Syria, the Ranters and Jumpers in England and the Shakers in America, but among them all, I never witnessed more of convulsive excitement, and religious frenzy, than at this Methodist revival in Carlisle."

That observation was prompted by attendees' reaction to a fire-and-brimstone preacher.

"On the front bench... were young females, occupying what is called 'the anxious seat,' most of them in convulsions," Buckingham wrote. "From every part of the upper half of the church... were proceeding loud and discordant sounds, amounting almost to yells. At least 20 different persons were engaged in loud prayer at the same time, some on their knees and some standing, with their arms extended upward, and vociferating at the top of their voices, the females alternately sobbing and groaning...."

I’m not sure of the significance of the boxes between sentences?  It seems like they shouldn’t be there!

College ties repaired Gates wrote of "town-gown differences over the use of the church and recriminations concerning church trustees' management of financial matters." That led to the split in which 78 Methodists with college ties left to found Emory Chapel, named in memory of Robert Emory, the second Methodist president of Dickinson College. The split nearly led to the end of the High Street congregation. "During the Panic of 1857 the church was offered for sale but bids for it were considered too low," Gates wrote. White referred to "a constant dealing with petty debts and grubbing for money to make necessary repairs, always a little tardily," during the first several decades of the church. Somehow the congregation held on, though repeated efforts at reunification failed for more than two decades, as the Dickinson group rejected the idea of worshiping in the High Street structure with the so-called "downtown Methodists."

"The church was dark and severely plain and men sat on one side and the women on the other," wrote Mary Dillon in the April 22, 1908, edition of The Dickinsonian. She grew up worshiping at Emory Chapel.

But by the 1870s the Emory Chapel membership had fallen to 52 in comparison to the High Street congregation's 175, prompting the Dickinson group to reconsider, Gates wrote. He added that reunification may have been conditioned on the 1875 decision to demolish the High Street church and replace it on the same corner with a two-story structure that came to be known as Centenary Church in honor of America's 100th birthday.

By 1880 the congregation had grown to 286. But the new church still failed to please everyone. "Recollections of persons who worshiped there suggest that the interior was relatively stark," Gates wrote.

Lingering resentment also may have come into play. In the 1908 Dickinsonian article, Dillon wrote that "children are naturally little snobs," referring to her young self and others at Emory Chapel. "We were so in the habit of looking down on the 'town children' that the iron entered my soul, at least, when I was forced to accept their hospitality in their church home."

After 12 years of service, the congregation sold Centenary Church for $6,000 to a business concern "as plans developed to move closer to the growing Dickinson College campus," Gates wrote. Part of the old church was transformed into the borough post office,

1st Allison Church built For three years the congregation worshiped in the second-floor auditorium of Dickinson's Bosler Hall at High and College streets while the new church was constructed a block away. The new church was built on the southwest corner of the intersection of High and West Streets on a lot formerly occupied by a warehouse. Church pastor at the time was the Rev. William Evans, a Dickinson College trustee and the father of a woman who had just graduated from Dickinson. Evans "conceived the project as important not merely to local parishioners but as a denominational responsibility to the college," Gates wrote. The pastor "successfully sought funds from lay and clerical sources." One of those sources was William Clare Allison, new Dickinson trustee and Philadelphia rail-car manufacturer. He died before he followed through on a promise to contribute, but his widow gave a $10,000 gift that prompted the congregation to name the structure the William Clare Allison Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church. Gates wrote that the total cost of the land, church, parsonage and "equipment" amounted to $50,576, with $24,800 of that raised outside Carlisle. In marked contrast to its first hundred years, the congregation found itself free of debt when the new church was dedicated March 6, 1892, White wrote. She added that the first wedding in the new church united Mr. and Mrs. William Clare Allison's grandson, a Dickinson graduate also named William Clare Allison, and Lenore Mullin of Mt. Holly Springs.

2nd Allison Church built A furnace-room fire on Jan. 20, 1954, led to the destruction of the first Allison Church. Within 10 days, "specific plans for reconstruction were under way," White wrote. Dickinson's Bosler Hall again served as interim home of the congregation. Since its first move in 1815 the Methodist congregation had been inching closer and closer physically to Dickinson. Now the congregation accepted the college’s offer to move onto the campus itself. "By an exchange of land Dickinson College acquired the old church site and church house" at High and West streets while the congregation "received title to a choice plot of campus land" along Mooreland Avenue, Gates wrote . In a November 2008 sermon, the Rev. Thomas Maurer, then pastor of the church, said a factor in agreeing to relocate there "involved the availability of more parking for Allison, since there was already a small parking lot at the location. The move would reduce the limitations imposed by street parking only.” The new structure was designed to "comfortably accommodate weekday religious chapel services of the college as well as matriculation, baccalaureate and other pubic services for which the college had customarily used church facilities," Gates wrote, adding "the sanctuary would be much larger than that required by the congregation." The designed capacity exceeded 750 when temporary seating was set up.

Gates wrote that the new structure's exterior walls "combined many tons of limestone salvaged from the fire-ravaged church with freshly quarried stone from sources used by the college in its buildings." The new church was occupied and consecrated in April 1958 with an abbreviated name, Allison Methodist Church. "Episcopal" had been dropped in 1939 when the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and most congregations of the Methodist Protestant Church reunited to form the Methodist Church. And the Carlisle congregation dropped "William Clare" and "Memorial" from the name for the new structure. The cost was about $878,200, with Dickinson contributing more than $202,000, Gates wrote. But then came the '60s, when the college ended mandatory Tuesday morning chapel services and increased its enrollment far beyond Allison Church's capacity. The college and the church subsequently grew apart, though Dickinson College President William Edel delivered the sermon in the January 1967 dedication service marking the clearing of all debt for the new structure. Gates wrote that the college continued holding baccalaureate services at Allison till 1983, when they were moved to the college's then-new Kline Life/Sports Learning Center along High Street. Now the college is buying the church for $1.7 million and the congregation moved to the corner once occupied by Emory Chapel and its Dickinson-related Methodist parishioners. The chapel is long gone, of course. After use by Dickinson College's grammar school and then by Dickinson School of Law, the property was sold to the Grace United Brethren congregation, which tore down the chapel and completed a new structure there in 1921. Grace became a United Methodist church in 1968 upon the merger of the Evangelical United Brethren and Methodist denominations. Dickinson's plans for the Allison structure include college events, guest speakers, student presentations, meetings, ecumenical worship and office space.

the heritage of grace umc

It took nearly 100 years for the Church of the United Brethren in Christ to find fertile soil in Carlisle. The United Brethren Church, as it was better known, already had established roots among Cumberland County’s German immigrants and their families when the denomination was formally organized in 1800. But it wasn’t until the late 1840s that a United Brethren congregation formed in the county seat – and that congregation withered soon afterward when its leaders left town. It took till nearly the end of that century for the denomination to establish a new congregation in Carlisle. For more than 90 years the congregation’s descendants were headquartered at Grace United Methodist Church, one of the largest houses of worship in the borough. Now the campus serves as the first home of Carlisle United Methodist Church, as Grace and two other congregations merged July 1. Early union considered The United Brethren trace their beginnings to 18th century frontier revivals led by German Reformed minister Philip William Otterbein and Mennonite preacher Martin Boehm, according to the United Methodist Church’s website,www.umc.org. Otterbein was close to Francis Asbury, the English immigrant who became the most important figure in early American Methodism, and in December 1784 the German immigrant assisted in Asbury’s ordination at the “Christmas conference” that marked the official launch of America’s Methodist Episcopal Church. 

The Methodists and United Brethren first considered merging shortly after the turn of the 19th century, umc.org says. But disagreements about a written discipline, among other things, kept the denominations from union for about 165 years. Iowa beckons A booklet published in commemoration of Grace Church’s 100th anniversary said the United Brethren’s early leaders came from “a rural people and made little effort to establish churches in more populous areas.” But in 1843 a retired farmer and United Brethren preacher from Lancaster County bought several farms along Letort Spring Run just east of Carlisle and built a brick church with a large basement “used for school purposes,” according to a booklet entitled “Souvenir and Directory – Grace United Brethren Church, 1893-1908.” 

The structure later was used exclusively for education and was known as Harmony Hall School. But in its early days it was the scene of revival meetings that attracted many Carlisle residents who were “happily converted,” the booklet said, adding: “Thus the seed of United Brethrenism was sown in Carlisle.” Starting in 1847 a congregation “with about 30 converts” was established in Carlisle, initially holding prayer meetings in private homes, the booklet said. Another booklet, 1903’s “Tenth Anniversary Souvenir and Directory – Grace United Brethren Church,” said by the 1850s a six-man board of trustees was assigned the task of buying a lot and building a church.

“But all at once, to mar our joy, a western fever became epidemic in this region and most of our families in good temporal circumstances sold out and went to Muscatine and other points of Iowa,” the booklet said. Church established As United Brethren members moved into town from rural areas in the following decades, pressure mounted on the denomination's leaders to try again. In 1892, under the authority of the Pennsylvania Conference of the United Brethren, a pastor assigned to Newville and West Hill in West Pennsboro Township began raising money for a Carlisle church. He arranged for a loan and purchased a building site at 24 W. South St., occupied in modern times by a paint store.

Seventeen charter members gathered for the first formal service on May 10, 1893, less than a block away in the 9 E. South St. home of the Rev. W. J. Houck, who had been assigned as the first pastor of the new flock. The church built on the West South Street lot was dedicated Jan. 14, 1894, and was used till March 21, 1921. The fledgling congregation was not blessed with abundant financial resources. Some of the construction materials came from an abandoned United Brethren church in Churchtown and from the denomination’s Newville church, which was razed, according to the old Grace booklets. The Jan. 17, 1894, edition of the American Volunteer newspaper of Carlisle reported that among the donors who helped pay for construction of the South Street house of worship was Allison Methodist Episcopal Church – forerunner of one of the congregations merging with Grace this summer. Once Grace Church opened, the congregation multiplied rapidly. The June 1, 1903, edition of the Sentinel reported the membership had swelled to 310 in its first decade. About 14 years later the congregation purchased the old Emory Chapel, once owned by one of the Methodist congregations that united to form Allison Church. After razing the old chapel at the corner of West and Pomfret streets, the congregation constructed the first part of a church complex, the Sunday School and Chapel wing, in 1920-21.

And that was just the beginning of construction efforts in a complex that eventually was extended all the way back to Church Avenue and east onto lots formerly housing Goodwill Fire Co. and apartments. Great Depression challenging Perhaps the most daunting part of the expansion process was construction of the familiar domed sanctuary in 1929-30. In a 1993 booklet entitled “100th Anniversary Grace United Methodist Church,” Robert B. Lutz wrote that the stock market crash of 1929 came just one month after the cornerstone-laying ceremony for the sanctuary. “The debt was not large by today’s standards, but it was awesome to the members of the church in the ’30s during the Depression,” he wrote. He credited “the labors of the women” for the congregation’s success in paying the mortgage. “Turkey dinners, corn and bean soup suppers, and pork and sauerkraut dinners were a few of the fund-raisers,” he wrote. “Remember the A-frame blackboard with the menu in chalk outside the church doors on West Street?” The frequent fund-raisers were not universally acclaimed. “Some other churches and Christians criticized us for using ‘sinners’ money’ to pay off the church, but it was a great Sunday evening service when the mortgage was burned,” Lutz wrote. Marie Ruhl also told of the fund-raisers in the same booklet. “Everyone worked hard” at the soup sales, she wrote.

“The men would husk dozens and dozens of ears of corn” and “helped to prepare the vegetables for the soup. The ladies would cook the chickens and beef and finally put the soup together.” Meals were served beginning at 11 a.m., she wrote, as “this was when the lunch crowd started to appear, starting with a lot of the Bowman store employees.” Bowman Department Store in the first block of South Hanover Street was Carlisle’s biggest retail establishment then. She also told of the women’s pork and sauerkraut dinners on the first Saturday of every December. “It would take several days for the church to become deodorized” after the dinners, she wrote. Each Sunday School class raised money for the building fund, presenting gifts at an annual Rally Day event that she termed “one of the highlights of the Sunday school year.” Classes vied to raise the most money and to present those gifts in the most unusual manner. “One of the classes that met on the balcony (of the sanctuary) gave a fishing rod to the minister, who stood on the pulpit,” she wrote of one such effort. “A line led to a basket on the balcony, and he was instructed to start reeling. Pinned to the line were dollar bills, and he proceeded to reel in several hundred dollars.” Churches merge Through such enterprise the congregation weathered the Great Depression, then saw the United Brethren denomination join in 1946 with the Evangelical denomination to form the Evangelical United Brethren (EUB) Church.

In 1968 the EUB and Methodist denominations joined to form the United Methodist Church. That merger came a year after Grace had completed its next expansion project, an extensive renovation of the existing buildings and the addition of a Christian education wing.

One last project, completed in 2001, added a multipurpose room, library, several Sunday school rooms and an elevator.

The expansions left Grace Church in the best position to serve as interim home of Carlisle United Methodist Church, as the Grace congregation combined with those from First United Methodist and Allison United Methodist to tackle the challenges of the 21st century.

Church leaders are searching for a site for a new complex that will accommodate the combined congregations.