The story of Methodism in Coalburg is the story, retold on a smaller scale, of Methodism begun by John Wesley many years ago in the English coal fields. Turned away because of his beliefs from the Church of England, Wesley declared the world would be his pulpit. Wesley preached many of his sermons at the coal mines of England as men came from the pits.
Nearer to home, during the prosperous coal mining days of the 1800's, Methodism was again preached to a community of miners. The mining community of Coalburg was first settled in 1801. As the mines grew, so did the town, and eventually more and more immigrants came to Coalburg to work the mines. The Welsh came in 1861, followed by an influx of Jews in 1862, Italians in 1870, Hungarians in 1880, and finally Slovaks in 1888. the miners worked for as little as $2.50 to $3.00 a day.
"Upon this rock I will build my Church." and in 1871 ground was broken and the Coalburg Methodist Church was born. The sanctuary in the first floor-plan was very simple. It boasted a long platform, running the complete width of the building, with one step up to the platform. A long pulpit was built in the center, and a pump organ provided the music. In the center of each side of the building were two big cast iron stoves, that provided some warmth to frozen hands and feet during the cold winter months. Kerosene lamps were bracketed on each window and a kerosene lamp chandelier hung in the center of the ceiling. That very same chandelier still hangs in the church, but now the light is provided by electricity.
Between the years that the first Kerosene Lamps were hung, to the year Coalburg installed electric lighting, Coalburg struggled and grew. In 1921, as membership grew, a committee was appointed to investigate the cost of improving the building. One of the improvements made to the building was the addition of carbide lights.
In 1926 there was a fire at the Church, but no serious damage was done. In the spring of that same year the building was raised, and a basement was dug, creating space for a nursery, kitchen and the pastor's office. The Ladies Aid oversaw the installation of a coal furnace. In the kitchen a three burner stove was also added. As the years went on, so did the growth of the Church. Additions like electricity and a new piano helped to make Coalburg into the church we know today. The large stone, by the road at the foot of the stairs was placed there to be the "one step up" into the entrance of the church prior to all the remodeling that was to follow.
Along with the growing came a little pain. The church was saddled with a heavy mortgage, and the depression years only added to the burden.
The many chicken dinners, bazaars, special offerings, joash boxes, oyster suppers, and door-to-door canvassing was barely enough to pay the interest on the mortgage.
As always, the good Lord provides...
The old parsonage had not been used as such for many years and was being rented. To help pay the Mortgage, it was decided to sell the parsonage. In August of 1932 the parsonage was sold to Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Clark. In 1941 the Church was finally able to pay off it's mortgage
The growth in the church was spiritual, as well as physical and although Coalburg had never had it's own pastor, always being part of a two point charge, the membership however remained faithful. During this period they were able to begin a Vacation Bible School program, and in 1938 Coalburg had it's very first Homecoming service.
In 1949 Coalburg had it's first regular morning service. With the continued growth of the congregation came the need for expansion. In 1954 the basement was extended. In 1956 an upstairs addition was erected to provide classrooms. In 1957 the Sanctuary was remodeled, making it the worshipful place it is today, minus the Estey Electric Organ that was installed in 1958.
In 1960 Rev. Martin Shepard, answering the call of the Lord, gave up his career to take up full time ministry. A house at 6723 Chestnut Ridge Rd. was purchase to accommodate our first, full time pastor.
The years from 1960 until today may have seen the most rapid growth in Coalburg's history. The Church underwent many face lifts and renovations. Not only did the building grow and change, but the congregation of this church in the country, were able to reach many with new programs, and brand new ministries.
In May of 1961 the church purchased the land for our parking lot from Mrs. Harmon DeCota. With this additional land some thought was given to building a new church and parsonage on the land, this idea, however was abandoned.
In 1969, Coalburg celebrated a century of service and ministry. "Upon this rock I will build my Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Matthew 16:18.
In 1980 the church underwent another major face-lift. Upstairs, the Chancel was extended, and downstairs the kitchen space was doubled. In the following year additional land was purchased from Raymond Thomas for parking..
1985 was a year that few in Coalburg will forget. The destruction wrought by a tornado, although devastating, served to unite the community. In the end many of the residents, and the Church were closer and stronger for the experience.
The parsonage was also a victim of the tornado. In that same year, the church, like the community, pulled together and began to rebuild. Rather than rebuild the old Parsonage, a new one was built behind the Church,. It is through the hard work and dedication of many of the members of Coalburg United Methodist Church that we have the beautiful parsonage that exists today.
Always looking to minister to others, Coalburg UMC began a new ministry in 1989. Under the guidance of Marie Silsbe a clowns ministry was born. Today the Coalburg Christian Clowns and Friends are actively spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Directions to Coalburg United Methodist Church