York Town Square

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Mining a rich vein of southwestern York Co.’s religious history – Part II

St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Hanover, Pa. also serves as a mini-museum. One exhibit is this beautiful 19th-century altar. Other posts of interest: Abe Lincoln, Gwyneth Paltrow passed through Porters Sideling and Dutch vs. English? York County debate still perking in 1920s and People of varying religious groups founded York County.

“The 10-mile line between York County’s Spring Grove and Adams County’s Edgegrove bears a rich vein of history.”
That’s how my last York Town Square post about a long tour of southwestern York County sites began.
Here are some specifics about that visit in question-and-answer format, which showed great diversity in the religious sites visited: … .

Q. Why are rose windows in St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Spring Grove, and other churches so named.
A. The colorful St. Paul’s rose window, circular with wooden supports radiating like petals from its center, changes color as the sun passes from east to west over Spring Grove. To avoid vertical roof supports, this beautiful church’s roof is braced with interior hammer beams, which extend out from the walls and up to the roof.
Q. What’s the “meetinghouse” in Bair Mennonite Meetinghouse name mean?
A. Mennonites sometimes call their church buildings meetinghouses. But at Bair, the term took on another meaning as well. In the early years, three Protestant denominations had an unusual arrangement to meet there: Mennonite, German Reformed (now United Church of Christ) and Lutheran. The latter two denominations usually formed what are called union churches so Bair was more crowded by one-third.
Q. How many such traditional union church arrangements are left?
A. The practical partnership in which the two German denominations, Lutheran and Reformed, used a common building dominated towns throughout York County for decades. In the past 50 years, congregations have tended to go their own way. It is believed that two remain – St. Jacob’s “Stone” Church near Glenville and St. Paul’s “Dubs” Church near Codorus State Park.
Q. How do you pronounce Dubs? Does it rhyme with “tubes” or “tubs?”
A. The consensus: Depends on where you live in York County. (Dr. Charles Glatfelter later weighed in. It’s neither. It’s pronounced “dupes,” he said, with a pronounced German accent.)
Q. What was life like at old Camp Pamadeva, the old Penn Grove Campground in Smith Station?
A. One of the original two-story, two-family cabins stands today, a vestige of a rite of summer in which families would go for a week of rest and worship at Penn Grove, latered renamed Pamadeva: Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia. The cabins faced the tabernacle, the still-standing meeting place where Billy Sunday and other notables preached. Summit Grove in New Freedom and Mount Olivet Union near Dillsburg were other such camps.
Q. The massive Austin organ at St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Hanover, about 15,000 pipes strong, has been an interesting point of pride for the congregation for years. What are other points of interest in the current building, the fifth to serve the congregation?
A. A harpsichord joins the organ and piano in a line of sanctuary keyboard instruments. A hallway offers a gallery of artifacts. But the surprise came in a lounge area, where the original church altar dating from 1756 was displayed. The altar, used for Communion, has remained with the church except for a short time in the 20th century. A brochure stated that it is very likely the oldest existing altar from any Lutheran congregation in America.
Q. Why is there an umbrella in the chancel of Conewago Chapel?
A. A red-and-yellow umbrella stands in the altar area of the Edgegrove’s Sacred Heart Basilica, an indication that the building has basilica status. Two symbols — an umbrella and a bell — go with basilicas, churches deemed notable by the pope.
“When the Pope used to travel from his residence to the basilica, a cleric went first ringing an announcement bell,” a church brochure states, “while another waited to escort him (with umbrella) from the carriage to the basilica door.” The umbrella is there in Adams County today, waiting to be used for its first papal visit.