A spawn of Upper Octorara Presbyterian Church, The First United Presbyterian Church of Parkesburg (Parkesburg Presbyterian) will mark its 100th anniversary Sunday, May 7 with a homecoming celebration that, according to Rev. Richard Graugh, "Honors the past, but focuses on the future."

Graugh, one of several long-tenured ministers at the church, has been at the church for 15 years. He and parishioner Betty Wilde, a member of the celebration committee, said the church's longevity can be found in that Parkesburg Presbyterian "is a place to belong... hospitable, traditional, very relaxed," said Graugh.

After separating from the Upper Octorara church, Parkesburg Presbyterian started in a small chapel on Strasburg Avenue, the land donated by Mr. Parke, before relocating to its current location at Main Street and Rosemont Avenue. The chapel is now home to Common Clay Christian Church.

Graugh said the church has a strong community outreach program working with organizations such as Octorara Community that Cares (OCTC) and the Parkesburg Point.

He prides the church on being a family-friendly church with a mixture of younger families and active older members. The Wildes - Betty and her husband Jim live only a stone's throw from the church - are third-fourth generation of the church.

The celebration actually will start Sunday, April 30, with a scavenger hunt that is open to the community, not just members of the church. On Saturday, April 29 they're also taking part in Parkesburg Borough's spring community yard sale.

Its music program is very strong, featuring The Greenwood Singers and the church choir.

Services contain relevant messages that address contemporary living while worshipping God.

Betty Wilde said she sees another of the church's strength in that "the church has always responded in time of need."

The Homecoming Celebration will see the return of Rev. Ed Morren, who was pastor at the church from 1980 to 1989 and now lives in Vermont. The guest speaker will be Rev. Edward "Casey" Jones, associate pastor of Holy Trinity Bethlehem Church.

In a neat "circle of life" moment, Jones was the pastor who baptized Graugh, 47, at Narberth Presbyterian Church. Graugh is a second career pastor, having been a social worker specializing in adoption in Philadelphia prior to joining the seminary. "I was a 30-year old seminary student," he said. He came to Parkesburg Presbyterian in 1991.

"He has shown compassion and leadership," said Wilde of Graugh. "He walks on the level of the parishioners."

"I try to walk with people," said Graugh, adding, "In small churches, ministers need to be also nurturing."

For the next 100 years, the church hopes to have an extension built in the back of the church that will contain a library, choir room and there are plans to make its social hall handicapped accessible.

Also on May 7, a formal, white-linen dinner will be served during which State Rep. Art Hershey will be presenting the church with a plaque.

And, Wilde said that the chapel on Strasburg Avenue would be open from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 6 "for people who want to see where we started."

Wilde also said that throughout the year there would be other activities commemorating the church's 100th anniversary.

"We're such a small church," said Wilde, marveling that the church has survived to deliver the good news for 100 years. "It makes us stop and remember the history and type of church we are.

"We care about people, all walks of life, good and bad," Wilde added. "We cry with people, laugh with people... we're a 'huggie' church." (Graugh attributes the start of the latter to Wilde.)

For that reason, Wilde said, "I believe we're be here for the next 100 years.

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