170th Anniversary


Pastor Richard Hays opens the front door of First Presbyterian Church, welcoming visitors to attend their special services celebrating their 170th Anniversary. The church first openedin 1842 and has been at its current location for 10 years. Stephanie Stanley/New Watchman

Waverly’s First Presbyterian Church celebrates 170th anniversary


For the News Watchman


Waverly’s First Presbyterian Church has stood the test of time, celebrating its 170th anniversary of faith sharing and community service this year.

On March 18th, the first of four special services was held at the Schmitt Drive church. The service was held in a style reminiscent of the early days of the church.

“Typical of Presbyterian services in the mid-1800s, the women sat on one side of the church and the men on the other,” said congregation member, Elaine Oser Zingg, of Waverly. “Before each section of worship, a male narrator read a portion of a directory for worship which was printed in 1843. All hymns sung were either taken directly from the Psalms or hymns found in an 1843 hymnal.”

During the March 18th service, a time capsule made by Lew Stratton, of Bristol Village, was unveiled, in addition to a celebratory banner created by Anne Young, of Waverly. Worship was open to the public and a catered dinner followed.

According to Zingg, the morning sermon helped the congregation “examine itself in light of the teachings of Jesus Christ as given in the Beatitudes.”

“Each of the Beatitudes were read and followed by a period of silence and prayer,” said Zingg. “This was considered a preparatory service, and each person received a communion token indicative of his or her approval to receive the sacrament. In the 1800s, only men were church elders, so only male elders served the communion. We didn’t have the customary Sunday bulletins to follow, as the early church wouldn’t have had them. However, at the end of the service, we each received a commemorative bulletin.”

In June, First Presbyterian plans to host a tent revival-style service which will focus on the church’s long history of community service. In September, a homecoming service is planned which will examine education and the church, and the final special service will be held in December, featuring a Cantata performance by the First Presbyterian Choir.

Elaine Oser Zingg serves as a church elder, a chairperson on the church’s finance committee, co-chair of the fellowship committee, leads church school classes, sings in the choir, and has written an extensive church history, which was available during the March 18th service.

First Presbyterian Church was established in 1842, an offshoot of Piketon’s Presbyterian Church which dissolved in 1886. The church was originally located at 122 East North Street, in Waverly.

“The German Evangelical Lutheran congregation also met there from its organization in 1858 until its building was erected in 1860,” said Zingg. “In 1861, Waverly replaced Piketon as Pike County’s seat of government. During the next four years, until the new county courthouse was completed, the common pleas court hearings were held in the Presbyterian church building.”

In 1883, the original structure was rebuilt, and has been remodeled several times since then. The church is currently celebrating its tenth year of worship in the 211 Schmitt Drive church. Church school service begins each Sunday at 9:30 a.m., and worship begins at 10:45 a.m.

Pastor Richard Hays is celebrating his 25th year as pastor of the church, and enjoys the active nature of the congregation.

“This church has always had a lot of good people in it,” said Pastor Hays. “I don’t think they had a full-time pastor until the 1950s. Before that it was a sleepy little congregation.”

First Presbyterian is the only remaining Presbyterian church in Pike County. At one time, five Presbyterian churches were active in the county.

“This congregation grew in numbers during the building of the Piketon plant, and after we were involved in the building of Bristol Village, our numbers increased again,” said Hays. “We currently have 114 members and 70 attend each Sunday. Our congregation falls in the 60 and up age range. Several retired pastors from Bristol Village attend and are part of the program. It’s a very active bunch. For the most part, you don’t have to push this congregation to do things. They come ready-filled with ideas and a lot of skills.”

First Presbyterian has always been very active in the community. In the 1950s, the church held Sunday School programs at Zahn’s Corner. In the 1960s and 1970s, the church worked in East Jackson Township,as well as in Western Pike County. In the late 90s and early 2000s, a third-grade tutorial program was held by the church.

“We have been very blessed with the kinds of things this ministry has done in the county over the years,” said Pastor Hays.

The Pike County Outreach Council has been included in the church’s budget since its founding, as the Presbyterian denomination was active in its formation. In addition, the church financially supports Bridgehaven and Welfare House.

“We collect canned goods for and provide volunteers at the Pike County Food Pantry,” said Zingg. “Every year, we provide walkers and funds to the CROP walk. We also support Pike Gardeners Unlimited.”

Zingg was raised in the Presbyterian faith, and says she enjoys its “order of worship.”

“I enjoy the adult Christian education program at this church,” said Zingg. “The women’s circles provide excellently prepared Bible lessons, members of the congregation are very supportive of each other, and the church is very active in community outreach.”

In Pastor Hays’ view, the church’s congregational appeal and staying power is attributed to the traditional Presbyterian style of service.

“We use an organ and have a choir of 18-20 people. It isn’t a contemporary service, and we don’t have a praise band,” said Hays. “We use hymnals and sing hymns, some of which are no longer in circulation. This group likes four-part harmony and traditional hymns. Ours is a service that is comfortable for the people who attend, because it is the same type of service they grew up with a couple of generations ago.”


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Photos provide from Stephanie Stanley