If Walls Could Talk
Ray and I have spent many hours studying the history of Westwood Community Church this year. And what an incredible history it is! But there are also many details missing, information lost in fire and disagreement. So for the first time I have wished that walls could talk. Just think what they could tell.
They could tell of the Henkle family and others who lovingly shaped them into this beautiful place of worship. They were very dedicated and motivated by a desire for a place of worship of their own.
The walls could tell of the excitement when the first service was held, of people who drove down the wagon trail from Alsea to join in the service. Greasy Creek Road that currently runs in front of the church is where that trail originally ran.
They could tell of people stopping to water their horses in the creek and resting before traveling on to Philomath or Corvallis.
The walls could tell of young students from the College in Philomath filling the pulpit. I can imagine the excitement and nervousness of sharing the word of God with a congregation, often for the first time.
The walls could tell of people sharing and reading their Bibles by candle light or lantern,. the scent of melting wax or maybe kerosene in the air. As many as five Sunday School classes met in the small sanctuary at one time. No complaints of inconvenience were heard. They were considerate of each other, and very thankful to have this room. The people had little, but shared all they could to help each other. They were a family and a community.
The walls could tell of young men going away to war, of the cry of a motherís heart and a fatherís prayer. How many prayers have been brought here to implore for the safety of loved ones? The walls would know. And then there were reunions as some returned home. They must have yearned for home and family and the safety of these walls.
The walls might be able to tell of special speakers such as Milton Wright, father of Orville and Wilbur Wright. He was involved in establishing many small churches as well as the college at Sublimity.
The walls could tell of good times and bad. There is no record of this church splitting, but other did, as well as the college. A split formed the New and the Old Constitution churches of the Brethren. This was a new constitution church. There is still one church in town that is affiliated with the old constitution. It is one of the last in the West.
The walls could tell of when the piano was placed in the church. The date inside is 1878. The organ was donated later by the Best family. They could tell when the pulpit was built. There is a date underneath, 1902.
We could hear about the cold weather and the old pot belly stove that had to be lit early so it would be warm when church started. It was later replaced by an oil stove, and more recently an electric furnace.
The walls could tell of the day the land they stood on was sold to Wilson Scott. He then donated it back to the congregation.
The walls and the ceiling could tell when the Coleman gas lamps were brought in. The date on them is May 13, 1919. George Best, who has been a member for 75 years, remembers that light would die down during the services and he would hear the distinct whoosh, whoosh sound as they were pumped up. Then they would glow brighter for awhile. They were replaced by electricity after W.W. II.
The walls could tell of when the United Brethren decided to sell the building. The congregation continued to meet at the Pleasant Valley School. There was a happy celebration when they were able to buy back their church for $100 dollars. They had to borrow the first $50, then people contributed what they could. The last little bit needed was covered by depleting the Sunday School funds. The building was paid for on July 1,1928. The checks written will be on display at the church along with the deed. Eventually there came a need for extra room. A kitchen and two small class rooms were added .
The walls could tell of when the trailer was added to the back and a bathroom was put in-- a convenience I am sure. The walls could tell of one day when George Best decided that something was missing, so he built a cross and placed it on the bell tower. This year he replaced it. It will serve many years. It will be a reminder of George, but especially a reminder of Christ who is the base on which all of this was built.
The walls could tell when the bell was first placed on the building. We still enjoy ringing it on Sunday mornings.
The walls could tell when the well was dug by Ray Gellatly. That must have been handy too.
The walls could tell how many times they were painted. They could tell of the hours put in by Ed Clapper as he refinished the pews and painted the stained glass windows. They are a true treasure. The windows used to open and were so heavy that weights were used to keep them in place. We still have those too. I can imagine the breeze blowing through and rustling the pages of Bibles.
The roof was made of hand hewn shingles. In the thirties it was covered by a composition roof. Some of the roof will be replaced this year.
The walls could tell of the sound of feet, big and small on the old fir floors. In 1976,
the Best family donated carpet and placed it in the sanctuary.
The walls could tell of basket lunches, games of horseshoes and ball in the yard. And they would remember baptisms in the creek. They could tell of Christmases when the church was decorated, and Christmas Eve services. Then there are the Easter services and breakfasts, egg hunts, Mothers Day, Fathers Day, 4th of July, community sings, now replaced by an ice cream social and outdoor concert, and Vacation Bible School.
The walls could tell how many people have found the Lord here, How many were called to ministry, how many songs have been sung, and how many prayers have been prayed.
A newspaper article in 1928 stated that ďmemories have been established here that will always endure, and memories so sacred, that the hand of commercialism or sacrilege dare not touch or attempt to destroy.Ē The church is an influence in this farm community just by itís very presence here.
Christy Mabee, 2004