June 27, 2016

Mostly cloudy

Litchfield Baptist celebrates 175 years

Religion Editor

LITCHFIELD TWP. — When a group of 13 people decided to organize as Litchfield Baptist Church in 1833, they chose 2 Chronicles 7:12 as their dedication verse: “And the Lord ap-peared to Solomon by night, and said unto him, I have heard thy prayer, and have chosen this place for myself as an house of sacrifice.” (KJV)

Like most early congregations, the settlers, who came from Litchfield, Conn., met in homes until they built a meeting house a mile east of the center in 1835. Elder Asa Strait served as the first pastor.

When fire destroyed the building and church records in 1846, members once again held worship services in homes, most often at Brother Cyrus Matteson’s, as well as the school house and the Congregational and Methodist churches. The Rev. J.V.K. Seeley and C.B. Chappell bought property for a new church in 1847 on the circle for $115.

Thirteen years later, led by the Rev. William Wood, deacons and members rolled up their sleeves to raise a New England-style building. “The Story of Litchfield” quotes an earlier historical account by Mrs. C.R. Canfield, who said: “After thirteen years of struggle and discouragement this church was dedicated to the worship of God. A former minister has well said, ‘The Master alone knows the sacrifice and prayers that made up those years of struggle.’

“On the flyleaf of an old church Bible is found this entry: ‘This house was dedicated July 8, 1860. Cost, $2,475.86.’ That was an enormous sum of money to be raised in those days, and it represented the toil, privation and resoluteness of those sturdy Christian men and women.”

The writer who contributed the section on Litchfield Township for the 1948 “History of Medina County” wrote: “Here the church has remained to be an influence for good during the hundred years of its existence.”

As the congregation continued to grow and the property on the circle lacked room for expansion, the church built on two acres of land acquired from the Stanley Biggs family at 4022 Avon Lake Road. The congregation celebrated with a dedication service Nov. 17, 1957.

The Rev. David Shimp, who has served the church as pastor for 45 years, said it has been a Bible-preaching church throughout its 175 years in existence.

Litchfield Baptist will celebrate its anniversary with the Rev. Walter Spieth of LaGrange as guest speaker at the 11 a.m. service Nov. 23. A special Thanksgiving meal will follow worship.

Totts may be reached at 330-721-4063 or religion@ohio.net.