Linwood Brethren Church is celebrating its annual homecoming service Sunday, the 69th year that the congregation has invited former members to return and renew their ties to the old church on the hill above the small community.
"Always the homecoming service is something special, with the former pastors coming back," said Reva Blacksten, 80, a Clear Ridge resident who has been attending the service almost as long as it has been in existence.
The church has a homecoming because, "People move away. A lot of times people will marry and go with their mate to their church. But Linwood is where they grew up going to church," said the Rev. Robert Keplinger.
The church began with a Sunday school that met in the Linwood lumberyard in 1896. A group organized as a Brethren congregation in 1903 and built a church in 1905.
Linwood Church members welcomed Mrs. Blacksten's family, who came to the community from Virginia in 1924. She grew up in the church and married Roger Blacksten, a farmer she met at a church oyster supper. The couple brought up their three children in the church.
In the homecoming services of Mrs. Blacksten's memory, the day included three worship services. A former minister usually officiated at the morning service, which was followed by lunch and an afternoon service.
Farmers would leave after the afternoon service to milk the cows, then return to church for a dinner before the evening service, she recalled.
Theodore McKeldin came to homecoming at the church while he was mayor of Baltimore. He also attended frequently from 1951 to 1959, when he was governor, Mrs. Blacksten said. Mr. McKeldin came because he was a friend of the Rev. Freeman Ankrum, a former pastor of the church, she said.
The program for homecoming this year will include a morning service, lunch and an afternoon service with music by the Strawbridge United Methodist Church children and youth choir and "Seven Plus One," seven singing Lions Club members from the New Windsor area and their accompanist.
The offering from the afternoon service will be earmarked for a new roof for the church, scheduled for installation early in 1996. Mr. Keplinger said the congregation would like to build a new pavilion on the grounds to accommodate more people at picnics.
But the church also needs a new well.
Church membership is 135, with average attendance this year of 100, said Mr. Keplinger, who is in his 11th year as pastor.