MOUNTAIN TOP — At 84, Archie Weyhenmeyer is almost as old as St. Martin-in-the-Fields — the Episcopal church where he snuffed candles as a young acolyte on Sundays and weeded nearby rows of vegetables the rest of the week.
His grandparents Eli and Margery Weyhenmeyer donated some of their farmland so the field-stone church could be built and today Weyhenmeyer and his wife, Harriet, are helping to plan a celebration for the church’s 90th anniversary.
The 90th anniversary of the church’s first service will take place on Sunday, junior warden Janeann Lokken said, and that day will be devoted to a 10 a.m. Easter worship service. The 90th anniversary of the church’s consecration is July 4, and that will be the day for a reunion-style party, Lokken said.
The picturesque church, located on Church Road near the Nuangola exit of Interstate 81, was built in 1927, well before the Interstate came along in the 1960s.
“Transportation then wasn’t what it is today,” Weyhenmeyer said, explaining that most, if not all, of the early worshippers lived nearby.
A yellowed newspaper clipping describes how the church’s founders — Mr. and Mrs. Archie Childs, Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Emery, Mr. and Mrs. William Stivers and Mr. and Mrs. Eli Weyhenmeyer — wanted to construct a church because they were outgrowing their previous meeting place at the home of the Fred S. Pettit family.
A handwritten document from the 1920s names early benefactors, listing dime store magnate F.M. Kirby as giving $2,500, a “Miss Gordon” as giving $5 and a “Mrs. Burns” as giving $1.
One Sammie Decker, who contributed $5, was not a member of the church, Weyhenmeyer said, but a huckster who peddled goods to families in the area.
T. Somers Newman of Wilkes-Barre designed the building, which has a vaulted ceiling, room for about 80 people to sit comfortably, and some striking stained glass windows.
One window depicts the church’s namesake, St. Martin-in-the-Fields, a soldier who divided his own cloak to share it with a beggar. Church rector the Rev. Daniel Fitzsimmons said, according to legend, St. Martin later had a dream in which the beggar appeared to him as Jesus Christ, wearing the cloak. St. Martin became known as a patron saint of soldiers and of the poor.
In keeping with St. Martin’s compassionate spirit, Fitzsimmons said, “The Episcopal Church has always been welcoming. It’s a place you can be safe and be who you are.”
To symbolize that welcome, the Episcopal Church’s emblem and a rainbow are combined on a sign in front of the church, Fitzsimmons said.
Church members are getting ready for a meat loaf dinner April 29 and hold weekly book sales each Wednesday evening and Saturday afternoon. They’ve also held a kite-flying event for the past few years as community outreach. But paramount this week are the Holy Week observances, which include services at 7 p.m. on Maundy Thursday and 7 p.m. Good Friday followed by the Easter Sunday service at 10 a.m.