MT CALVARY LUTHERAN 175_1

The Rev. Matthew Diehl, pastor of Mount Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church in Mount Jackson, stands inside the church’s sanctuary that was built in the late 1800s. The church is celebrating its 175th anniversary with special events this weekend.

MOUNT JACKSON — On Sunday morning, the bell at Mount Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church will ring 175 times.

At a special worship service planned for 11 a.m., the church community will celebrate its 175th anniversary with a liturgy from the 1917 hymnal used at its last big anniversary 25 years ago. The Hands of Harmony Ringers hand bell choir will perform its own musical composition, and the congregation will get to add to an “I Remember When…” booklet.

What’s it like being a part of an active church with such a long history?

“I’d say it’s amazing,” said Susan Foltz, president of the church council.

She recently recalled spending a lot of time as a child in the choir loft where her mother and grandmother sang in the choir.

“I was married in this church,” Foltz said. Her children were also baptized there, she added. “It’s home.”

Church Secretary Roger Rudy said he grew up in the church before moving away.

“I came back here in retirement,” he said. “It has that kind of attraction. I wanted to come back here.”

The church building at 5983 Main St. was built around 1885 and is the church’s third location, said Pastor Matthew Diehl, who’s been with the church for 10 years.

Two previous locations of the church burned down, the first in 1882 and the second in 1885.

In the 1960s, a fellowship hall was added and is used for evening Sunday school twice a month, events and the weekday Early Learning Center, an outreach ministry the church has sponsored since 1989. It runs from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, according to the church’s website, mountcalvaryva.org.

Maximum enrollment is 52 children, and Foltz said classes are full, with a waiting list.

The church, which sees about 55 people for regular services and twice that number for special occasions, hosts a variety of groups including the choir, the hand bell choir and the quilters guild, among other guilds and committees.

The bell choir will be performing at a Thanksgiving service at Union Church next to Mount Calvary Church at 7 p.m. Nov. 24. Other local churches will also be part of the service.

Service projects include the Baskets of Promise health and baby kits that church members organize during Lent, and Operation Christmas Child boxes that they recently packaged to send to needy children around the world.

The ministries, Diehl said, “It just keeps us alive.”

Foltz agreed, “We do a lot.”

Other events include their apple butter fundraiser at the town’s Apple Harvest Festival in October and the youth’s spaghetti luncheon fundraiser to raise Christmas gift money for area families.

This weekend’s celebration includes a dinner tonight at The Yellow Barn at Shenandoah Caverns, which is now closed to reservations.

On Nov. 23, the church will honor members who are 80 years or older with a dinner hosted by Donnie and Barb Pifer.

Diehl, who grew up in Staunton, was serving in Lynchburg when he learned Mount Calvary was looking for a new pastor.

“He won,” Foltz said, “and we did too.”

For more information, call the church at 540-477-2421 or visit mountcalvaryva.org.

Contact Josette Keelor at jkeelor@nvdaily.com