Seventy years ago in a small town on the Mason-Dixon line was begun a church. That church would grow, minister to its community and Greene County, and even draw members from parts of West Virginia. The town is called Mt. Morris, Pennsylvania, and the church is the Mt. Morris Gospel Tabernacle. I am thankful for the heritage of the church and the foundation that was laid by its first pastor and members. I am especially proud to be a part of the Mt. Morris Gospel Tabernacle and what it stands for: faith in God, a hope for eternal life, and a love for God and all mankind. This book is my way of saying thank you to the church, its members, and its many faithful ministers. Those ministers have, with God's help, created a solid ministry that reaches countless parts of the world for God's glory alone.
Founder of the church, Walter C. Long, was born on October 9, 1891. He grew up in a family of eleven never hearing about the Bible since his mother was an Irish Roman Catholic and his father, and American Protestant, no decision could be reached on a religion for the family. At the age of about 15, he took a job at the B&O Steel Co., in Martinsburg, West Virginia for one year. At the end of that year, he traveled to Colorado with some friends. While there, he traveled with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. His son, Dave recalls, "Dad once told me he met Annie Oakley at one of the shows and thought she was one of the finest shots in the West." At this time, he also got interested in boxing, was "chief bum bouncer" at his cousin's bar, and won all of his matches at a tournament in Kremling, Colorado. Walter Long was also known to never drink anything stronger than lemonade when at his cousin's bar or even after a victory. He then received a letter from his ill father asking him to come home to Maryland. Walter regained his job at the steel plant. He used the job as a way to prepare for his upcoming boxiing match against the Maryland state champion by lifting steel beams - he on one end and four men on the other. Unfortunately, a few days before the fight, the champion died.
During this time, he boarded at a Methodist lady's house, Mrs. Custer. Her invalid husband would spend many evenings talking to Walter about the Bible and God. One evening, Dave relates, Mrs. Custer asked him to go to a local church to hear a lady who was healed from a physical infirmity. So since he was interested in hearing her story, he went with her to the service. While he sat there listening, "he felt like she was talking straight at him" recalls Jim, his son. He came under such conviction that he got up and left. Later that evening, Jim quotes his father saying, "Lord, if you want me here's as good a chance you're ever going to get is a good strong fight." That was when Walter C. Long accepted the Lord as his personal Savior.
From that night on, his life was changed and he spent the next seven years, day and night, studying the Word of God and praying. During this time, he met his wife, Fannie. He also came in contact with Pentecostals for the first time when he met a group of people just let out of jail for preaching the gospel on the street. They invited him to join them and he did. This began his career in the ministry as he worked different offices in the church under Reverent Barrick until finally becoming the pastor when Barrick left the church. He then got his first church in Asbery, Maryland which he pastored for one year. He then took a church in Flintsone, Maryland, then Greenridge, and Chaneysville, PA. At the latter two churches, he built new buildings. One day when he went away to speak at Martinsburh, WV, some townspeople in Chaneysville used 92 sticks of dynamite to blow up the church. The Flintsone church was also burnt down. As we can see, Reverent Walter Long experienced a good deal of persecution from non-believers, but he plodded on and rebuilt both churches.
Walter C. Long was then invited by Earl Hammel to come to Mt. Morris to hold revival services. He came in February of 1928, but the town had no tent so Stacey Stephens let them borrow the vacant Rebecca Brown Memorial Baptist Church on Shannon Run. Brother Long preached on salvation and the Holy Spirit for six weeks and "saw a great move of the Spirit between the Methodists, Baptists, and various other denominations" (Jim Long). At the end of the six weeks, he told the congregation to go back to their own churches and help out their own pastors and he went home to Chaneysville. "A few weeks later, Earl Hammel called him asking him to come back and start a church permanently. All the people were getting thrown out of their churches since they now knew more than their own pastors" (Dave Long). The other pastors were very vocal about their disapproval and displeasure with the situation, and this attitude carried into some of the community. But, Walter Long returned to Mt. Morris and thus began what is now the Mt. Morris Gospel Tabernacle.
Despite community ambivalence toward him, Pastor Long persevered. He brought his family to Mt. Morris in 1929. They lived in a house on the Mt. Morris Star Route (route 19) in what is now his son Phillip's home. Walter and Fannie had ten children, eight boys and two girls, all of whom are alive today except for Joe and John.
In September of 1941, since the congregation could not make any renovations to the Rebecca Brown Memorial Church and since they needed rooms for Sunday School, they purchased the farm across the street for $500.00 in hopes of building a new church. On October 9, 1943, Pastor Long's birthday, the Baptist church burnt down. Lizzie Childs and her daughters, the janitors, were burning leaves down the road and one stray leaf landed on the roof. This did not hinder Pastor Long, but he began as soon as possible to gather wood and lumber from area farmers and sawmills in order to build a new church. On Oct. 9, 1945, a new chruch built across the street was dedicated to the Lortd debt-free. Unfortunately, the timbers used in the church started to collapse a few years later and cables had to be put in to hold the structure together.
Walter C. Long ministered from 1929 until 1934 when he was elected to be the first full-time Superintendent of the Potomac District. During his leave Gay Benson took over as pastor of Mt. Morris. After having redefined the boundaries of the district, Pastor Long resigned as superintendent of the district and came back to Mt. Morris. Unbeknownst to him, the board had voted about who should be pastor, Benson or Long, and it ended in a tie. But, they decided to allow Long to return since his family was already here and they did not want to have to separate them (Helen Dorsey). Pastor Long was thus reinstated as pastor in 1939 and he served until 1960 when he retired.
A.E. Shuttlesworth then took over in 1960, and he remained until 1966. Shuttlesworth, known to most as Micky Shuttlesworh, attended Zion Bible College where he met his wife, Carlene. They had four boys: Tend, Tim, Tiff, and Terry. They first lived in the little parsonage which was donated to the church by Ross Santee. They then built what is now the regular parsonage or pastor's home. Other contributions Pastor Shuttleswroth made was to put carpet in the church, build the social room, nursery, and offices, and brick the whole outside of the church.
In 1966, Shuttlesworth left to pursue other avenues of ministry and in his place came Charles V. Elliott. He also lived in the new parsonage, and the little parsonage was used by visiting ministers and missionaries. The Elliots, Charles and Mable, had two daughters, Marilyn and Carolyn. Carolyn was killed in a car accident on her way to Mt. Morris for Mother's Day, relates Helen Dorsey. There was no remodeling or additions done during their time except forthe addition of red carpet and drapes. The Elliots married my parents and several of my relatives so I feel as though I have met them once or twice (Bro. & Sis Elliott have since gone home to be with the Lord.).
Following Bro. Elliott's footsteps was Rev. Willis Murray. He and his wife, Vera, hand four children, Edward, Roger, Douglas, and Pamela. One of the sons, Douglas, was an assistant to his father for part of Pastor Murray's stay here. There were no additions or changes mad to the structure of the church at this time, however a thriving Bus Ministry Outreach was begun by Pastor Murray. He and his family was here for three years from 1972 to 1975 (Helen Dorsey).
In December of 1975, Mt. Morris greeted Rev. Richard Barriss and his wife, Wilberta. Pastor Barriss recalls the first time the came to Mt. Morris in a letter to the author,
"Actually, the Presbyter, Rev. Charles Elliott asked me to speak at the then monthly fellowship meeting, a month or two previous to going there to candidate/ Sister Barriss rarely went with me in those days because of children and/or some of our parents needing care at home. But when I was scheduled to speak a t your home church, I said to my wife, "I want you to go with me. God is exposing us tohose people - someday I'll be their pastor." So we went, and richly enjoyed the day."
Rev. Barriss was right and soon after, the Barrisses arrived in Mt. Morris in Dec., of 1975. Due to his failing health, the Barrisses retired when he was 62 years of age after four years tat Mt. Morris and went to live with thier sone Terry.
The Barrisses had three children: Terry, Leo, and Byron who drowned at age 11 while they were living in Jeannette, PA. Since their time in Mt. Morris, Leo has since dide of cancer and went home to be with the Lord, and Terry resides in Florida.
Before coming to Mt. Morris, Rev. Barriss and his wife, Wilberta, pastored in Indiana, PA and helped build the First Assembly of God in Indiana. From there they moved on to Jeannette, PA for 17 1/2 year. The Barrisses lived in the current parsonage during their stay, and Rev. Barriss recalls, "Slipping over to sleep in the little house across the street," where visiting ministers, evangelists, and missionaries often stayed, when his own house got too crowded (his mother was also residing with them during this time).
Pastor Barris wrote that the first evening in their new home was eventful when "he found out how fast an electric stove can go from cold to glow!" His hand healed nicely in time to shake the church members hands the next morning. Pastor Barriss also remembers how active the youth were during his time here and how the different age groups got along so very well.
The Barisses are currently living in Florida.
My first memories of Pastor Fred W. Tomlinson are from the first evening he came to candidate at the church. During his sermon, he started hopping around the stage as he preached. It was so funny and he was so active and filled with energy that it became somewhat contagious. I was very happy when the church voted him in as our pastor. He and his family arrived in Oct. of 1979. Very soon after their arrival, we had him and his wife Rose and their two sons, Eric and Jason, to our house for dinner. I being seven years old and in first grade was very curious about the pastor's eight year old son, Eric. Wen I finally met him, I discovered he was more interested in playing with my younger brother, Eric, and they became fast friends. Eric and I also became friends over the years and I am thankful to count both Jason and Eric as two of my friends.
Reverend Fred W. Tomlinson hails from the hills of Fort Ashby, WV. His father was a minister, but he died early in Pastor Tomlinoson's life. His mother remarried and he recalls having to sneak out of the house with his twin brother, Ted, in order to go to church. He went to Bible school at Free Gospel Bible School in Export, PA. He met his wife, Rose, who was from nearby Romney, WV, at Free Gospel. Upon graduation, he took on his first church in Ohiopyle, PA. From there, they also ministered at Kirby, WV and Romney, WV before coming to Mt. Morris in 1979.
During his stay the church has grown gradually forcing the church to build a new glass foyer in the early '80's and in the spring of 1985 a new addition was begun that would more than double the size of the church. The sanctuary was enlarged and switched from facing east to face south, and eight new Sunday School rooms were added, as well as , the enlargement of the kitchen. The beige and emerald green sanctuary could now contain 450 people. Presently on Sunday mornings, it is hard to find a seat if you are late. Thus the prospect of building again has been questioned, hence plans are being considered. In May of 1986, the new addition was dedicated to the Lord and has since been totally paid in full. Pastor Tomlinson has also helped initiate nursing home, prison, and shut-in and out-reaches.
In 1988, Mt. Morris welcomed its first Assistant/Youth Pastor, Glenn Yunghans. He was active in the church and with the youth until January, 1991 when he resigned to help pioneer a church in eastern PA. Ken Nuzum became Minister Intern in May of 1990 and was hired as an Assistant/Youth Pastor in December of 1990, leaving in August of 1991 to attend Valley Forege Christian College. Assistant/Youth Pastor Bob Wardle began his duties in January of 1992, resigning in April of 1993 to become Pastor in Dry Fork, WV. 1994 was the first year we had both an Assistant Pastor and a Youth Pastor. Rev. Roger Richter was hired in Janyar of 1994. He resigned in January of 1997 to take the Pastorate at Mt. Pleasant, PA Bro. Steve Hospodar was hired as Youth Pastor in July of 1994, resigning in February of 1996. At the present time Pastor Tomlinson's staff includes Rev. Chet Tennant as Associate Pastor, Rev. Steve Bowser as our Youth Pastor and Sis Miriam Eddy in charge of Follow-up Ministry.
As a final thought, I would like to stress how much music has been an integral part of Mt. Morris Gospel Tabernacle. The Longs were a very talented family and filled the church with their music every Sunday. Dave Long remembers how the music flowing through the open windows out into the community often brought people to the church out of curiosity. The church has been blessed with talented musicians throughout all generations and no service has ever gone by without at least a song.
Along with music, other fruits of the ministry have been three ordained ministers, Rev. Jack A. Mason, Rev. Joseph Adams, and Rev. James Kiger, and Missionary to the Native Americans, JoAnn Craver, and James Long, Missionary to the Philippines. But, I believe above these are the lives, which have been touched, strengthened, and filled with the love and knowledge of God. The church has never compromised its stand or its faith, but has provided a solid foundation for Christians to take root and grow in, and for that I am thankful.
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