The Massena Pilgrim Holiness Church had its birth in 1928 in an old stone building on Tamarack Street. Rev. William Shoemaker and his wife felt the call and came as home missionary workers. They established a church and Sunday School in the historic building.
In 1934, Bro. and Sr. Shoemaker moved to the building at 2 River Street. Services were held on the main floor and they resided upstairs.
In 1937, Sr. Shoemaker passed away and Bro. Shoemaker retired. Rev. Robert Smith became the pastor from 1937 to 1945.
In 1945, Rev. Edwin Patmore came from Sharon, Pa. and some remodeling was done on the sanctuary. In 1947, Revs. Arthur and Helena Shafer, co-pastors, came here from Monticello, NY. During their stay as pastors, Sr. Shafer caught the vision for a new church. In 1953, a corner lot, across from the River Street property, at 226 East Orvis Street was purchased and a new church built under the carpentry and supervision of Mr. Erford Shew. With his inexpensive labor and much donated labor from the Conference brethren and local members and friends, the beautiful sanctuary was erected at a price far below modern construction costs. The Dedication was held on April 13, 1954. Rev. Robert Smith, former pastor was the guest speaker for that memorable day. In the ensuing weeks, the two-story building at 2 River Street was remodeled into a pleasant ten-room parsonage.
In 1957, Rev. Kendall Straight and family arrived and served faithfully until 1968. Because of his efforts to liquidate the burden of the mortgage, it was possible to have the mortgage burning service on May 18, 1969, five years earlier than the loan contract date of completion. Our Conference President, Rev. Andrew J. Whitney, was the officiating speaker at that wonderful service!
In 1968, Rev. Ronald Payne and family arrived from Frankfort Pilgrim College, Frankfort, IN to pastor. During his five-year tenure, some remodeling was done on the second floor of the parsonage and a new two-stall garage erected on the back of the church lot. When Bro. Payne felt led to another church in 1973, the Massena church board learned that Bro. Straight had resigned his church in the Central Zone. He was contacted to inquire if he would be interested in returning to Massena. After several weeks of prayer and seeking God’s Will, he accepted the unanimous call to return. He labored tirelessly for 23 years until failing health forced his retirement in April 1995.
In 1983, new pews and carpet were installed to further beautify the Lord’s house. During this same year, the house next door to the church at 228 East Orvis Street was advertised for sale and the church purchased it for use as a parsonage in the future. We rented it out until the former parsonage was sold. Bro. Straight was looking forward to retirement in Massena and was looking for a home. He purchased a lot and a double wide home and rented it out for a year. A buyer was found for the River Street property and the board decided that the Straights should move into their own home and the new East Orvis Street parsonage continue to be rented out. This occurred in December 1984.
As Massena and our congregation grew following the Seaway Development, parking became a real problem on East Orvis Street, with several of our members’ cars damaged at different times. The Board had some discussions about relocating out of town. When a 100-store Mall began construction in the late 80’s, our parking problem was compounded as East Orvis Street was a main access to the Mall site. We began in earnest to pray and seek a suitable location out of town. The Lord definitely led us to a beautiful seven-acre lot just three miles from the center of town, on a rolling hill, in a lovely country setting and at a reasonable price! We had no problem selling our choice corner lot in town and immediately purchased our new lot. In August 1989, we moved our church building and garage to our new rural setting. A carport and a 20’ by 20’ foyer were added to the church. In 1993, a comfortable modular home was purchased and moved adjacent to the church, for future use as a parsonage. We also had a large parking area. Bro. Straight’s lifelong dream was now a reality!
God blessed in our new location and the work of the Kingdom prospered. God’s timing is always perfect. In February and March 1994, Bro. Straight suffered three major heart attacks and underwent by-pass surgery. Bro. Jeff McCallus took over as fill-in pastor, until Bro. Straight recovered. Work was still being done at the church, including replacement wiring. In March 1995, we suffered an electrical fire which did over $50,000 in damage. We had Sunday School at the McCalIus home and church services at the home of Kendall Straight, III next door. Bro. Straight’s health was declining rapidly, but through his pain and tears be said “God knows what He is doing, He must have something better for us.” In April, his health forced his retirement, but he was satisfied that everything would be ready for a new pastor by July.
We were able to salvage the superstructure of our church and work was begun on the interior. On July 16, Rev, and Mrs. Dwight Rine came from Penn View Bible Institute as pastoral candidates. We rented a conference room at a local motel for our services that day. God came in a great way in the morning service. We gave the Pines a unanimous call. On Monday, Bro. Straight’s condition worsened and he was taken to the hospital early in the morning. He was completely peaceful the entire day, and at 10:38 p.m., God released him from the burden of the church and took him “Home.”
The Pines accepted our call and on August 14, when they moved into the parsonage, the church was completed enough to hold Sunday School and church. They had a year old boy, Nicholas, and in November 1995, Kaitlin joined our parsonage family. They continue as our pastors at this time.
We are deeply indebted to Jeff and Rachel McCallus for their one and one-half years of labor as fill-ins. We are also very grateful to the Pines for their many, many hours of manual labor in completing our beautiful sanctuary. God is blessing -a lovely new organ and piano were donated to replace those destroyed in the fire. Our attendance has doubled, we have several new families and new converts, who are daily growing in grace. To God be the glory, great things He has done. The future is as bright as the promises of God.
Last modified 12/9/00