Centenary Church was the first Methodist Church in Lebanon. The following history has been taken from Centenary Methodist Episcopal Church's Ninetieth Anniversary and Re-opening Services bulletin, dated June 1930; and Centenary Methodist Church's 125th Anniversary Celebration pamphlet, dated October 1965:
The first recorded visit of a Methodist preacher to Lebanon, appears in the journal of Rev. Richard Pilmore, sent to this country by John Wesley wherein is written: "Left Lebanon June 2nd, 1772, dined in Manheim; in the afternoon we rode through a fine country to Lancaster where I preached in the Court House."
Regular services under the direction of the Methodist Episcopal Church were held in the country from the year 1793.
In 1819, Rev. Henry G. King preached occasionally in a school house standing in the old Lutheran grave yard, Eighth and Willow Streets. Class meetings and preaching were held in Brother George Gleim's house until 1833. Brothers Edwin A. Axlee and John T. Atkins were early class leaders.
In 1834, Harrisburg became a station and Lebanon circuit was formed, preaching being held in the Court House and in the home of Brother Gleim. Rev. Francis Hodgson was preacher in charge.
On October 12, 1839, the corner stone of a church building was laid at 10th and Walnut alley. The church was dedicated August 2, 1840. The cost was $120.00 for the lot, $1,407.50 for the building, and $234.95 for the furniture.
During the 1840s, gracious revivals favored the efforts of many ministers. At the Conference of 1859, Lebanon and Cornwall were divided. Samuel Irwin (1859-61) was the first pastor to serve Lebanon as a station, while Rev. Wesley C. Best served at Cornwall. In 1861, James McCarter was sent to Lebanon. He became colonel of the 93rd Regiment of Pennsylvania and never returned to the itinerant ministry.
A new parsonage was purchased in the early 1860s at 33 North Tenth Street for the sum of $3,100.
Between 1866-68, the corner stone of the new church at Eighth and Willow Streets was laid, and in honor of the centennial of the Methodist Episcopal Church in America, it was named Centenary. The new church was dedicated December 13, 1968. Bishop Matthew Simpson and Rev. S. H. C. Smith of Columbia were the preachers that day.
On February 9, 1902, a disastrous fire almost destroyed the building, but the congregation met the new challenge, and Centenary continued to grow.
During the year 1914 the church property was thoroughly overhauled, outside as well as inside. Towers were repaired, a new roof was placed, and the building was painted on the outside. The Sunday school room and main auditorium were frescoed, and in the main auditorium, new carpet was laid and the seats were refinished.
In the Spring of 1925, the parsonage at 33 North Tenth Street was thoroughly repaired and put in "first class condition."
In the Fall of 1925, needed repairs were made to the church. The tower was re-covered with asbestos slate, the metal work at the base of the tower was thoroughly overhauled and painted, and the building was given two coats of paint. The distributing pipes of the heating system were changed and pipes covered.
The pipe organ, in bad condition, was entirely rebuilt, with new, up-to-date parts added, chimes installed, new foot pedal actions, and the entire organ was electrified and re-voiced. So for the cost of $2,674.60, the old organ was made equal to a new organ valued at $15,000
During the year 1927-28, a new boiler was installed in the church and pit and overhead pipes changed. A double concrete block garage was built on the rear of the parsonage for $686.52.
During the summer of 1928, the large windows in the main room of the church were thoroughly cleaned and overhauled . The parsonage was painted, the roof repaired, and a furnace pipe replaced. The chimney at the church was raised 15 feet to give better draft for the furnace. In order to improve the heating facilities and at the same time reduce the total cost of the coal used, a blower and safety control were installed at a cost of $150.00. A grate for the furnace was purchased for $26.50. The cost of coal used that year up until March showed a savings of 28 cents compared to the same period of the prior year.
In 1930, Centenary took on new life and vigor by the merging with the congregation of Grace Methodist Church, on Lehman Street.
During the Centennial Year, 1940, the sanctuary was again redecorated, the floor completely carpeted, a new Moller Organ installed, and the Sunday school facilities renovated and enlarged. Nine years later, the exteriors of the church and parsonage were sandblasted.
Construction of a new Christians Education Building was begun in 1955 and completed in 1956. Progress in paying off the indebtedness on the new building was delayed by the necessity of rebuilding the upper part of the main tower-reducing the height by approximately 20 feet. When this building was completely paid for in 1965, new projects were initiated: the roof of the main church building was completely re-slated, and palns were laid for construction of a new parsonage on a lot at Thirteenth and Poplar Streets.
In October 1965, Centenary Methodist Church celebrated its 125th Anniversary with the dedication of the new Christians Education Building and a mortgage burning. At that time it had 536 members and a Church School membership of 465.
CENTENARY METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH
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CENTENARY 1840-1868, on the corner of 10th and Walnut Streets, Lebanon
CENTENARY before the fire of 1902