I am always amazed when I see a 150th church anniversary on our religion page, but was invited last Sunday to an anniversary that was even older - 177 years to be exact. And I am so proud to say that the church is a part of Smithfield history, the St. Paul AME Church.
A dinner/anniversary celebration was held at St. Florian Hall, with great music by Cindy Smith and church history by Brenda Harris, who had the pleasure of having her well behaved grandchildren present and one of them, Holden, had his own birthday cake. There was a gigantic marble cake congratulating the AME congregation as well.
Along with the Rev. L.A. Gateway of the St. Paul church, and along with churches in Cambridge and Columbus, and his wife, Casey; there was Wilford Simeral, pastor of the Smithfield Christian Church, who offered a home to the AME congregation when theirs had structure problems; the Rev. Melody Essex, new pastor of the Schaffer McIntrye AME Church; and the Rev. Patricia Angel, associate pastor of the Mount Zion Baptist Church.
PHOTO TIME — Following the dinner and program all who are or who were members of the St. Paul AME Church gathered for a photo. The Rev. L.A. Gatewood, fourth from the left, is the pastor. Pastor Wilford Simeral of the Smithfield Christian Church, who is hosting the church presently, is standing just behind him.
-- Esther McCoy
VISITING — Connie Vinson, emcee for the 177th anniversary of the St. Paul AME Church dinner, left, and the Rev. Patricia Angel, associate pastor at Mount Zion Baptist Church, catch up on news. Robert Smith, of Second Baptist Church of Steubenville, is a supporter of St. Paul church.
-- Esther McCoy
AT EVENT — Sharon Cooper, left, and the Rev. Melody Essex, new pastor of the Schaffer AME Church of McIntyre, were in attendance.
-- Esther McCoy
ENJOY FELLOWSHIP TME — Seated, from left, Richard and Nancy Dalton and Carol Cooper, and, standing, Jay and Donna Cooper share a table and enjoy fellowship at the anniversary dinner.
-- Esther McCoy
AT THE GAME — Cassie Piergallini Doughty and son Max took in the Panther football game, and he watched his aunt, Marlie Piergallini, 2012 homecoming queen, crown the new queen.
-- Esther McCoy
Sharon Cooper of the McIntyre Church was present. She has a beautiful voice, and I just love to hear her sing. She and Rev. Essex were at the table with the Daltons and Coopers.
I don't see Nancy Dalton very often since she retired from our Smithfield bank, but she and her husband, Richard, were there from the McIntrye church.
Jay Smith, who was the Smithfield Alumni Association Octa Foster Award recipient a few years ago, and his wife, Donna, were at the same table, along with Carol Christian Cooper, a long-time friend.
Connie Vinson, a former McIntyre resident, Smithfield High School graduate and member of Second Baptist Church, served as emcee of the program. She told the dinner crowd that it was a great pleasure and privilege to be standing in front of them. "You can feel the richness and presence of Jesus here in this celebration of your heritage," she said.
Connie asked Carol Ann Garcia, a former classmate, to play the opening song for the program. She is the organist for our Christian church as well.
Cynthia Smith, daughter of Robert Smith of the Second Baptist Church and a supporter of the AME church, sang several gospel songs and had the audience clapping in rhythm to her singing of "God Has Smiled On Me."
I looked across St. Florian Hall and saw someone I thought I remembered from playing football when I came to the high school building as a seventh-grade pupil - George Young. I had seen him in the Herald-Star in his career with the Steubenville Police department, and he still looks the same. He and Lamont talked when the dinner was over.
A Power point presentation played during the dinner and program, showing the old AME church, the new church that later had structure problems and the Smithfield Christian Church where the church members meet at noon on Sunday now, just after the service of the Christian church.
Marge Monaco read a memorial to those who passed away, as Dana Mason carried up a picture of the church bearing the names of the deceased. Her reading told that "Life is But a Pathway."
Lisa Mason read off the present members and their time with the church:
Gilbert Powell, 59 years; Lisa Mason, 47 years; Brenda Harris, 37 years; Rita Lee, 36 years; Dana Mason, 35 years; Jada Dalton, 26 years; Karen Edwards, 22 years; Marge Monaco, 10 years; and Mary Puzzoli and Debbie West, seven years each. Kershaw Petaway and Randy Crawford were named as outstanding members. And Rev. Gateway was a member in appreciation.
Manuel and Carol Garcia, Wilford and Anna Simeral and Lamont and I were present from the Smithfield Christian Church.
Lisa Mason presented gifts of appreciation to those who helped make the dinner and its program a success, including Todd Piergallini, who worked with the committee to plan the dinner.
In closing Rev. Gateway said, "We are all here to celebrate as a family, celebrate each other. This afternoon has shown there is enough love to go around."
I took the homecoming queen picture at Buckeye Local High School and congratulate Ashley Trouten for selecting the very last rose on the table and receiving the title. She was a very excited young lady. Congratulations, Ashley.
I saw two candidates I knew from Smithfield: Chanler Long and Morgan Staten. I'm sure their parents were proud as they walked across the football field with them. I remember that proud feeling when I walked with our football-playing sons.
Cassie Piergallini Doughty had her young son, Max, at the game to see his aunt, Marlie Piergallini, 2012 queen, crown the new royalty. He was wearing a darling cap that was brown and had laces like an actual football.
I walked around the corner of the stadium and ran into Albert Barcus taking off the Panther head of his mascot costume to get a breath of fresh air. It was a warm night, and the temperature inside the head can go up to sweltering heights. He very politely put it back on and gave me a Panther pose for a picture.
I met Zach Kaiser, Buckeye marching band filed commander, at the Jefferson County Fair, when he climbed upon the seat of the passenger wagon I was using to judge the grand parade and started his energetic directing of the musicians.
He had the wagon shaking so much I feared he would topple over into the band below. He looked very regal in his white uniform for the homecoming.
(McCoy, a resident of Smithfield, is food editor and a staff writer for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times. She can be contacted at email@example.com.)