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Two Mid-Ohio Valley churches share pastor

Photo by Jeff Baughan The First Presbyterian Church of Williamstown

WILLIAMSTOWN — The intertwined history of the Presbyterian Church with Bethel, Waverly and Williamstown can be traced back to 1845 when the church at Bethel produced a branch church in Waverly and then one began in Williamstown as settlements migrated toward the other.

The one thing the three have shared since the end of World War II has been a pastor. Early 9:30 Sunday morning services at Waverly and then 11 a.m. services at Williamstown. It’s about a 12-minute, almost seven-mile drive one way for Williamstown/Waverly-Bethel Presbyterian pastor Elizabeth Campbell Maleke, who has been serving both churches for about six years.

Campbell Maleke is the second female minister for both congregations. The churches had an interim pastor, the Rev. Betty Dax, who served shortly after the Rev. Kenneth Calebaugh retired.

Rev. Dax was the first female minister that served both congregations, according to Campbell Maleke. “She was there from sometime in 2009 to June of 2011.”

“This arrangement has basically been going on since the end of World War II,” said Campbell Maleke. “Since then the two have shared a pastor but the two churches are very much more connected than just having the same pastor. The two are coming together more and more to provide programs to both areas.”

Photo by Jeff Baughan Bethel Presbyterian Church

First Presbyterian of Williamstown, which celebrated its 100th anniversary and is located at 314 West Fifth Street, has a Garbriel Project closet which is open each Wednesday from 9-11 a.m. and the third Saturday of each month from 8-9:30 a.m.

That has been expanded to include a once a month location at Waverly, which is located at 7132 Old St. Marys Pike. The Waverly hours are 1-3 p.m. on the second Thursday and fourth Saturday of the month. Visitors should go to the basement entrance to proceed to the Gabriel Project area.

“The Gabriel Project is where can visit and receive diapers, wipes, formula, clothing and help with cribs and carseats,” Campbell Maleke stated. “The same is available at Waverly.”

Campbell Maleke stated the Gabriel Project is the “largest one Waverly is involved in. The Parkersburg High School Navy JROTC Commander Glenn Rickard and some of the cadets performed a service project there by cleaning up the space so they would have room there. The area being used by the Gabriel Project there hadn’t been used by the church in years.”

She added the Waverly church is involved with Waverly Elementary in things such as sponsoring a chess club and being the emergency evacuation point if something such as a train wreck or other accidents happen near the school.

Photo by Jeff Baughan Len, left, and Linda Rabatin have been members of the First Presbyterian Church of Williamstown for more than 50 years.

Len and Linda Rabatin of Williamstown are the couple at the church with the longest membership, according to Campbell Maleke. “It’s been at least 50 years,” Len said. “Maybe 55,” said Linda. “Whatever, it’s been a long time,” she said and smiled as they took a break from some chores in the church fellowship area.

“The churches get together for a combined service once a month at Bethel,” Linda remarked. “That’s during the summer months of June, July and August and have a covered dish luncheon after the service.”

“Speaking of food,” said Len, “the Waverly church gave us that huge stove we have in the kitchen for the women’s club soup project. It’s got like 10 burners on it and it’s always being used for something. There’s a lot of social groups which use the church for meetings. That gift has been a huge asset to us and what can be done in the kitchen.”

Barbara Conlon, who attends the Waverly church, said the congregation usually averages 12 or so on a Sunday morning while Campbell Maleke said the Williamstown congregation usually numbers about 70 on a Sunday morning.

“But we never feel like we get a leftover sermon from her,” Conlon said of Campbell Maleke. “We understand the services will be a bit different because she has to go from Waverly to Williamstown in a few minutes. But we’re never shortchanged. That’s important.”

Photo by Jeff Baughan Waverly Presbyterian Church

Dawn Hammett and her husband, Dick, make the Sunday journey from Marietta to Waverly Sundays. “We lived in Waverly from 1970-2014 before we moved to Marietta. Waverly Presbyterian was home and family then and it is home and family now. I can’t think of going anywhere else.”

“There are people with connections to all the buildings,” Campbell Maleke said. “We’re sharing with and working well with Williamstown,” said Conlon. “When we have joint sessions together, we talk about what is going to matter to both churches. In the realm of the community, both are important as are all churches in a community.”

First Presbyterian is part of an ecumenical pathway of social services each third Saturday of a month, according to Campbell Maleke. “First United Methodist has an open breakfast from 8-10 a.m., we have the Gabriel Project from 8-9:30 a.m. and then there is the community food bank behind Christ Memorial Episcopal. It is an ecumenical event we have,” she said. “It would be hard as one church to meet all needs but churches working together can meet a lot of needs.”

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