At Strawbridge, congregants are motivated to “deny ungodliness and worldly desires and live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself, His own special people, zealous for good works!”
At Strawbridge, we develop and empower spiritual leaders and commission them to transform the communities they serve.
“Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!”
–Psalm 143:10 ESV
Strawbridge United Methodist Church was established circa 1916, as Smith Chapel (1916-1917). The land belonged to Joshua Smith whose daughter Carrie Ellen Englar, employed Hattie (Thompson) Hill as a domestic worker. Hattie Hill encouraged the Englar family to donate the land for church use only (hence the original name, Smith Chapel). The 1916 original deed lists Carrie Ellen Englar and husband, Joseph Walter Englar as donors and the property reverts to their heirs whenever the property is no longer “used and enjoyed for the purpose of worship (primarily for people of color).” The church was built in honor of Carrie’s parents (Joshua and Mary Cora Norris Smith) who both died in the years prior to 1916. The current church building was completed in 1918 under the leadership of the Rev Isaac R. Berry, and the church became Strawbridge Methodist Episcopal Church. The cemetery in front of the church, adjacent to Route 31 (St James Cemetery) can be attributed to African American men who worked for Lehigh Cement, Union Bridge. These men were members of Strawbridge and the cement company donated the cemetery land.
When Strawbridge M.E. Church was established, brothers Simon and Jesse Murdock were trustees along with four others. Simon Murdock, an African American Civil War veteran who lived in a log house nearby, helped build the church and assisted when the church established its first Sunday school. Over time, it became the home congregation for five small churches, four of which no longer exist. They include the former Western Chapel, south of Westminster (that burned down in the 1950s), Mt Olive M.E. Church, just over the Carroll/Frederick County line (merged, June 1962), Mt Joy M.E. Church of Uniontown (closed 1962), and Lee’s Chapel of Union Bridge. These churches began as Methodist Episcopal and were part of the segregated Washington Conference. Methodist did not become United until 1968.
Strawbridge church has been altered with front office space and a vestibule, a rear fellowship hall with a kitchen, industrial appliances, two bathrooms, air-conditioning, and handicap-accessible ramps. Recently, the interior of the church was redesigned as the entire sanctuary floor needed replacement (2023) due to termite damage. Strawbridge may appear small, but its influence is HUGE with outward looking, vibrant, loving, thriving, community-centered ministries; add to that great choirs, auxiliary groups, youth ministry, Christian education, prayer groups and service to others via missions, and the nature of the church becomes apparent. The focus of the church is stated in its motto: