Wayne County Wanderings: Cold Spring Chapel

The world can be a dark and forbidding place at times … so much so that I don't even want to turn on the news some nights when I get home from work.

There are certain weeks when it seems as though we'll all just collapse under the weight of sinister and tragic events.

But then I embark on my weekly “Wanderings” adventure and, inevitably, my soul is brightened.

Such was definitely the case this past Saturday when I hopped in my car and headed out.

It was a perfect spring morning: dazzling blue sky, bright and warming sun, trees and lawns just beginning to green up.

My mission this week was to visit the Cold Spring Chapel, located in the heart of northern Wayne County farm country. I parked my car, stepped out and took a deep breath of crisp, clean air before heading inside.

And, from the moment I walked in, I experienced firsthand the true meaning of “fellowship.”

Arleen Peck greeted me warmly at the door and introduced me around. She seated me at at table with Al Rice, his wife Geri and her sister Donna. We chatted happily while Arleen returned with a plateful of delicious food.

The entire experience was so much fun that I didn't want to leave. Before I knew it, more than an hour had passed and I needed to let my belt out a notch!

Community Lunch

Carol Balch is one of a friendly, hard-working group of ladies who organize this free luncheon 12 times a year.

The event is open to everyone and held the third Saturday of each month It runs from 11:30 a.m. until about 1:30 p.m. downstairs at the Chapel.

“Fellowship is a very big part of what we do here,” Carol said. “We try to invite some new people every month. But, we're here for anyone who needs a nice hot meal or just wants to spend an hour or two with friends and neighbors.

“What we want to do is feed people … their stomachs and their souls.”

Donna Corter, another dedicated Cold Spring Chapel volunteer was quick to agree.

“We've been doing his for about two years now and it's been a big success,” she said. “All the women of the church pitch in cooking and baking. It's a lot of work, but it's a lot of fun, too.”

The ladies estimate that they serve at least 25-30 folks each month. The April menu consisted of roast pork with sauerkraut, green beans, macaroni and cheese.

There were also homemade breads, pickles, applesauce and a dessert table overflowing with delectable delights.

(I can personally recommend the lemon cake, which came in a slice so big I couldn't even finish it!)

Next month, chicken and biscuits will be the entree, along with mashed potatoes and vegetables.

“We try to mix it up a little bit,” Carol said with a smile. “But, no matter what we decide to put on, it's always homemade.”

A Bit of History

The Chapel was built right around 1900.

Will Jonas, a lifelong resident of Cold Spring, did a great deal of research on the structure for a college paper. Interestingly, Will couldn't find any written records of the construction.

And so, he had to rely on oral history and anecdotes, which have been handed down over the generations.

The chapel was originally consecrated as Presbyterian and its congregation was part of the “Pioneer Parish,” which consisted of churches in Dyberry, Bethany and Rileyville.

It is located at the corner of Route 371 and Upper Woods Road, a quaint little church made of clapboard, painted white and featuring a bell tower that “stands as tall as the adjacent trees.”

For many years, there was a functioning one-room schoolhouse just across the road. That building still stands, but it's been turned into a private residence and is barely recognizable after countless renovations.

Will was able to find written records dating back to the 1890s that show the school serving as a “house of worship” for Cold Spring residents.

The chapel itself was built on the corner of a property referred to as the “Scudder Homestead.” The land was deeded to the original parish with the understanding that it could remain as long as it continued to house a “worshipping and functioning congregation.”

Sadly, as membership declined in the years leading up to World War II, the church was officially dissolved. In 1937 the structure reverted back to the landowners.

According to Will, his great-grandfather Dr. William Perkins eventually purchased the property and ran a highly-successful dairy operation.

Edwin & Sally Jonas acquired the homestead in 1980. They dubbed the land “Jonas Cold Spring Farm.”

Family members continue its operation to this very day, led by Bill & Mia Jonas.

New Life

Fortunately, a dedicated band of local residents breathed new life back into the Cold Spring Chapel about a decade ago.

Pastor Mary Bryant, a minister ordained through the American Baptist Church, took over leadership of the little chapel congregation in June of 2005. And, she's never looked back.

“I felt called to do it,” she said. “It's such a wonderful little church and the people are just incredible.”

Pastor Bryant estimates that their weekly services attract between 20 and 60 folks, depending on the weather situation.

“We have our service at 11 a.m., but there's an adult Sunday School group that also meets at 9:45 a.m.,” she said. “We also have a portion of the service set aside for the children. We do a little craft and give them a snack to take back to the pew with them.”

Pastor Bryant is filled with praise and admiration for the ladies who put on the lunch each month.

“There's an awful lot of work that goes into this, but they don't mind,” she said. “They're a dream. They leave the Chapel tired, but definitely happy.”

Mission Accomplished

While the food was undeniably delicious, it's the fellowship that makes this little chapel special.

Every single person on hand went out of their way to make me feel at home.

I particularly enjoyed chatting with my “table mates.” Al and Geri are originally from Wilkes Barre, but they've lived all over the country.

Al served in the Army, then went to work in management for a major American glass company. He retired about 12 years ago, settling down with Geri on two acres of family land near Duck Harbor.

“We love living here,” he said while sneaking samples of Geri's dessert. “We like being in the country and we really like the people.”

Donna lives just down the road and was happy to take a to-go meal home with her.

“I practically live on pizza, so this is a real treat for me,” she said with a laugh.

And so it was with a full belly and a warm heart that I waddled back out to my car. Not only had I enjoyed a meal fit for a king, but I'd made new friends and re-connected with old ones.

So, mark Saturday, May 19 on your calendar, folks! Head on up to the Cold Spring Chapel for some chicken & biscuits.

More importantly, though: Open your heart to an experience of fellowship you won't soon forget.