RICHFIELD - The Niemond's Independent Church has a history of outgrowing itself.
In 200 years, the congregation expanded into three new churches, all located in the mountains and valleys of the rural Richfield area.
Two centuries is the safe date that the congregation refers to as the beginning of its history, but Niemond's roots actually lay in the late 1700s with the German Reformed Church.
Sentinel photos by MICAIAH WISE BILGER
The Niemond’s Chapel, formerly the congregation’s home for decades, still is used for special services and events. The congregation outgrew the Kellerville building and constructed a new church on state Route 35 near Richfield.
According to the church history prepared for the 200th anniversary, Niemond's formed in 1811 when the German Reformed Church and the Lutheran Church of Richfield voted to construct a new church building.
The church was built on the base of a hill in Lauver Valley, now Kellerville. The deed lists the location as Mifflin County because the building was constructed before 1831, when Juniata County was formed.
The first pastors were circuit riders who served multiple denominations and churches in parts of Juniata, Perry and Snyder counties, according to the history.
By 1896, the tiny building in the valley was too small for the congregation; so, they agreed to build a new church at the top of the hill.
The new building was expanded and enhanced through the years with a new belfry in 1908, electricity in the late 1930s and stained glass windows in 1946. In the 1960s, the church expanded its vestibule to include restrooms and stairs, and dug a new basement for Sunday school rooms and a kitchen.
Services were held every other week in the afternoon, and Sunday school moved to different locations every week.
In the early 1900s, the cold winter months drove some parishioners to hold services in the Stony Run School House; and eventually, the group formed Stony Run Mission Church, according to the history.
In the 1950s, the Evangelical and Reformed churches became the United Church of Christ, and Niemond's stayed with the denomination until 1966 when its members decided to become independent.
By the turn of the millennium, the church outgrew its location again. In 2002 the congregation began to seek options for housing its expanding membership; and in 2005, it broke ground for a new building along state Route 35 near Richfield.
The Rev. Art Mott, who began serving the church in 1998, said the congregation had 45 to 50 members when he first was called to the parish. Now, membership is about 300, he said.
"It's been neat to watch all the ways the Lord has blessed us," Mott said.
As its membership grew, so did Niemond's ministries. Along with the youth ministry, ladies fellowship, Sunday school and worship team, the church now has a drama team ministry, a Gospel praise team, new Sunday school classes, a young adults ministry, men's fellowship and missions opportunities.
The members chose to preserve its history by keeping the old church near Kellerville, Mott said. They now use it for weddings, funerals and special services. It also is the home to the Patches of Love Ministry, a group of quilters who provide handmade blankets to those who are ill or face difficult circumstances.
Central to all of Niemond's ministries is the Word of God, Mott said. Services include bits of old and new worship traditions with hymns and praise songs, but the focus is on God's Word, the pastor said.
"The theme of the church has been, 'May those who come behind us find us faithful,'" Mott said.
The church has a variety of events planned for its 200th anniversary including concerts, a special Christmas production and a summer heritage day, Mott said.
More information about the anniversary events is available online at www.niemonds.org.