PERRY TOWNSHIP — A simple white structure that sits atop a hill on the southern edge of Perry Township has many stories to tell, and it opens wide its doors to provide help.
The Perry Church of Christ has been a fixture in this area since 1844, when it was founded. Its history is long, and the names of many roads in the area bear the names of founders of the church.
The church can be seen from I-71, where its simplicity sits as a beacon to people passing by.
Vinton Morgan, the preaching minister at the church, can recite the history of the church and show visitors a long wall of photographs that portray information about some of the earliest members of the church.
Though a sign says Perry Church of Christ, that is misleading. The church is non-denominational, Morgan said.
The church “has no creed. The worship is simple,” said Morgan. There is no instrumental music in the church, and people sing a cappella from hymnals.
In the 1880s the church had 60 members, but over the years membership changed. In the 50s, 60s and 70s when Mansfield was booming the membership was probably 75, Morgan said. Then Mansfield “went bust,” and people left because large businesses closed. This includes the General Motors plant and the telephone service provider.
Morgan said for a time “Christianity was not as important.”
Last Sunday there were 43 people attending, he said.
The area around the Perry Church holds its own kind of history. Just a bit east of the church is the village of Darlington.
This takes a person to and from the area on Darlington Road.
In the early years at the church, it had separate doors: one on the right for men and one on the left for women.
There is a full immersion baptism apparatus in the basement of the church, next to the kitchen area.
The church has its original windows, with the old style of glass that reflects light from wavy surfaces.
Originally the church had two pot bellied stoves, one on either side of the sanctuary.
The windows with the wavy glass were puttied last year by an Amish crew. There is a bell tower, and its solid, substantial bell gets used every Sunday. The person who is the bell ringer, Dale Reed, is 93.
The church sits on land that was donated, 4.5 acres. It originally sat on land that abutted Darlington Road, but was moved back from the road after a basement was built. The church structure was maneuvered to sit atop the basement.
The church has an attic, with large beams, Morgan said. At one point, one of the two pot bellied stoves caught fire and burned through the floor. The rest of the church was unharmed.
Electric lights were put in the building in 1936 by Morgan’s grandfather, Chester Morgan, who was a trustee of Perry Township.
Morgan said when he was two weeks old, his mother took him to the church. He left the area and went to Nashville, Tenn., and later got a master’s and doctorate degree. He moved back to this area in 2001.
Morgan said he has served churches as a preaching minister for 53 years, some in other states.
The Perry Church at one point held what was called “Sabbath school” on Saturdays. Then in the 40s and 50s it held the first vacation Bible school sessions in Perry Township. Morgan said a pick-up truck with cattle rods was filled with kids that it hauled to the church.
Morgan said the church uses full immersion baptism.” “They both went down into the water,” Morgan says, quoting the Bible.
He said he baptizes “people old enough to understand.” Some have been 16 and the oldest was 93. He said he baptized a “couple of Hell’s Angels.”
There is a cemetery across the road, built on another 4.5 acres.
The history of the church includes a deed where it states that Levi Ruhl and his wife Merriam, “in consideration of the — of one dollar in hand paid by the Elders of the Disciples Church in Perry Township” transfer the plot of land.
The deed is dated Oct. 13, 1947.