Windows On Our World

July 2023 | Written by Maribeth Griessel

     The Porch has now passed the halfway point in the articles highlighting the history of our church, entitled “Windows On Our World.” Likewise, we begin picturing and describing the second half of the stained glass windows we are featuring, the majority of which are found in the Sanctuary. As the tenth of these windows, this month’s selection is the Bursting Pomegranate, picturing a unique fruit with a tough reddish rind, containing many small seeds within its juicy red pulp. The pomegranate is mentioned several places in the Old Testament, as it was an embroidered decoration on the priest’s garments as well as table coverings in the tabernacle, and may well have represented fertility. For the New Testament Church this fruit demonstrated the resurrection of Jesus. The ripened pomegranate’s seeds burst out, the fruit cannot hold the seeds, just as the grave could not hold our risen Lord. 

      The Reverend Paul D. Votaw was briefly featured in last month’s issue of The Porch (which highlighted many of Gashland’s pastors), as a preview of a more in-depth article this month relating to his long and varied ministry to our church. To briefly recap, Paul Votaw and his wife Betty, were called to Gashland Community Church following their service in the Syria-Lebanon mission field, and he was installed as pastor in 1954.  The Votaw family, which would come to include son, Paul, Jr., and daughters, Elizabeth Ann and Sarah, resided in the church manse, which had been built two years before.  February of the following year saw the “Burning of the Mortgage” at the church’s 5th Anniversary celebration.  

       According to Paul Votaw, Jr., in his phone interview with Carol Cooper, some of the things he believed his father would say were most important to him would be church growth and planning for the future.  From the beginning of Rev. Votaw’s ministry at Gashland, he began his goal of visiting every member of the church in their homes.  And of course the church as a whole underwent many changes during his 23 years of service.  During his early years, he served as Chairman of the Presbytery’s Committee on Evangelism and the Committee of the Council of Churches.

      1957 saw the purchase of property adjacent to the church, thus doubling the land area. During that same time period the United Presbyterian Church in North America merged with the Presbyterian Church USA, forming the “United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America.” Soon construction began for the addition to the church building itself, to expand the size of the sanctuary, as well as adding church offices and library, with choir room and kitchen on the lower level.

      In 1960 the congregation approved establishment of the first Board of Deacons. On December 1st of that year Gashland Community Church’s name was changed to Gashland United Presbyterian Church. During the next year, the Reverend Votaw directed the “Presbytery Youth Conference at Park College”, assumed chairmanship of the “Presbytery Committee on Ecumenical Mission and Relations” and the “Presbytery Council and Synod Committee on Ecumenical Missions.”

      Gashland continued to grow, and the new Christian Education Building was erected. This building and the Chapel were dedicated in 1965.  June of this same year brought the ordination and installation of Gary W. Myers as Assistant Pastor of the church.

      If you look at the back of the sanctuary, you will view a tall, exquisite stained glass window.  It is known as The Witness Window, and was designed by Rev. Votaw in 1967. Later in the year an extensive description will be given in “Windows On Our World”, detailing the symbols of this window, which includes the Twelve Disciples and St. Paul, complete with the words of the Apostle Paul, “Ye are my witnesses.”  In addition, Pastor Votaw also designed the stained glass windows in the chapel.

      Paul Votaw, Jr., shared with Carol Cooper many memories of his childhood and youth at Gashland.  His duties included mowing the lawns and changing the information on the church signs.  He said he, his sisters and the senior high students (and Marian Anderson and Carol Cooper share this memory as well) would go skating in the church basement….a regular activity for the youth!  He recalled an instance where he was standing in the driveway of the manse and throwing rocks, one of which broke one of the church windows.  But he confessed and was forgiven, and years later he moved on to pastor a church of his own. 

      Celebration of the 25th anniversary of Gashland Church came in 1970.  Recognition of Charter Members was part of this special year.  In addition, the church library was designated as the James W. Teener Library, honoring Gashland’s organizing pastor.  Reverend Votaw led an intensive study of the “Bethel Bible Series,” and he taught teacher trainees to in turn teach the congregation. This was one of the pastor’s priorities.

      Ensuing years would be busy for this pastor, including plans being made for the old Christian Education building to be torn down to make way for a new one.  The Ministry Center would be planned for the youth and community to enjoy, originally designated as a gymnasium.  Ever interested in the young people, Rev. Votaw organized youth conferences at Park College during the summers.

       Among other noteworthy occurrences at Gashland, in 1972 Andrew Cullen was appointed Youth Director of the church (the first of two ministry positions he would hold here).  The following year the 25 bell memorial Carillon was dedicated in memory of loved ones of the congregation.  And now, 50 years later, that same carillon can be heard both inside the sanctuary and pealing from the rooftop on Sunday mornings and during the noon hour during the week.

        The Reverend Paul D. Votaw resigned his pastoral position at Gashland in 1977.  In 1980 the Gashland Chapel was named the “Paul D. Votaw Chapel,” dedicated to the man who had so faithfully served the church for 23 years.  

Back row, daughter, Elizabeth Ann and son, Paul, Jr.; middle, Betty and Rev. Votaw; front, daughter, Sarah.