Is the Church a barn … or a barn the Church?

In Southern Delaware County, north of the Powell area, there is a “barn church” that generates a lot of local curiosity. The unique design, built in the mid-1990’s, was a dream of the previous pastor, David Redding, now retired. His son, John, a contractor, was perfect to help implement David’s dream.

Why a barn, you ask? Although the interior is rather plain, it is gorgeous because of its simplicity. A manger, symbolizing Jesus’ birthplace, is a permanent fixture near the pulpit. The balcony, for extra seating, resembles a hay mow, again symbolizing the stable. The flooring is rich hickory with walnut pegs. The bench pews are made of smooth-as-glass wild cherry with seat pads in a Scottish tartan plaid to represent the heritage of the Presbyterian Church.

Constructing a BarnChurch can be a challenge!
The complete story is very fascinating, but I’m only going to cover some of the highlights.

  • Gaining approval from local zoning officials for the design was challenging because of the wood structure and concern for fire. The issue of the Amish wearing the OSHA required hard hats was another.
  • One particular legendary old-order Amish barn builder in HolmesCounty, Josey Miller, was sought to do the building, but getting Josey to agree to do it took some effort because it would mean working with “the English”. In the end, he agreed and this church was his 500th barn and by far his largest. A local Mennonite man chauffeured the Amish workers back and forth to their home in Kidron, since the Amish don’t drive.
  • The church is a true bank barn because the first buildings in the OlentangyRiverValley were stone-end bank barns. Local building inspectors were a major problem due to their ignorance of this century-old building style as they were used to concrete and steel. The beams are connected by oak and hickory pegs … not metal.
  • Only Civil War vintage mills were big enough to handle the massive timbers. The supporting structures are 14″ x 14″ x 26′ columns of oak which required a tree trunk 30″ across, 30′ feet high from a straight oak tree. It took months to locate such trees. (not good to sit in the pew directly behind these monster columns) The exterior siding is eastern hemlock found in northwestern Pennsylvania.
  • There are three bronze weathervanes that top the cupolas. The largest is the Scottish lion which is 5-feet tall and weighs 300 lbs. It represents the “Lion of the Tribe of Judah” (Rev 5:5). The other two are a lamb (the Lamb of God) and a rooster that called Simon Peter.
  • The structure has an estimated life of 500 years!

The Pulpit is my favorite. When I took these photos last spring, the doors were locked so I was unable to photograph the amazing pulpit. It is a huge oak tree trunk with a curved stairway leading up to it. Where conventional pulpits have a cloth draped over the top front, this pulpit has a design carved into it. First-time visitors sometimes take awhile to realize that it’s really a tree complete with the rough bark!

Other trivia

  • Nearby is the original church which is now on The National Registry of Historic Sites. It was built in 1820. Next to it is the original cemetery.
  • Added more recently, is a meditation walking trail known as the Pathway to the Son. This pathway meanders through the wooded ravine just north of the main church. In addition to being a pleasant pathway, it also serves for internment of ashes beneath some of the special stones. Along the trail are bluebird nesting boxes to help these pretty little birds deal with all the development in southern Delaware County.
  • Although this church is the Liberty Presbyterian Church, David often joked that it’s really UN- Presbyterian. It seems people of all faiths visit it out of curiosity – to see the inside of this unique structure – and then never leave. He said the largest such segment (25% or so) were previously Catholic. The next largest segment were previously Methodists.

All the facilities are located on 18 acres at the northwest corner of Olentangy River Road (RT 315) and Home Rd.

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