BERLIN – A large renovation project at one local church has unearthed a hidden time capsule filled with 19th century books and documents.
Church leaders at Taylorville United Methodist Church in Berlin were surprised late last month to discover a tattered tin box containing a Bible, hymnal, account book and letters hiding within the building’s cornerstone.
The discovery was made during preliminary work to raise the church and replace the building’s foundation.
Bruce Clark, administrative board member at Taylorville, said the time capsule contains items dating back to 1851, which was when the church was erected.
“The corner stone this was sitting in is what we wanted to save,” he said. “That’s how we found it because we told the general contractor that we wanted to save the cornerstone and put it back in. We had no idea it was there.”
Because the handwritten letters are brittle, church leaders said many of the notes will remain folded until an archivist can help to preserve and display the items found in the time capsule. Clark noted, however, that the account book found in the tin box has already given the congregation a better understanding of the church’s history.
“We thought what someone originally donated to the church was $10, but it was actually 10 cents,” he said.
Pastor Walter Crocker said the time capsule is complimentary to the history of Worcester County.
“More people are coming here and a lot of the original history sort of gets lost in translation,” he said. “Some of the original families that worked night and day to put this place on the map somehow get lost in the shuffle, so this time capsule is a good thing … We should reflect back on those who gave so much of their time and life to the success of the church and the area.”
Since announcing the discovery of the time capsule, Clark said several members of the community have come forward with their own piece of Taylorville history. One former congregation member, for example, is donating the original doors to the church, while one churchgoer is in possession of an original church pew.
Church leaders said the congregation also has plans to replace the time capsule with two of their own for future generations to open. One will be placed back into the cornerstone of the church, while another will be placed in a vault.
“We don’t know what the future is going to bring for our church, just like they didn’t know in the 1850s,” Clark said. “They preserved the church for us, so that’s what we are going to for future generations.”
Diane Wilson, outreach ministries chairperson at Taylorville, said the time capsule represents the faith and dedication of both former and current members.
“I found it very encouraging because it showed that others before us trusted and had faith that the church was going to continue after they were gone, and we are doing that now,” she said. “The Lord has opened all kinds of doors for us to be able to do that. It’s really been an exercise of faith.”
Church historian Fran Murray said the foundation project that originally unearthed the hidden time capsule is just one of the many renovation projects planned at Taylorville. For example, work to replace the crumbling retaining wall that surrounds the church and graveyard will begin soon after the church is placed back on its foundation in mid-July.
“We are a small church in numbers but we’re strong in the ministry that God has given to us, and we want to be faithful to that,” Crocker added. “Finding this time capsule showed the faithfulness of those who went before us and it sort of reenergizes us toward what we are building for the future.”
Those wishing to donate to Taylorville’s foundation project can make checks payable to Taylorville United Methodist Church, 11252 Adkins Road, P.O. Box 456, Berlin, MD 21811. Please put “foundation fund” on bottom left corner of check.
For more information on sponsoring the project, contact Fran Murray at 443-783-6837 or Bruce Clark at 410-251-8751.
“Community participation would be great,” Murray said.