Malick Family Life Center sees upgrades to its historical structure

AUGUSTA — Nestled on a hill in Augusta is a tiny church by a cemetery, it may not be flashy or glamorous, but as Pastor Bob Combs of Hanging Rock Church of the Brethren, put it, “There’s nothing but history here.”

And he’s right. 

The Malick Family Life Center, which was previously called the Malick Church, has been standing since the 1700s, when it was originally used solely as a memorial church.

As in, funerals only.

In fact, around the back of the church is a peculiar set of double doors, raised a few feet off the ground. Pastor Bob explained that a horse-drawn cart could back up to these doors, and because of their height off the grass, the caskets could be brought more easily into the church.

The church was falling to pieces after only being used periodically over the many years since then, and at a Memorial Day service around 2 years ago, Pastor Bob came to the Malick Church for the 1st time.

“I fell in love with it,” he said with a smile.

Four months ago, Pastor Bob asked the trustees of the cemetery if it would be possible to open the church up again. They opened it for a 7-day revival (which is a “healing ceremony,” Pastor Bob explained), which turned into the church being open for 9 or 10 weeks with weekly services.

“We raised over $7,000 just from offerings and donations,” he commented. “One person after another has helped out.” With the money, Pastor Bob and his wife, Pastor Brenda Combs, have worked on installing padded carpeting for the floors, new light fixtures, outlets on the walls and more. Many of the elements of the little Augusta church are decades old, if not from the original structure itself, such as the metal ceiling, the pews, a piano and many of the hymnals.

“It’s a goldmine,” he said.

Pastors Bob and Brenda said the church is a nondenominational, community church. Their services are at 7 p.m. on Saturdays, and different speakers preach at each service.

“We pull pastors from the community to speak,” Pastor Bob explained. “It’s good training for students in school who want to come practice preaching. The Church these days needs to come together”

  Stepping into the church is like stepping back in time, but what’s outside and around the church is just as significant. The church sits on the property of the Malick Cemetery, and some of the graves in the cemetery date back into the late 1700s.

The Malick family is the classic example, since the cemetery takes their name. Graves from the late 1700s, including that of John Malick, a Revolutionary War soldier, are faded and riddled with lichen, but their history is there all the same.

Beside the church is a large tree with a plastic chair underneath. This tree, as Pastor Bob called it, is the “meditation tree.”

He said he sits there sometimes after conducting funerals. “It relieves all the tension and the sadness,” he remarked. “You can definitely feel the Spirit in this church and the cemetery.”

With so much help from all areas of the community, and even outside of Hampshire County, the little white church on the hill is continuing to touch folks’ lives.

“The trustees of the Malick Cemetery made it all possible,” Pastor Brenda said gratefully. While the trustees started the process, folks like the Slanesville Ruritans and Hometown Solutions are chipping in to help as well. The church is having an old-time church picnic on Sept. 20 at 2 p.m., and Hometown Solutions is taking care of the tent, while the Slanesville Ruritans are donating the meat.

With folks stepping in to help every step of the way, Pastor Bob cites a higher power for helping the church get to where it is.

“When you walk through these doors, you’ll feel it,” he said. “Without Him, this never could have been. It’s a miracle in and of itself.”

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