Standing majestically along the hillside overlooking the historic town of Harpers Ferry and the picturesque Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, Camp Hill-Wesley United Methodist Church has long been a spiritual beacon to nearby residents and visitors alike. The church literally arose from the ashes of the Civil War.
During the Civil War, the “Blue Church,” as it was called, was located on Church Street in the lower town near St. Peter’s Catholic Church. It was severely damaged by Union soldiers in 1862-1863 and could never be used again for services.
In 1867, the War Department awarded the Methodist Protestants $2,000 and bricks from the destroyed Armory buildings to build a new church. After numerous funding and construction delays, the church on Camp Hill was finally completed in 1869. Church member Durrett Coates was killed during the razing of an armory wall at the ruins of the Hall’s Rifle Works on Virginius Island. He and others were scavenging bricks for the new construction.
The parsonage building, located next to the new church, was originally an armory dwelling. It was purchased by the church in 1858. This building was torn down and a new one built on the same site in 1911. It has since been remodeled in 1981.
The sanctuary and new fellowship hall were dedicated in 1948. The benefactors for these additions were Mr. and Mrs. Charles T. Smith of Charles Town.
In 1968, Camp Hill Methodist Protestant Church became Camp Hill United Methodist Church.
In 1977, Camp Hill United Methodist Church merged with John Wesley Church and became Camp Hill-Wesley United Methodist Church.
The current pastor, Luther Osment, is in his 62nd year of ministry. Growing up in central Texas, he began speaking in churches at the age of 16. He spent nine years in college and seminary study. Upon completion of seminary, Osment and wife Barbara moved from Texas to serve a church in Asheville, N.C. For the next forty-eight years they raised their five children and held state-wide denominational positions across North Carolina.
In 2008, they retired and moved to Harpers Ferry. Osment now serves Camp Hill-Wesley UMC and Engle UMC. Osmet says, “I have completely flunked retirement, but never in our lives have Barbara and I found more joy in our Christian service than we are finding right now.”
In September 2008, Barbara Osment organized a small group of people — mostly from their congregation — that were interested in learning to play the mountain dulcimer. Since then their group evolved and became known as The Angel Band. The group is comprised of eleven ladies and two men. Instruments played by the band include the mountain dulcimer, hammer dulcimer, autoharp, plucked harp, banjo, bass, psaltery, flute, guitar, mandolin, harmonica, and violin. As the group’s name implies, the music performed is predominantly spiritual in nature and includes many known hymnal favorites. Since 2008, the band has performed 39 times at other area churches and at various other civic activities, in addition to their monthly performance at Camp Hill-Wesley.
For more information on Camp Hill-Wesley UMC and The Angel Band, please visit their websites at www.camphillwesley.com and www.theangelband.net.
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