‘It’s a beautiful little church’
Scent of Water Church finally has a place it can call its own.
After 13 years of meeting in various places, including the pastor’s home, a school and a park facility, Scent of Water has received the gift of a house of worship.
The nondenominational church was organized in 2005 when Pastor Dan Gochnour said he believed God was calling him to start a ministry. At that time, a 16-week revival recently had been completed at Faith Assembly of God in Roaring Spring where Gochnour and his family attended.
Before he was a pastor, Gochnour was an evangelist for 20 years and is a graduate of the Institute of Ministry in Bradenton, Florida.
He has preached at a variety of area churches representing different denominations on Sunday mornings or at special services. He has also spoken at churches in the South, especially in Virginia, as well as other communities in Pennsylvania. Churches representing Brethren, United Church of Christ, Methodist, Mennonite and Church of God denominations have invited him to speak.
Getting to know people in other churches in the area is what led to Scent of Water Church’s new home.
Gochnour of Loysburg said he has made a lot of friends through his speaking engagements, including a member of St. John’s Reformed Church of East Sharpsburg, near Roaring Spring.
“I preached there as an evangelist when it was St. John’s United Church of Christ,” he said.
Last year, St. John’s Reformed Church of East Sharpsburg had a decision to make.
Lydia Hoover, treasurer for the church, said attendance was down and money was short.
“Our membership was declining and many were at retirement age,” she said, adding that the church had a “wonderful pastor who was also approaching retirement.”
Gochnour’s acquaintance suggested approaching him to see if Scent of Water was interested in the building.
Working through an attorney, the members of St. John’s decided to give the church as a gift to the Scent of Water congregation.
“It’s wonderful,” said Hoover of the decision. She said she was glad that someone interested in using the building for religious purposes was going to own it.
“So many (empty) churches are sitting there, falling apart,” she said.
Hoover added that the more than 100-year-old building has been well-kept with the people of St. John’s Reformed Church installing a new roof six or seven years ago. She said the church was St. John’s Evangelical and Reformed Church until 1970 when it became St. John’s United Church of Christ. In 2006, it became St. John’s Reformed Church of East Sharpsburg.
Scent of Water began occupying the building in mid-December so the congregation could celebrate Christmas in the new sanctuary with padded pews and stained glass windows.
“It’s an extremely beautiful sanctuary,” said Gochnour. It also has a basement with a full kitchen, a place for children to play and the opportunity to hold Bible studies or Sunday school.
“It’s like it was tailor-made for us,” Gochnour said. “The people are in awe that we have our own building.”
“It’s a beautiful little church,” said member Dan Emerick of Martinsburg. “I was floored over how nice it is. It has beautiful stained glass windows, and when the sun shines through them, it is almost blinding.”
A builder by trade, Emerick said he loves the traditional style of the structure. He and his wife attended services regularly when the congregation met at the park and off and on when it met in the school. He said although he never minded meeting in rented facilities, Scent of Water having a place of its own has a different feel.
“I love it. I look forward to Sunday every week,” Emerick said.
Before acquiring the building, the congregation worshipped in the banquet/meeting rooms facility at Morrisons Cove Memorial Park for about four years. It was their second move and third location.
Previously, the church met in the auditorium of Central High School from 2007-14 after being crowded out of its original space — the Gochnours’ former home in the Bakers Summit area.
Scent of Water left the high school because the Spring Cove School District needed the space to install air conditioning in the auditorium.
The ministry began about 13 years ago, when Gochnour said he felt God was moving him in a different direction. He said he had preached on occasion at Faith Assembly of God during a four-month revival where evangelist Carl Harris was the main speaker, but had no thought of starting a church.
During that period, he said, his wife suggested one Sunday that they take a break and have a time of teaching with their children at home.
Gochnour said a young woman familiar with his ministry wanted to come to the house and hear the messages, too. She was followed by a family, and people started coming by word of mouth. Soon, about 70 people were coming to the Gochnours’ house on Sundays.
“A lot of kids from Altoona came,” he said. “Teenagers would sit on the floor, the steps and back the hall. They would sit anywhere they could hear me.”
Gochnour emphasized that he never invited anybody from Faith Assembly of God to come to his church and that most of Scent of Water’s members came from the community at large.
“Very few came from Faith Assembly,” he said. “I had been at Faith since 1990. “I felt like God wanted me to move on, but I didn’t want to take people from the church.”
It was when he was speaking at one of the home gatherings that the name for the church came to him. It is based on Job 14: 7-9 which says: “At least there is hope for a tree: If it is cut down, it will sprout again, and its new shoots will not fail. Its roots may grow old in the ground and its stump die in the soil, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put forth shoots like a plant.” — New International Version.
“Things come back to life,” Gochnour said. “That’s awesome.”
As he was preaching about the Scripture, he said he looked at a girl and found himself saying, “that’s the name of our church.”
Now, the church not only has a name, but a building to go with it.