Building for Growth

Hanover’s growth during the 1920’s prompted again discussions about space. At a congregational meeting on April 11, 1922, members expressed the belief that the sanctuary was becoming too small to accommodate the number of people worshiping at Hanover and suggested erecting a new church building at the same site. The church building bought from the Methodists barely 15 years earlier would be torn down, and a new sanctuary built in its place. A nine-member committee was appointed to study the issue and produce a plan. On August 2, 1922, the congregation accepted a bid by Wm. D. Haddock & Co. of $62,643.88 to build a new church sanctuary. A new pipe organ was purchased from Bartholony and Sons at an additional cost of $10,300. The cost of the new sanctuary, including pews, furnishings, and organ, totaled $81,572.

At the time the new sanctuary was built, Hanover had an outstanding mortgage of $40,000 and 606 communicant members. The cornerstone for the new building was laid during ceremonies on Nov. 30, 1922. The new building was dedicated on Jan. 20,1924, the same week in which Hanover belatedly celebrated its 150th Anniversary. On Sept. 30, 1926, the congregatin authorized purchase of the Porter home adjoining the church, which later became the manse. And on Oct. 9, 1927, the large stained glass chancel memorial window, given in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas K. Porter, was dedicated.

In April 1933, Rev. Bohner became ill. The Session responded by extending his vacation time one month. Later, because of health reasons, Rev. Bohner was given a 9-month leave of absence. Ministers from other Wilmington Presbyterian churches led worship services during his leave. Then, on Nov. 19, 1934, Rev. Bohner resigned because of continuing health problems. His resignation was accepted and effective Jan. 5, 1935, after 17 years of service. Upon his retirement, the congregation elected him pastor-emeritus. Hanover prospered during his ministry, with approximately 800 members joining the church. Dr. Bohner was remembered as being constant in his cheerfulness and encouragement, and faithful and loyal to his people and the Church of Jesus Christ. The Chancel windows, given my Mr. and Mrs. Frank Overdeer in loving tribute of Dr. Bohner, were dedicated in 1936.









n June 11, 1935, the congregation voted to call as Hanover’s pastor the Rev. John Herrick Darling, then minister of the Lakewood (N.J.) First Presbyterian Church. He was installed on Sept. 12, 1935. Mr. Darling was a graduate of Western Reserve University, Princeton Theological Seminary, and had a Ph.D. degree in history from Princeton University. He was 35 years old, vigorous, athletically inclined, a music lover with a fine singing voice and an excellent pulpit delivery.


For the first time in 1939, the church employed Miss Francis W. Summer of Scranton, Pa., as a full-time director of Christian Education for the church. Mr. Darling set out to increase the membership by introducing a quota system involving the efforts of all the members — for every four members attending church they were to secure an additional worshiper, for every 100 members on the roll they were to secure six additional members and for every ten Sunday School pupils add a new one. This program proved effective.


On Dec. 3-10, 1939, the church Sunday School celebrated its 125 year in consecutive Sunday sessions. Music was emphasized as a large part of Sunday worship. The church grew and prospered. In 1940, at the request of the moderator for the young married couples of the church, Session granted permission to hold “folk dances” but not “social dances” in the social room of the church. The young people were also granted permission to hold a Christmas Party in the gym.


The end of the Depression came amid signs of — and the preparations for — coming war. With the institution of the national Selective Service System in 1940, the church cooperated fully with the General Assembly’s program in looking after Hanover’s youth in military service. A War Service Committee was formed in 1942 to assist with the spiritual ministry of Hanover members in the Armed Forces. The church organized for war. Mr. Darling was the local air-raid warden in the neighborhood, relief funds and packages were prepared for war-torn countries, a Red Cross sewing and surgical dressing unit was formed, and soldier packages were sent overseas.


With the pressure of a full-scale war, church membership and participation in all church activities increased sharply. The church Sunday and Bible Vacation School enrollments increased. In 1944, the heretofore separate women’s organizations in the church, namely the Women’s League and the Women’s Missionary Society, joined under the Pastor’s Association of Hanover Church. Thus, the women of the church, always the backbone of the church from the very beginning, consolidated their tremendous efforts in a stronger and more flexible organization.


In 1945, Hanover received a citation of distinguished service to God and Humanity for its active participation in the Wartime Service Programs of the General Assembly. In 1946, the Session authorized a permanent marker for erection in the sanctuary commemorating the 169 Hanover men and women who served their country in military service, seven of whom died.


With the end of World WAr II, the church membership was rejuvenated. Many returning veterans and their young families took a larger interest in church affairs. Wilmington began to grow into the “chemical capital of the world” as American industry moved toward a consumer-oriented economy, and the chemical companies headquartered here began recruiting highly trained managers, scientists and technical personnel from all across the nation. Some of these new Delawareans were Presbyterians, and some of them found their way to Hanover, where they created a generation of lay leaders whose impact on Hanover continues to this day.


Hanover celebrated its 175th Anniversary during Oct. 19-26, 1947. Many persons were involved in planning the celebration and the church seemed to take on new vigor and changes appeared in the wind. In that year the pastor’s Sunday sermons were first broadcast locally. A year later, a voluntary rotary system for the election of deacons was instituted and a church committee was appointed to study and give consideration to initiating a rotary system for all church officers. Session recommended hiring a permanent Director of Religious Education and suggested that consideration be given to obtaining an assistant pastor. The church participated in raising its share of the General Assembly’s “Restoration Fund” to assist the formation of churches following the war, and contributed directly to the building of Covenant Presbyterian Church.


Dancing again became an issue at this time. The Session discovered to its dismay that during a meeting of the Racial Harmony Committee, dancing had occurred. After much discussion the Session finally agreed to allow dancing in the Social Hall and gym only, and only with adult supervision.


The gym was still a center of much activity at Hanover. There were three basketball teams — men’s, women’s and youth. Besides these, McCabe Methodist’s basketball made use of the gym as well as several organizations, including the Wilmington Fencing Team.


During 1949, attention was given to beautifying the church property. Kolb and Martin placed the beautiful stained glass windows in the sanctuary that were given in memory of many long and faithful church members. New lighting fixtures were also installed.


On May 17, 1950, Dr. Darling resigned from Hanover effective Sept. 1. By accepting a position at a rural area at Raton, N.M. Dr. Darling was fulfilling a call which had long been on his mind. He believed he should accept the call while he was still vigorous and able. When Mr. Darling left Hanover its working committees were reorganized. Its members were unified and the church moved ahead in God’s work. After Mr. Darling departed, Dr. Robert L. Deiffenbacker filled the pulpit until a permanent pastor was obtained. During this interim period in 1951, an electric amplification system was installed in the sanctuary and the congregation adopted the rotation system for its ruling elders and deacons. The congregation on April 30, 1951 called the Rev. Donald Harry Douds as Hanover’s minister. Mr. Douds, like his predecessor Mr. Darling, was the son of a Presbyterian minister. He came from the Miami Shore Community Church in Miami Shores, Fla. He had received his A.B. degree from the College of Wooster, his B.D. degree from Union Seminary and his M.A. degree from Columbia University. He was then 39 years old.


At that time the total number of communicants carried on the rolls was 1,019, benevolence giving amounted to $5,200, and the current expense costs totaled $36,000. The church owed $20,600.

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