OTISFIELD – Townspeople living near Otisfield’s Bell Hill Meeting House inaugurated a special summer service the last Sunday in July 1913.

Their two purposes were to perpetuate the religious tradition of the meeting house and to raise funds for the upkeep of the town landmark. Both the religious observance and the preservation effort that began 94 years ago continue to this day.

This year’s Bell Hill service will be held at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, July 29, with the Rev. Harvey E. VanSciver serving as minister.

VanSciver is pastor emeritus at the Central United Methodist Church, Linwood, N.J. He is a summer resident of Greenwood. In the seven years between 1993 and 2000, he made 15 trips to Russia, where he was also engaged in mission work in the city of Smolensk.

In addition to his ministry and missionary service, he has co-authored three religious hymns, one of which the congregation will sing at the Bell Hill service. Priscilla Delehanty of Otisfield will conduct the Otisfield Community Choir, an ecumenical group of individuals representing several local churches.

Built in 1839 to replace the First Congregational Church on the same site, the Bell Hill church served the Congregationalist until 1887, when the group moved to a newer church at Spurr’s Corner and abandoned the building.

In the 1890s entertainment and suppers were given in homes on the hill to raise money to repair the church. In 1927 the Bell Hill Meeting House Association was organized to take ownership of the building and to formalize the tradition of annual summer meetings that had begun in 1913. Recently the group was instrumental in raising funds for major repairs to the belfry and dome.

In 1955 the town sold the brick schoolhouse next to the meeting house to the association. Both structures are on the National Register of Historic Places.

Following the service, the 1839 brick schoolhouse will be open for inspection, and refreshments will be served under the tent on the same spot where the town of Otisfield’s militia trained for many years. All are welcome.

For more information, contact Callie Zilinsky, president of the Bell Hill Association, at 539-8178.