May 11 2017

Faith, Courage, and Industry – Then and Now

With the 150th anniversary of St. Andrew’s Church just weeks away, I’ve been thinking about the roots of our very special faith community. Where did we come from? Who are the people whose faith, courage, and industry have been blessings passed on to us? After all, we have inherited the church and its mission from generations that have preceded us, those who engaged in the ministry of the gospel in their times – reaching people, facing challenges, sometimes “making a way out of no way” – with God’s help!

Our congregation was founded in 1866, the year after the Civil War ended. There was no church in what was then called Bridgetown (South Perkasie). But the residents of our thriving little metropolis began to receive the “missionary attention” of two pastors: Reverend Peter Fisher of Tohickon Reformed Church, and Rev. Ferdinand Berkemeyer of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Fricks. The residents began to be pastored before there was any building! Among the fruits of this evangelizing was vision.

Key meetings to chart the way were held at the local hotel: today it is The Perk! It was owned by Stephen Young, one of our original church members. The tentative site for the church building was at Fifth and Walnut Streets, so that it would be convenient to residents of Sellersville, Bridgetown, and Comleysville (now downtown Perkasie). When people in Sellersville decided to form their own church, our location was moved to Bridgetown, the busiest place.

Union Churches, with Reformed and Lutheran congregations under the same roof, were common to eastern Pennsylvania. So, from the inception of our congregation, we were ecumenically partnered with others in cooperative ministry to spread the gospel. Remarkably, local Mennonites helped fund the building project, even though they never exercised the privilege of using the building.

When you read from the congregation’s history, it is impossible not to marvel at the personal investment of those first members. The land was purchased by one of the members for $300. The church building was built by the labor of the people themselves, with donated materials. The basement was finished in 1869, and was used for Worship Services and for the Sunday School before the full building was complete. When funds and energy to complete the project were waning, Stephen Young invited masons, carpenters, and wheelwrights from Old Zionsville to come and help finish the project. Mr. Young boarded them at his own expense at the hotel. OCWM, “Our Church’s Wider Mission”, is part of the congregation’s DNA!

Christian Education has always been a priority. The Union Sunday School was founded in 1869. The Superintendent, Nathan Pannebecker, had been superintendent of two local Sunday Schools which were discontinued when the Union Sunday School was established. This lasted until 1906, when separate Sunday Schools were formed so that each congregation could use their own denominational materials. There were 110 in the Reformed Sunday School alone!

Since those early days there have been many, many chapters, each worthy of appreciation. There have been abundant times and lean times. Samuel Moyer, our longest-tenured pastor (43 years), shepherded the congregation through two World Wars and the Great Depression. The congregation did not have a full-time pastor until 1954.

The generations that faced the challenges of their times in spirited ways continue to bless us. Imagine for instance, where we would be if the congregation of the late 1960’s and early 70’s had not risked the expansion project that graced us with our Fellowship Hall and Sunday School wing. What if it had been “too much trouble”? Instead, the people were able to look beyond their own perceived needs and embrace a ministry future.

At its core, the church has never been a building. It has always been a people, the followers of Jesus. Our roots go even deeper than 1866. In the first century, the church that began at Pentecost was known as “The Way”, and developed a communal life rich in prayer, learning, sacrament, shared table, and the Holy Spirit. They “held all things in common”. They lived out their way of life in the midst of the larger culture, their greatest joy meeting the world’s greatest needs. Even in the midst of persecution, the community grew exponentially, as the movement of the Spirit and the good news of God’s unbounded love transformed people’s lives.

In preparation for the anniversary, I am working with Lee to record more recent chapters of the congregation’s story. What should I include in “our chapter”? What have we been preparing? How has God been working with us to bring the Word alive, reveal the kingdom of God, and deliver God’s people? What inheritance will we pass on?

It is an exciting new era for the church of Jesus Christ. Yes, everything seems to be changing, but God is faithful and will always provide what we need. Our faith community continues to be remarkably gifted! There are many of God’s people all around us who will need the “missionary attention” that God is equipping us to provide. Our congregation has a history of supporting missionaries. Now we are the missionaries!

There are deep needs for ministry outside the walls of our building. Spiritual nurture and Christian Education will take shape where the people are. Inspiration, creativity, and joy will characterize our mission. Lives will be transformed. And if you haven’t yet noticed, God is bringing new people to us this very day.

On June 18th, the Conference Minister, Reverend Bill Worley, will be our preacher and celebrate 150 years with us. We will have a party in the new pavilion after the service. It is my hope that we will not only marvel at our long history and give thanks to God for it, but that we will also look forward with anticipation for what is to come, asking the Lord to evangelize us with the vision and fire to write the first chapter in the next 150 years – with our faith, our courage, and our industry.

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Scott’s Archived E-pistles