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Church History

 

A History such as this reflects only a small portion of any church. It can never portray the joys, sorrows, loves, fellowships, and friendships that come down through the years of a congregation worshiping together. It is with a sincere prayer that, as we strive together as a church, we will follow a path in God’s Word to grow in truth and a closer relationship with his son, Jesus Christ.

Our geographic location here in Nottingham came about with the rapid spread of the Scotch-Irish Presbyterians into the Susquehanna and Cumberland Valley area. By 1732 the demand for religious services was a pressing concern for the Presbytery of New Castle - a predecessor of our now Presbytery of Donegal. As the area was being settled and defined by the formation of the Nottingham Lots under the control of the Penn family, religion and the worship of God also grew in importance. The demands of the clergy were heavy. No minister gave his time exclusively to any one congregation, but was assigned to hold services for several congregations in an certain area. Below is an overview of our historical timeline.


1811 - Our charter of Incorporation is granted in the name of the Upper West Nottingham Presbyterian Church. As this names suggests, we are the daughter church of the Lower West Nottingham Presbyterian Church now located in Colora, Maryland which was formed in 1741 and is currently known as West Nottingham Presbyterian Church.

1804-1822 - Rev. James Magraw was installed as the minister to both the Upper and Lower Presbyterian Churches. one-third time to one and two thirds to the other. It was under his leadership that we established our own Charter in 1811.

1826-1862 - After the resignation of Rev. Magraw in 1822, we became co-joined with Oxford Presbyterian Church in the Spring of 1825. At that time, a local figure became associated with us- the Rev. Dr. Ebenezer Dickey.


The Rev. Dr. Dickey has been described as tall - about six feet - and slim. He was an inquiring , independent, and widely respected man. As a farmer’s son, he is reported to have said that he “preached lime and religion”. He also had an informed and well disciplined and balanced mind. As a Pastor, he was described as “active and efficient”. His custom was to visit each family in his charge twice per year. He was very active in the larger Presbyterian Church in America, being elected Moderator of the Synod . He also assisted in bringing union within the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church. He died in office in 1831 and was succeeded by his son, the Rev. Dr. John Miller Dickey, who served as our Pastor from August 29, 1831 to 1836.

Among his many and varied accomplishments, Rev. Dr. Dickey was instrumental in the founding of Lincoln University. He was a man whose life was exceedingly busy and successful. His influence and life were a testimony of a man dedicated to a life of service to the community. It was he who oversaw the construction of the building of the Oxford Presbyterian Church. He gave diligent heed to the Biblical call to the teaching of children and established many Sabbath Schools throughout the area. At one particular Sabbath School celebration in 1840, over 500 children from throughout the area attended his service!

1856-1860 - The co-joined relationship of Upper West Nottingham and Oxford Presbyterian continued under the pastorate of Rev. Casper Wister Hodge from September 20, 1856, to June 20, 1860.


1860-1862 - The pulpit then was filled by the Rev. W. R. Bingham for both congregations. This arrangement was augmented by an additional Pastor, the Rev. C. N. Stewart. Rev. Stewart was to supply the pulpit in Nottingham on the alternate weeks that Rev. Bingham served in Oxford. In 1862, Rev. Bingham resigned due to ill health and a new era began in our church.

1862 – October 1, 1862 marked the Pastoral Call to the Rev. F. R. Noble - our first “solo” pastorate at the Upper West Nottingham Presbyterian Church.

1872-1885 - These were “red letter years” for our church. December 1, 1872, marked the installation of the Rev. Lindley C. Rutter as our Pastor. The congregation grew rapidly in both numbers and spiritual vitality. A Ladies Aid Society was organized - it’s original Minute Books still exist - and weekly Prayer Meetings were held in various homes throughout our congregation.

March 2, 1878, Session, under the Moderator, Rev. Rutter, feeling the need of a better church building, moved to appoint a committee to canvass the congregation and secure subscriptions towards that end. On April 7, 1878, for the sum of $300.00, the Corporation of the Upper West Nottingham Presbyterian Church purchased 3 acres of land from James F. Pollock and his wife, Margaret. This is the site of our present church. The cornerstone was laid on Wednesday, August 14, 1878. Plans were that the congregation hoped to be “under roof” by winter. Then tragedy struck! Towards the close of October of 1878, a terrible gale struck the area. Great damage occurred throughout the local area. Included in the damage was the falling of the walls of our church. We had been awaiting the arrival of the slate for the roof and just wood sheeting boards were in place. All the walls fell except the rear wall. The structure had to be rebuilt at additional cost. It is thought that the pilasters were added to the exterior structure during the reconstruction. The “formal” opening of our church took place December 24, 1879. It was through the untiring and indefatigable efforts of Rev. Rutter rousing the congregation that we shook off the tragedy very quickly. The considerable extra expenses and debt entailed for the construction were paid for almost at once (construction totaled $4, 500.00). Only a small sum of three hundred dollars remained to be paid and a mortgage was secured for that purpose.

Spring, 1880, saw the completion and dedication of our new building. 1880 also marks the date in time which our “official” chartered name was amended from Upper West Nottingham Presbyterian Church to be” Nottingham Presbyterian Church”.


Rev. Rutter was our Pastor for 13 years - six of which were in the “new building”. During that time, 94 people were added to our rolls. Rev. Rutter resigned in 1885.

1895-1909 - April 1, 1895, marked the beginning of our church’s association with the Rev. John M. Jenkins. He was invited, first, as our Stated Supply for six months. On January 28,1896, he was called a Pastor, which he continued being for 14 years.(As a note of interest: Mrs. Alice”Allie” Kimble Witmer, one of our present church members, is his great-granddaughter!)

During the Fall of 1921 our Sanctuary was renovated for the first time. Electricity and electric lights were installed as was a “central” heating plant.

A new Board was added to the structure of our church in 1922.  Our Deacon Board was added by Session as a new arm of service of Nottingham Presbyterian Church.


August, 1928 was another milestone year for us – the Fiftieth Anniversary of our Building Celebration.

1931-1936 – July, 1931, marked the beginning of our association with the Rev. Peter DeRuiter. He first came here as our Stated Supply, then became our installed Pastor in October, 1931. It was during his pastorate that our church suffered a tragic division. We need to understand “the division” in its larger sense. During the preceding 50 years, an intense debate and theological conflict was occurring in the American Churches through out the entire country. Much like the current problems facing our churches today, the 1930’s saw debates happening at many levels - Seminaries, Presbyteries - and many churches were faced with deep divisions concerning the inerrancy of scripture, the miracles in the Bible, and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Sadly, a few men within the Presbyterian Church held with liberal views. Charges of heresy were preferred against some clergy and they were removed from their office.

The two ”sides” of the conflict were joined by a third, “middle of the road” party, who became the controlling faction during the late 1920’s and 1930’s. This group led to the reorganization of Princeton Seminary and the founding of the Westminster Seminary of Philadelphia. It was a group from Westminster which became convinced that the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Mission were far too liberal and took action at the 1934 General Assembly to deny the right of Presbyterian clergy the opportunity to join a new “Independent Board of Missions”. The fundamentalist leader of one of the “sides” was Dr. J. Gresham Machen from Princeton Seminary.

Rev. DeRuiter was a graduate of the Westminster Seminary and became of the same conviction as of Dr. Machen. In June, 1936, he tendered his resignation here at Nottingham Presbyterian and led approximately one half of the congregation to form the Bethany Orthodox Presbyterian Church. They began meeting in the old Band Hall (later, the “little church”) on Cannery Row here in Nottingham, later building on Old Baltimore Pike down the road from us. This tragic division greatly weakened us, but we rose to the challenge! Just before his departure, our basement facilities were excavated (by hand) for Sunday School use and fellowship. Also, before “The Division”, plans were laid for the renovation of our Sanctuary. A committee led by Mrs. Alberta Brown and including Mrs. John Kimble, Mrs. Charles Yaw, and Mrs. John Scotten went on a business trip to New York City. Accompanying them was one other person - a young man by the name of Edwin Worth Brown who was Mrs. Brown's son.

1952-1956 - One of the shortest pulpit searches ended on February of 1952. The Rev. John F. Troupe was installed at that time. Significant changes took place in the physical appearance of the church during his years here. During the years 1954-1958, a Bell Tower was built and its historic bell was installed.  Our bell was cast in England in 1849 and was shipped and installed in America at the First Presbyterian Church located in the Richmond area of Philadelphia. The stone for the Bell Tower came from the quarry located on the property of Ms. Mary Campbell, one of our members, who lived on the Ridge Road in Nottingham. This was thought to be the location where the stone for the main church building originated 75 years previously. Mr. Keel King, Mr. E. Worth Brown, Mr. George Cameron, and Mr. William R. Kimble were very instrumental in seeing the project to its successful conclusion. A dedication service was held on June 29, 1958, to mark the occasion. Our lavatories and garage were also constructed during these busy years.

During Dr. Troupe’s pastorate, the church nearly doubled it’s membership to a whopping 260! 154 people united with our church during his tenure, the biggest one-time jump in membership in our history. This growth was reflected in expanding the scope and focus of our programs as well. A Young Adult group was started (the core group still meets today in 2003) and the Board of Deacons was re-established. The Rev. Dr. Troup organized an Adult Group which still exists today. Also at this time our bicameral board was replaced with a Session consisting of both Trustees and Elders. Our Stewardship Program became vigorous, with financial health, we were able to discontinue asking for financial aid from the Presbyterian Board of Missions and become totally self-sufficient. We were also able to assume partial support for a missionary and his wife - Dr. and Mrs. George B. Leeder from India who visited us during one of their furloughs for a very enlightening time.


We also sent a second ministerial candidate into the field. In 1952, Mr. George Lamiar Haines announced his intention to enter the ministry under the care of the Presberty of Chester (the predecessor of the Presberty of Donegal).  He was ordained at a special service on June 29, 1960. Dr. Troupe retired from the ministry at Nottingham on December 31, 1956.


1961-1986 - On August 13, 1961, the church celebrated the 150th Anniversary of its founding according to original Charter of Incorporation. There were 325 members and guests in attendance at the special service.  All former, living pastors were invited and several were able to attend to add to the festive nature of the day.   In November of that same year a church library was started.  Books purchased by the Adult Group provided the nucleus from which many other donations were received.  The Rev. Joseph J. Gasper was called and installed as pastor on May 26, 1962.  During his ministry the church went forward in spiritual challenges as well as taking significant strides toward chrch property involvements and additions.  Vacation Bible School had a record 117 children in attendance. The annual Christmas Eve Service commenced and continues to the present day.  In order to give better representation to an ever-growing congregation, the Session was increased from 6 to 9 members.  New hymnals were purchased that year.


In 1963, Lay Visitation was intitated as part of an Evangelical Program; a nursery was established to accomodate young children during the morning worship wervice; and a Boy Scout Troop was organized under the sponsorship of the church.  A water shortage necessitated the drilling of a new well in 1963.  Also, the stained glass windows were repaired, the ceiling insulated and a choir loft added.  In April of 1964, the Ladies Aid Society provided the church with an amplifying system which included earphones, jacks, and a nursery speaker.  In March of 1966, the congregation voted to support the $50 Million Fund of the United Presbyterian Church with a $5000 pledge over a period of 3 years.  This project was an expansion and building program of United Presbyterian facilities throughout the world.  

 

One of the highlights in 1967 was a mission trip to Embudo Presbyterian Hospital, New Mexico, taken by several young people from the congregation and accompanied by Rev. and Mrs. Gasper.  In October 1967, Mr. Martin Sumner resigned as Superintendent of the Sunday School after 6 years of service and Mrs. Robert Shortes acepted the position.  She served for 2 years and was followed by Mrs. Franklin Wagner who kept the position until early 1971. During Rev. Gasper's tenure, Paul Kessell, son of a member of our congregation, entered the ministry.  On October 19,1969, the cross that currently resides in the alter area of our sanctuary was dedicated in memory of Mark Todd.  Mark was the son of a family in our congregation and died at the age of 16 in an automobile accident.  The cross was constructed by the artist who designed the furniture in Independence Hall in Philadelphia.


The Women's Association and Missionary Society have been few in numbers but strong in dedication toward many mission projects and community throughout the years.  The Women's Association has been privileged to have had attendance at the National meeting in 3 different years, Mrs. James L. Brown in 1964 and Mrs. Paul F. Brown in 1967 and 1970.  Officers on the Presbyterial Level of the United Presbyterian Women have included Mrs. G. Lamar Haines and Mrs. Paul F. Brown who was also a Synodical delegate from Presbyterial in 1974. 


On January 31, 1970, Rev. Gasper received a call to another church and Dr. Andrew Murray from Lincoln University was appointed Moderator in the interim.  In 1970, Mrs. Martin Sumner led the church initiative to provide a community outreach program with neighborhood classes in nutrition, cooking and Home Economics for those who wished to better thier skills. 


Major repairs to the foundation of the church building were undertaken.  In June of 1970, the Deacons and Women's Association invited the guests of the Presbyterian Home to the morning worship service followed by a picnic.  This was done for several years thereafter.


In May, 1971, Rev. David A Schneider was called.  He served as Pastor-elect until his installation on August 29, 1971.  An active youth fellowship went on retreats to Camp Donegal, one of which was led by several midshipmen from Annapolis.  Mrs. G. Lamar Haines was appointed as the next Sunday School Superintendent and served from 1971-1972.  Mrs. Grace Dolinger then served as Superintendent until July 1973.  Mrs. Jesse Dolinger took over in that capacity until at least 1978.  A long range Planning Committee was organized in March of 1972 with representation from each church organization.  Their objective was to set goals toward which the church would be moving.  A Junior Church Program was added for children.  The youth of the church gave a fine performance in an unique Easter play.

 

A new piano for the church sanctuary was purchased and in April 1973 a fund was established for the acquisition of new choir gowns.  The church also accepted the goal of $2,090 for the Capital Funds Campaign of the Presbyterian Homes of Central PA.  In late 1973, the session approved a policy on church memorials. 


Rev. Schneider resigned on June 17, 1975.  Rev. Donald Weber of Kennett Square served as moderator of the Session until May 1977 when Rev. Donald H. Rossire, a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, was called.  While the church was without a pastor, the manse was renovated.   In 1976 and 1977, the church school room also underwent a renovation when carpeting and room dividers were added.  Mr. William D. Cissel was selected as the delegate to the Synod of the Trinity which met in June of 1977.  The Joseph Hanna Memorial Tape Ministry was begun and was a big asset to the shut-ins of the congregation.   The monthly Prayer and Praise Service, the midweek Deeper Life Teaching, the special fellowship/study group, and the early-morning worship and breakfast gatherings have all been evidence of God working in our midst.

Our 27th pastor was Rev. John W. Shedwick. He served here in Nottingham from September 1, 1979, until June 2, 1985, when he accepted a call to First Presbyterian Church, Woodbury Heights in New Jersey. Prior to his arrival, a new (and our current) organ was purchased under the guidance of a committee within the congregation. A service to dedicate its use was held on September 23, 1979.

Rev. Shedwick’s excellent job of guiding our church and preaching the Word without apology or equivation will be long remembered. The carillon was added to our Bell Tower and its music became a part of local “downtown” Nottingham’s history. Many improvements for the beautification and care of our property also took place.  In addition, a score of new area residents joined our growing congregation.

A pulpit nominating committee was established on September 15, 1985, to begin the search for our next pastor. During its work, the manse was redecorated and refurbished by the members in a unique way. Various rooms were “taken” as a project and the members worked together to see that the manse was painted and updated.

1987-1991 - On June 28, 1987 a call was tendered to Rev. Burfoot Starkey Ward III. He previously had served at Wells Tannery, PA. and Virginia Beach VA. He and his family moved into the manse that October.

During an inspection in 1988 by our Property and Grounds Chairperson, Charles W.”Charlie” Bush, it was discovered there was significant problems concerning the rafters in our church building . Visible sagging was evident even from the outside. Options for repair were presented to Session with the final conclusion being reached that an all-out repair/replacement take place. By 1989 the Session was exploring all options and presented at a Special Congregational Meeting on April 22, 1990, one of the most all-inclusive projects in our church history - “Raise the Roof”.  The President of the Trustees, Mr. John Paxson, reported that a through study had been done of the condition of the rafters and general building condition. The only lasting solution, that would assure the longevity of the church building, would entail an extensive replacement and renovation. The building would have to be closed for at least a month and most of the roof slate removed to accommodate the replacement of the rafters. Donegal Presbytery’s approval was in hand to raise, use on-hand funds, and/or borrow the needed monies ($135,000.00 was the estimate). The motion was made and carried by a majority.


Risk Associates of Quarryville, PA., became the site managers for the project. Gift suggestions, in addition to the roof replacement/repair, were added to the Memorial Gift List and the Building Committee List. It was thought that, since the building was already under construction, that the heating system should be updated and an air conditioning system be added as well. The sound system, carpeting, and several other items were added to the project. Various fundraisers were held, such as pig roasts, dinners, and auctions and funds came in from many sources throughout the congregation and community. A special interest-free loan from a member and his wife secured the final set of funds to see the completion of the project. It should be noted that the entire sum involved in the project was paid in full within a three year term. It truly was a time of united effort and hard work on the behalf of many individuals and groups. Final completion of the project was reported at the Congregational Meeting of January 17, 1991.

1992-1998 - The years following all of the physical renovations and additions saw a shift in the attitudes and directions within our congregation. Many saw the continuing need for expansion and growth, while others became concerned that the rapid changes were not founded on sound planning and thought. We entered the computer age along with establishment of the church secretarical position becoming a paid post. Wages and operating costs continued to mount while stewardship giving remained static. This was part of the national trend of the times, which saw many “baby-boomers” now becoming the giving members of the national and local churches. The “old guard” style of stewardship and commitment was in flux all throughout the United States, and we were no exception to the national trend.

Several families and individuals moved their membership from Nottingham to other churches late in 1996 and 1997. Part of the explanation concerning these transfers was the position of the Presbyterian Church USA concerning the ordination of homosexuals. The ebb and flow of national discontent did indeed affect the local church as well.

Rev. Ward accepted the call to the North Warren Presbyterian Church of North Warren , Pennsylvania on August 31, 1997. We were supplied by the Rev. Randolph Bandy from January 1, 1998, to September 5, 1999.

1999-2003 - Rev. Band brought a happy, jocular but learned style of preaching to our church. He was a popular and well liked Interim pastor. He was sadly missed when he and his wife moved to Chicago, to be near his family.

The Rev. Dr. William Netting, formerly of Chestnut Level Presbyterian Church, was our next Interim Pastor from October 1, 1999 to July 2, 2000. Dr. Netting’s gracious and well researched biblical teaching was well received. He and his wife, Vickie, often visit us and donated a beautiful piece of “Nottingham Lace” from Nottingham England from their trip aboard. It has been framed and is on display in our church office. Rev. Dr. Netting recently retired as the Stated Clerk of the Presberty of Donegal after many years of service.

On August 20, 2000, Rev. Wayne K. Lutz was installed as our 30th full-time pastor. He and wife, Linda Brown Lutz and their family brought a fresh vitality and sense of change to our congregation. Prior to their arrival the manse was completely renovated both outside and in. New replacement storm windows were outfitted on both stories. During the Lutz’s stay here, the 150th Anniversary of our Building was celebrated; a Musical Praise Team was established; and a Bell Choir formed. The children’s programs and Vacation Bible School were highlights of hard work and much cooperation between the members and staff and were well attended.

2004-2008 - Many sad changes were brought about including a brief period of decline in membership. As with many churches during that time period, we saw our membership dwindle due to many deaths within our aging congregation along with natural attrition. The large group of children and teens that previously filled our classes moved on and were not replaced. In 2006, Rev. Lutz resigned the Pastorate and the Presbytery of Donegal suggested that an Admistrative Commission and Operating Committee replace the Session and the Board of Deacons. The pulpit was filled with several Pastors until the Commission, along with the Presbytery of Donegal’s COM, found the Rev. David B. Willerup to become the Designated Pastor-Elect in 2008.


2008-2016 - 2008 was the start of an upswing in the spirtitual health and mentality of our congregation. With foresight and much work, a ReFocusing Team, along with Rev. Willerup, studied, worked, and prayed over the “bones” of our church. Laying bare the past history and its trends was both painful and helpful to decide the future course of our church. Slowly and surely the leadership and the Congregation finished the ReFocusing Project in under 18 months and a new Session was formed. Shortly thereafter the Board of Deacons was re-established, and healthy new group of children (and their parents) revitalized our Sunday School and VBS Programs.  With the financial health of the church re-established (thanks in large part to the Estate of Edwin Worth Brown), we were able to add a Sexton position to the staff and increased our Mission giving dramatically.


Rev. Willerup accepted a position in the Presbytery of Baltimore effective January 18, 2016.  We have been fortunate to have had the Rev. Dr. Nicole Wilkinson Duran joined NPC as our interim pastor and later Rev. David Pickett to supply our pulpit as we moved toward a decision for the best pastoral model for the future of NPC.  On November 13, 2017, Rev. Merritt Schatz accept a position as a Temporary Covenant Pastor through December, 2018.

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