Posted July 31, 2017 in Around the Synod

Note: Most of this information comes from the work of the Rev. Bruce Shannon, honorably retired.

KiskiThe history of Kiskiminetas Presbytery is dominated by movements of its borders, denominational reunions and individual church petitions. Made up from several different presbyteries from different Presbyterian denominations, the presbytery has long fluctuated in size and actual locations. In 1774, the first record of Presbyterians moving into the area of what is now Kiskiminetas happened in the area around the location of Ebenezer Presbyterian Church near Clarksburg. It was not until 1790 the first two churches were officially formed, those being Ebenezer Presbyterian Church and Bethel Presbyterian Church near Indiana.

In the years following 1800, several churches were formed by Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Free Presbyterian Church and Associate Reform Church along with the Associate Church Synods, which later became the United Presbyterian Church of North America. The first presbytery carved out what would become Kiskiminetas in 1841. Allegheny Presbytery of the PCUSA (Old School) northeastern portions became known as the Clarion Presbytery. The Clarion Presbytery included all of Clarion, Jefferson, Elk and Forest Counties and also a southeastern portion of Venango County and southwestern portion of Clearfield County. Nearby Erie, Northumberland and Huntingdon Presbyteries periodically changed boundaries with Clarion Presbytery. Also around this time, portions of Redstone Presbytery around Saltsburg and later Blairsville were divided off to be their own presbyteries.

In 1846, churches opposed to slavery and fierce abolitionist organized churches as part of the Free Presbyterian Church (Mahoning Presbytery). One of these churches would petition to become part of the Kittanning Presbytery in 1882.

In 1870, the Kittanning Presbytery was formed out of portions of the Blairsville and Saltsburg Presbyteries. This section encompassed all of Armstrong County and the area of Indiana County that was north of the Black Lick Creek. At the same time, three presbyteries of the United Presbyterian Church in North America overlapped the areas covered by Clarion and Kittanning Presbyteries of the PCUSA. The Brookville Presbytery encompassed churches in Clarion, Jefferson, Elk, Franklin and Crawford counties as well as Lewistown in Mifflin County. The Conemaugh Presbytery included nearly all of Indiana County. The Kiskiminetas Presbytery of the United Presbyterian Church comprised all of Armstrong County and a few congregations on the south side of the Kiskiminetas River.

The 1906 merger of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. had an impact on churches of the former Cumberland Presbytery located in Jefferson, Indiana, Armstrong and northern Westmoreland Counties. The Clarion Presbytery of the PCUSA received many of these Cumberland churches, while others were moved to Kittanning Presbytery or Shenango Presbytery.

By 1950, the PCUSA presbyteries of Kittanning and Clarion voted to jointly fund an executive to serve both presbyteries. In 1958 the merger of the Presbyterian Church USA and the United Presbyterian Church of North America brought about significant realignment. The churches of Armstrong, Clarion, Jefferson and Elk Counties were placed in Kiskiminetas Presbytery, while the churches of Indiana, Cambria and Somerset counties were moved into the Conemaugh Presbytery. One executive was called to serve both the Kiskiminetas and Conemaugh Presbyteries.

In 1963 the Presbytery of Conemaugh was merged into the Presbytery of Redstone, with churches from Indiana County merged into the Presbytery of Kiskiminetas. Later, St. Benedict and St. Paul Churches in Cambria County requested to transfer from the Presbytery of Redstone to the Kiskiminetas Presbytery, and this was approved.

The presbyteries of the United Presbyterian Church in North America (Clarion and Kittanning) along with the presbyteries of the PCUSA (Conemaugh and Kiskiminetas) joined together to craft a resolution for combining churches where more than one Presbyterian church was serving in the same area. The Kiskiminetas Presbytery was one of three presbyteries in the Synod to sponsor an overture to General Assembly giving the presbyteries the power to merge churches after consulting them, but without their consent. Kiskiminetas was the first to use this power, and a total of 28 mergers and 11 dissolutions were affected.

Since the reunion of the United Presbyterian Church and the Presbyterian Church in United States in 1983, changes continued to the makeup of the Kiskiminetas Presbytery, as churches have petitioned to move to presbyteries of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians.

The Kiskiminetas Presbytery was involved in nursing home care in both Kittanning and Indiana Counties during its history. It began a church camping ministry at Westminster Highlands camp, and with the combined presbyteries of Lake Erie, Shenango and Beaver-Butler, also Camp Lambec in Erie. Chaplains have been provided at Cook Forest and Clear Creek State Parks in conjunction with the State Council of Churches. A truck stop ministry was established at both the Brookville and Stratonville truck stops on Interstate 80, providing ministry to those spending down time there; this is now also operated in conjunction with the State Council of Churches.

While there have been many changes to the landscape of the Kiskiminetas Presbytery over the past centuries, one thing hasn’t changed: the people God has called to the churches with the Kiskiminetas Presbytery remain faithful to sharing the good news of the gospel to the persons in rural areas, small towns and small cities of Armstrong, Indiana, Clarion and Jefferson counties.