Posted January 18, 2017 in Around the Synod

From Lehigh Presbytery

LehighPresbyterian roots are deep in the history of this area. The Scotch-Irish Presbyterians were among the first settlers in East Allen, Northampton County. In fact, on the original site on this settlement stands the old Weaversville Presbyterian building. One of the early pastors of that congregation was with General George Washington on the famous Christmas Eve raid on the British camped at Trenton, N.J.; he was a casualty of that battle and is buried in the cemetery of the Presbyterian Church of Trenton.

The great missionary to the Indians, David Brainerd, visited this area and at one time preached in the old Mt. Bethel Presbyterian Church (building still used as a community museum). His name and spirit lived on at the Brainerd Center, a former camp and conference facility operated by the presbytery.

Eight different presbyteries were involved in sending missionaries, pastors and Sunday school teachers into the region now served by Lehigh Presbytery. The “New School” Presbytery of New Brunswick, formed in 1738, was the first; followed by the 2nd and 3rd Presbyteries of Philadelphia, Newton, Luzerne, Hudson, Northumberland and New Castle.

All the Presbyterian congregations founded before 1870 were part of the Synod of Philadelphia. On June 22,1871, Lehigh Presbytery was formed to be made up of all the Presbyterian congregations located in the counties of Berks, Lehigh, Northampton, Monroe, Carbon, Schuylkill and “that portion of Luzerne south of the Wilkes-Barre Mountain.” At that time there were 36 churches. On Oct. 16, 1897, the churches within Berks County were transferred to the Presbytery of Philadelphia. In 1958, with the merger of the Presbyterian Church USA and the United Presbyterian Church in North America to form the United Presbyterian Church in the USA, the churches located in Berks County returned to Lehigh Presbytery.

From its formation, Lehigh was responsive to the needs of immigrant groups, starting separate congregations among the Welsh, English and Italian populations of the Wind Gap/Pen Argyl/Bangor/Roseto areas, and among the Italian and Eastern European populations in the Hazleton/Pottsville/St. Clair areas.

Over the years the presbytery has engaged in a creative strategy that saw new forms of ministry throughout the area, a number of mergers and relocations. Dissolutions took place so that names like Conyngham Valley, Eckley, Mauch Chunk, Port Carbon, Pottsville Second, Shenandoah, Bridge Street Catasauqua, Loc Ridge, Roseto, Sandy Run, Palmerton, Beaver Meadow, Easton Brainerd Union are no longer on the roll of the presbytery. Today there are 32 congregations and 8,327 members serving the same counties as they did in 1870.