St. John’s UEPC
In the late 1700s and early 1800s, German immigrants moved into the western Pennsylvania region, many of whom would go to work in the coal mines. One of the first things that these settlers did was to establish churches. The people moving out into the region were largely from German Reformed or Lutheran backgrounds, but neither group had enough people to establish independent Lutheran and German Reformed churches. Thus the German United Evangelical Protestant movement was formed. In some cases they simply met at different times, sharing a meeting place and in other cases they chose to respect the differences that they had and focus on the things that they held in common. They also had seen the damaging effect that a state-church had in Germany, so these churches were fiercely independent and thus championed a form of representative congregational church government. The word “Evangelical” was used in Germany to indicate that a church was not Roman Catholic and the term “Protestant” was used in English speaking countries to indicate the same thing; desiring to communicate this fact to those from either background, “United Evangelical Protestant” was the language chosen to reflect this movement.
Over time the population grew and those with a Lutheran persuasion separated to join various Lutheran synods. Also, many of the German Reformed churches were plagued with liberalism coming out of the European seminaries and they drifted away from their confessional roots. Some would fold and others would be part of the new UCC. Others would remain more consistently confessional, but would join with the RCUS, mixing their German Reformed Tradition with Hungarian and Dutch Reformed traditions who held the same confessional statements.
In 1835, German Christians in the area of Rochester, PA founded St. John’s United Evangelical Protestant Church, part of the aforementioned German movement. They bought the property on which the church currently sits from Swiss Burry for $10, originally meeting in his home, thus the nickname, “Burry’s Church” was lovingly given and has stuck with the congregation even unto this day.
While all of the various changes were taking place in the German United Evangelical Protestant movement, the leadership at “Burry’s Church” made the decision to stick to their confessional roots and to stick to their church constitution. There is an appreciation for theological dialogue within the congregation, yet we hold strongly to the doctrine of scriptural inerrancy and sufficiency and to the theology outlined in the Heidelberg Catechism.
One hundred and seventy-six years later, St. John’s (Burry’s) United Evangelical Protestant Church still stands for the principles that her founders believed were essential: God’s Word and honest Christian living. Situated with its 80’ tall bell tower on the top of the second-highest hill in Beaver County, St. John’s is an ever-present reminder of God’s mercy to a fallen world. If you ever happen to be in the area, come join us for worship and fellowship; we would love to have you.
You can find directions and times at the church’s website: www.burryschurch.org .