History

The history of New Goshenhoppen dates back to 1727 when the first recorded communion was held, making it one of the oldest German Reformed church in the country. Over the years, thousands of people have worshiped God in our church. 

 

The countryside has changed where trees and woods have slowly given way to farm fields, housing, and industry. Our ways of living and transportation have also changed. Still, one constant has remained--the selfless giving and hard work of our church's members, doing what it takes to provide a strong household of faith.

Founding

New Goshenhoppen Church was founded in the Goshenhoppen region, which encompasses the entire upper half of the Perkiomen Valley.  In 1682 William Penn, possessing a charter from King Charles II of England for certain land in the new world, landed in Philadelphia, which was then inhabited by the Lenape, an indigenous tribe. A treaty was made between Mr. Penn and Tamanend or Tammany, King of the Lenape Nation, covering the province of Pennsylvania. In 1684 Mr. Penn purchased the deeds to land in the Perkiomen Valley.  One of those treaties reads as such:

"Upon my own Desire and free Offer, I, Maughoughsin in consideration of Two Matchcoats, four pair of Stockings, and four Bottles of sider do hereby graunt and make over all my Land upon Pankehom (Perkiomen) to William Penn Prop'r and Govern'r of Pennsylvania and Territories his heirs and Assignes forever with which I own myself satisfied and promise never to molest (harass) any Christians so call'd y't shall seat thereon by his ord'rs witness my hand and seal of Philadelphia y'e third Day of y'e fourth month 1684. THE MARK OF MAUGHOUGHSIN Signed, Sealed and delivered in presence of us: Philip Th Lehnman Thos. Holme Jn Davers George Emlin”.

Twenty-five years after Chief Maughoughsin had deeded the Perkiomen Valley to Penn, the native peoples left the region and moved westward to the Susquehanna. This movement was due largely to the great number of European families who had moved into the Perkiomen region. The majority of the early settlers in the Goshenhoppen region came from Germany and were members of either the Lutheran or the German Reformed Protestant Churches.

There were two German Reformed Churches established in the Goshenhoppen region — The Old Goshenhoppen German Reformed Church in Woxall and the New Goshenhoppen German Reformed Church in Upper Hanover Township. Goshenhoppen is probably a name that the first German settlers adopted from the native peoples. The original word is said to have meant "wonderful tubers". The prefixes Old and New were used to establish their proximity to Philadelphia — Old referring to the closer and New referring to the more remote location. The site on which New Goshenhoppen Church is located was donated at an early date to the Lutherans, Mennonites and Calvinists by John Henry Sproegel. It was a tract of 50 acres and 26 perches. Each congregation was given a plot on which to construct a church. Both the Lutheran and Mennonites sold or relinquished the rights to their share in the Sproegel tract and the 50 acres became the absolute property of the Calvinists or Reformed.

Our story covers the New Goshenhoppen German Reformed Church congregation, which, since 1957, has been affiliated with the United Church of Christ.  On a marble slab in the outside wall of the present church building, immediately above the arch of the front door, there is an inscription in German, which reads: "New Goshenhoppen Reformed Church founded between the years 1680 and 1700. The second church was built in the year 1769; the third church was built in the year 1857. Building committee of the third church: Charles Hillegass, Peter Hillegass, Wilhelm Rieth, Jacob Hersch, George Deischer".

In an early history of Upper Hanover Township we read, "Tradition established the German Reformed Church at New Goshenhoppen as early as 1716."  

 

In a letter to the Classis of Amsterdam, November 1730, the Rev. John Philip Boehm wrote as follows:

"He (Mr. Weiss) preached at a branch place called Goshenhoppen about ten miles from Falckner Schwam; the last time, on October 12, 1727, he celebrated the Lord's Supper." Rev. George Michael Weiss, the eminent Reformed pioneer clergyman and the first pastor of the New Goshenhoppen Reformed Church, has been called the first mission superintendent of the Reformed Church in America.

 

Our Church Buildings

Three buildings have been utilized by this congregation throughout its long history of service to the people of this area.

It is definitely known that a building existed in 1739 when John Goetschy was pastor. John Philip Boehm mentioned that in a letter in that year to the South and North Synods of Holland in which he says, "They have built a pretty large church at that place, which will be sufficient for them for some time, but it is poorly made of wood."

 

The outstanding event of the pastorate of Rev. John Theobald Faber, Sr. was the building of a stone church, for which the cornerstone was laid in 1769. The church was completed in 1770. It is regrettable that this church had to be razed. However, there are a number of items which were a part of the second church that may be seen in our present church -- the third building.

 

During the pastorate of Rev. Daniel Weiser, the present church was constructed. The cornerstone bears the year 1857. It was wisely planned and so built at a cost slightly over $18,000, that it has served our congregation for many years. In order to erect a steeple, nine members each contributed $100 while others gave liberally toward the purchase of the bell.

The church was described in the Bauern Freund of August 1858. "The new church is one of the largest and most beautiful in the rural area, built of brick, according to the modern style, surmounted by a high steeple with a heavy bell therein. The glass of the high windows in completely stippled with paint so that the beams of sunlight will not blind the eyes of the audience. The chancel is decorated to represent variegated marble, is placed rather high, with steps unprotected by a railing; the altar is simple and plain. The ceiling and walls of the interior are painted in fresco and make an elegant appearance." The balcony on three sides of the sanctuary along with the organ (on the balcony) in the rear of the church are both examples of typical German architecture.  During the year 1894, an annex to the church was built at the pulpit end, and the inside of the edifice was renovated. This present church contains some very revered and highly valued mementos of the first and second churches.

There are a number of the timbers hewn for the second church which serve as the rafters of the present building. Above the balcony doorways and bordering the cabinet of the present organ are the collars of the Tannenberg organ which had been in service in the 1769 church. Some of the gilded pipes in the casework were a part of that organ.

The one remnant of the first church is a wooden memorial tablet which had been placed over the grave of Rev. George Michael Weiss, our first pastor, who was buried under the pulpit. This memorial is now located at the top of the stairs on the left as you enter the front door.

 

There are also two memorial tablets of the Fabers, father and son, who originally were buried under the chancel of the 1769 church. These tablets are now located on the wall facing you as you enter through the main door. Directly to the left is the marker of John Theobald Faber, Sr., and to the right is the marker of John Theobald Faber, Jr.  Three inscribed stones which had been in the wall over the entrance to the 1769 church have been placed in the present building. The two stones containing Psalm 27:4 in German are embedded in the inside walls on either side of the main entrance. The third stone, containing Psalm 100:4 in German is located at the top of the stairs on the right as you enter the front door.  On the church grounds is found the arch stone of the 1769 church, located in the stone wall surrounding the second cemetery directly west of the present church. At the south corner of the low wall surrounding the church are part of a stone pillar and the cornerstone of the second church. A stone step from the 1769 church is now a part of the southwest pavement.

 

Cemetery

The oldest part of the cemetery is located opposite the front of the present church building. This burial ground is the oldest in the upper portion of Montgomery County. According to tradition, this burying site may have been selected as early as 1708, for around that time, John Henry Sproegel, an extensive landowner, donated six acres to the settlers for such a purpose.

Many of the early German settlers that came to America are buried here, one of which is David Schultz, a famous colonial scrivener. Also, the founders of New Goshenhoppen Church and many prominent citizens of the surrounding community rest here. Names such as Hillegass, Welker, Graber, Reed and Huber are found, whose descendants are members of New Goshenhoppen today. Many of the stones are unmarked and show the ravages of time.

American flags and brass markers identify the graves of 36 Revolutionary War soldiers who served in the War of Independence.  The grave of Rev. George Michael Weiss (d. 1761), the first ordained Reformed minister to come to America, is found in front of the present church along with that of Rev. John Theobald Faber, Sr. (d. 1788), who was stricken while preaching in the pulpit. There are seven former pastors of the church buried in the cemetery grounds.

 

A record of the family names that are decipherable from the gravestones can be found in church records.

 

Chronology of the Church

1727 -- October 23rd, first recorded date the Lord's Supper was celebrated at New Goshenhoppen by Rev. George Michael Weiss

1730-1793 -- Church of Holland gave financial aid to Reformed churches in Pennsylvania.

1731 -- Oldest congregational record book of Reformed Church in United States begun.

1739 -- First church (of logs) built by this year.

1750 -- Parsonage built on land at Montgomery Avenue, Eleventh Street, Red Hill.

1769 -- Second church (two story, of stone) built.

1769 -- David Tannenberg built and installed organ.

1808 -- Stone parsonage built on land at Montgomery Avenue, 11th Street, Red Hill

1840 -- Dr. Daniel Weiser began Sunday School.

1857 -- Present church built at cost of $18,158.09.

1867 -- Parsonage sold.

1867 -- English language services introduced, but German services continued.

1869 -- Edwin Krauss rebuilt organ and built walnut cabinet.

1878 -- Dr. Clement Weiser headed Peace Commission to create unity and harmony in the Reformed Church.

1879 -- Church farm house built (now church Caretaker's home).

1893 -- St. John's Chapel built in East Greenville.

1894 -- Apse added to church in chancel area. -- church renovated.

1900 -- New bell installed in church steeple.

1905 -- New Goshenhoppen Church Park created.

1907 -- First annual Service in Memory of the Dead held in our cemetery and in our church.

1913 -- Christian Endeavor Society organized.

1915 -- Electric lights replaced oil-burning chandelier.

1916 -- Women members given right to vote in church elections.

1923 -- Bandshell and pavilion erected in Park.  Annual Park Supper with Allentown Band begins

1927 -- Church renovated for Church's Bicentennial

1927 -- Governor John S. Fisher of Pennsylvania spoke at 200th anniversary.

1935 -- All regular German language services discontinued.

1950 -- New Moeller Pipe Organ installed.

1953 -- Dr. Calvin M. DeLong retired after fifty years of service to New Goshenhoppen.

1959 -- Christian Education Building constructed.

1962 -- Rev. Nevin E. Schellenberger elected as first moderator of Penn Southeast Conference.

1975 -- Confirmed membership reached 1500 with Rev. Albert E. Teske as pastor.

1977 -- 250th Anniversary Celebration.

1978 -- New Parsonage erected for Senior Pastor.

1978 -- New Goshenhoppen Nursery School established.

1979 -- St. John's Chapel destroyed by fire.

1981 -- St. John's Chapel property sold.

1982 -- 125th Anniversary and renovation of the present brick church.

1984 -- Purchase of 72 acres of land adjacent to church.

1985 -- Membership exceeds 1700.

1986 -- 260th Anniversary Celebration; Dedication of the chapel bell garden; Revised constitution and by-laws.

1990 -- 150th Sunday School Anniversary.

1993 -- Moeller Pipe Organ rebuilt, project fund raised $115,000

1994 -- Band shell in park renovated.

1994 -- Rev. Dr. Albert E. Teske retired after 29 years at New Goshenhoppen

2002 -- 275th Anniversary Celebration.

2003 -- Annual Pig Roast Celebration with Worship at the Park begins  

2005 -- Rev. Dr. Deborah Rahn-Clemens called as first female Senior Pastor

2007 -- Mission trips begin -- starting with trips to New Orleans for hurricane Katrina recovery

2011 -- New Gosh completes preservation of 73.81 acres in Montgomery Land Preservation program 

2012 -- Church made "Accessible to All" with elevator, 2-story breezeway, and accessible bathrooms added

2013 -- Meadows Fund established, funding yearly Mission, Ministry, and Maintenance projects

2013 -- New Gosh Summer Camping program established

2018 -- Changed Constitution & By-Laws - Associate Pastors called by congregational vote (vs Consistory vote)

© 2019 - 2020 New Goshenhoppen United Church of Christ

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