Imagine attending church in Geiger’s Mill, later to be known as Geigertown, on a Sunday morning in the winter of 1777, just 30 miles west of where Gen. George Washington’s Continental Army was encamped at Valley Forge.
That is what the members of St. Paul’s did. It’s a congregation that has witnessed the entirety of our country’s history. What began as the Old Forest Church in 1773 is today St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, the third-oldest Methodist congregation in the United States.
The church was first organized by Swedish minister the Rev. William Demour in 1773. Demour and his congregation built the first small church building at the present site of St. Paul’s on land owned by the famous Swedish settler Mouns Jones, who is known for Morlatton Village and the Mouns Jones House in Amity Township.
After Demour’s death in 1776, “The flock began to melt away due to neglect.”
That is when another illustrious name appeared in the history of St. Paul’s, on July 25, 1799. Bishop Francis Asbury, one of the founders of Methodism in America, journeyed from Philadelphia to deliver a sermon and encourage the struggling congregation.
He wrote: “We had a dreadful time over the mountains to the Forest Chapel. We found the people there very much engaged in religion. This was a balm for every sore.”
The congregation survived its struggles and flourished, forming a Sunday school in 1824 and erecting the present church building on May 26, 1858, when the name was changed to St. Paul’s.
Stained glass windows were added in 1892, and the current steeple and bell tower was built in 1894. In 1924-25, renowned painter Berthold Imhoff completed the painting of Jesus that can still be viewed at the front of the sanctuary.
In 1968, the Methodists and the Evangelical United Brethren Churches joined to become the United Methodist Church, which is when St. Paul’s assumed its current name.
Since then, the congregation has continued to worship together. An educational and social wing was added in 1970, and in 2001the narthex was expanded to include an elevator.
During the weekend of Oct. 14-15, St. Paul’s will officially celebrate its 250th anniversary. On Oct. 14, a free public festival is planned on the church grounds. A 5K run and 1-mile fun walk will start the day at 9 a.m., followed by the festival from 2-8 p.m.
Live music in a large tented area will be provided at 2 by Threefold Blessing from Birdsboro. Think of 3, a contemporary Christian band will play at 4, Ironwood Drive, a gospel bluegrass band, at 6. The celebration will end at 8 with fireworks.
A variety of food will be available, along with many activities, including bounce houses, a fire truck, a clown, face painting, temporary tattoos, volleyball, cornhole and other games.
A tour of the historic sanctuary and cemetery will be offered as well, including the gravesite of Demours, Johann Geiger, founder of Geiger’s Mill, and the historic painting of Jesus by Imhoff.
St. Paul’s invites everyone to come and celebrate its rich heritage.
On Oct. 15, the 9 a.m. service will feature several former pastors as well as the opening of the time capsule after the service during a luncheon in the social hall.
Source: Berkshire mont