Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Pa. church marks 200 years of service

Denmark Manor United Church of Christ was founded by German immigrants.

More than 200 years ago, a group of German immigrants traveled across the Allegheny Mountains from Eastern Pennsylvania and established their own farms and a church in Westmoreland County.

The journey to the town of Export was "quite a trip with no roads," said the Rev. Meredith Hutchison, pastor of Denmark Manor United Church of Christ.

The immigrants founded the church on June 4, 1811, and on June 5 a bicentennial celebration will be held.

At 10 a.m., Hutchison, the first female pastor of the church, and the Rev. Alan McLarty, president and conference minister of the Penn West Conference of the United Church of Christ, will lead a worship service.

The land, originally set aside for wealthy Danes, was donated by church members Jacob Brinker and Conrad Knappenberger. The name Denmark Manor stuck, but the Danes "just didn't come," she said.

Instead, "very hardworking German farmers came and established the area."

The original church was a small structure that had no heat, and worship services were conducted in German for about the first 50 years. The Rev. R.N. Hacke, the pastor of the church from 1819 to 1868, gradually moved the services to English.

In 1811, about 15 to 20 people originally worshipped at the small church. The church now has about 190 members, with 75 to 80 congregants worshipping regularly in a second meeting house built in 1888. At its peak in the 1960s, the church had about 300 members.

The steeple on the church built in 1888 was removed in the 1930s after it was struck by lightning a few times, said Sylvia Duncan, the church's unofficial historian, but "gorgeous, huge" stained-glass windows remain. The chancel furniture, including the pulpit, lectern, and chairs, also dates to 1888.

The grand piano in the church is "very, very old," Duncan said. "I wish I could give you a date."

And though the church has collected new members over the years, the same families continue to attend services.

"Every name that was associated with the church in 1811 still has descendants" who worship at the Export church, Duncan said.

Souvenirs commemorating the church's 200th anniversary, including small wooden replicas of the church, will be available throughout the event. The replicas "have a little bit of the church's history on the back," Hutchison said.