Thursday, October 16, 2014

Dedication of improvements at heritage landmark site

Rev. Charles Campbell, representing the Evangelical Congregational Church (a successor denomination of the Evangelical Association) offers dedicatory remarks at the heritage site. 

By Milton Loyer, Conference Archivist

The Evangelical Association founded by the followers of Jacob Albright is one of the three major distinct denominational traditions of the United Methodist Church. New Berlin, in Union County, Pa., served as that body’s first headquarters until its operations moved to Cleveland, Ohio, in 1854. The 1816 site of the denomination’s first church building and first printing house is owned by the United Methodist Church and managed by the General Commission on Archives and History as one of the denomination’s Heritage Landmarks.

Since 1927, visitors to the site have been greeted by a single granite monument. In the summer of 2014 the Susquehanna Conference made improvements to the site that more fully explain the significance of this sacred plot of land. Four interpretive historical pedestal markers have been installed as follows:

  1. A 36x24 marker with a map of New Berlin, explaining other sites of importance to our heritage – such as the site of Union Seminary, the first permanent educational institution of the Evangelical Association and the forerunner of Albright College.
  2. A 36x24 marker picturing the first church building and printing house and telling the story of the Evangelical Association and its place in the United Methodist family.
  3. A 24x18 marker illustrating and discussing the first church building.
  4. A 24x18 marker illustrating and discussing the first printing house.

A highlight of the improvements is the in-ground paving stone outline of the locations of the 24x38 foot church building and the smaller adjacent building which housed the denomination’s printing establishment. Walkways direct visitors to the markers. The site improvements also include two benches overlooking Penns Creek, a tiered retaining wall on the south end of the property, and new landscaping around the original granite monument.

The original granite monument marking the site of the first church edifice of the Evangelical Association.
The dedication services for the improvements took place Sunday, September 7, 2014, with a full day of services at Emmanuel UMC in New Berlin and at the site. A special morning worship service at the church was followed by a noon luncheon in the church hall. The afternoon dedication service was held at the church with the keynote address delivered by Alfred T. Day, General Secretary of the General Commission on Archives and History of the United Methodist Church. Following the afternoon service at the church, the attendees progressed three blocks to the actual site to view the improvements and participate in a brief ceremony and dedicatory prayer.

View of the first church and printing office of the Evangelical Association erected 1816 in New Berlin. 
Three existing American denominations have their roots in the Evangelical Association founded by Jacob Albright, and all three were invited to participate in this celebration of their common heritage. In addition to the United Methodist Church, these are the Evangelical Congregational Church headquartered in Myerstown, Pa., and the Evangelical Church headquartered in Minneapolis, Minn. The former was created in 1922 by congregations choosing not to participate in the union of the Evangelical Association and the United Evangelical Church, and the later was created in 1968 by congregations choosing not to participate in the union of the Evangelical United Brethren and Methodist denominations.

Included in the day’s events were the annual meeting of the Historical Society of the Susquehanna Conference and celebrations of the music of Elisha Hoffman and other Evangelical song writers associated with New Berlin. Directions, a complete schedule, and more information are available from Milton Loyer at loyer@lycoming.edu.

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