The Evangelical Congregational Church had its beginnings in the period following the American Revolutionary War. The hardships of frontier life, and the lack of spiritual guidance, caused many people to drift away from the religious roots which had foster their faith as they immigrated to this new nation.
One such man was Jacob Albright. Albright was born May 1st, 1759, and grew up on a farm in Douglas township near Pottstown. Albright’s parents were German immigrants, and Albright was baptized a Lutheran.
Albright served in the Revolutionary War under Captain Jacob Witz's Seventh Company, Fourth Battalion, Philadelphia Militia as a drummer boy and later as a guard for the Hessian prisoners at Reading, Pennsylvania.
In 1785, Albright married Catherine Cope and they had six children. Albright moved his family to Earl Township, Lancaster County, near Ephrata and took up farming and tile manufacturing.
In 1790, the Albright family suffered a tragic event, as three of his children died from an epidemic. This caused Albright to seek consolation from his Christianity; however, his Lutheran faith did not meet those needs. Albright turned to Methodism, converted, and became a Methodist class leader.
Rejoicing in his new found faith, Albright set himself to mastering a knowledge of God’s word. His studies made him conscious of the need to win his neighbors for Christ, especially those who spoke German, since the Methodist services were all in English. While mocked and reviled, Albright pressed on by preaching and teaching the word of God where the opportunity allowed, eventually forming classes and societies in the following localities: Leisser’s Class at Celebrook, Walter’s class at Quakertown, and Phillips Class at Blue Mountain.
From these humble beginnings. The Evangelical Association Church, eventually the Evangelical Congregational Church, arose.
Jacob Albright died at the age of 49 on May 17, 1808 from tuberculosis in Kleinfeltersville. He is buried next to a chapel in memory of him in that town.
By 1838, the Evangelical Association, a work begun by Jacob Albright in the 1790’s had grown significantly. In 1803, the first of the annual meetings began to take place among the ministers of these churches. By 1809, the Book of Discipline and Articles of Faith were established. In 1816 the loosely affiliated churches became a denomination, calling themselves The Evangelical Association. And by 1838, a work began up on Mohn’s Hill.
According to Robert J Gettshall, “A stone school house was built [on Mohn’s Hill] in 1838 on the site of the present building, as a pay school and for church services.” Organized initially by Brethren minister Reverend Rupp, the school sought to educate the local population because the Brethren saw a lack of education and spiritual understanding among their recent converts.
Wickersham’s History of Education alludes to the fact that most churches in this time did the same educational ministry. Wickersham notes, “Each congregation...established a congregational school alongside the church, at the earliest possible period after its formation...Even before a pastor could be obtained a school was built, and the schoolmaster conducted Sunday School and read a sermon.”
While education was a driving focus, church services were also part of the building’s purpose. Church services were held only once every eight weeks, as pastors had an eight church charge.
William Mohn, the grandson of Ludwig Mohn, is identified as a man actively involved in religious affairs and instrumental in establishing the school and church. William Mohn aided in this important work by donating a piece of the original Mohn farm as the site to erect the school/church structure.
Around 1845 an addition was built to the school house. In 1853, the church trustees bought the remaining share of William Mohn’s land. In 1856, a new stone structure was erected. In 1872, the stone structure was torn down and a wooden structure was erected through the efforts of Trustee Issac Behm. The building cost $1,000 to construct and the cornerstone was laid by Evangelical Association preacher Reverend Lares.
In 1882, a camp meeting was held on Mohn’s Hill in the grove of Joseph Leininger. Forty three tents were pitched and the Reverend I.E. Kneer was in charge of delivering the evangelistic services.
Notable members of the Mohn’s Hill Evangelical Association included: William Mohn, Joseph Mohn, Civil War Veteran Simpson Ruth, Amos Miller, Peter Palm, Jeremiah Werner, Issac Behm, Rufus Whiskeyman, Adam Grill, Joseph Leininger and Charles Leininger.
Pastors from 1838-1889 included: Reverends Rupp, Metzgar, Sechrist, Yost, and Kneer.
Mohn’s Moment- March: 1890-1921
In 1890, the Evangelical Association experienced a conflict which would cause them to split.
The conflict began when two of the three bishops for the Evangelical Association began to have a dispute over the work of the missionaries in Japan. One bishop believed that the work was going well, while the other did not.
However, the dispute was more than a personal perspective about whether the mission field in Japan was working or not. By 1890, the church had grown apart in some other major beliefs as well. These differences included whether to hold church services in German only or to offer services in English; whether the church should be more aggressive in promoting Sunday School classes or stay focused on worship, and whether or not the denomination should be centrally controlled or whether the church owned its own property.
When the denomination did schism, two of the three bishops rallied people to their side: Bishop Esher, whose group became known as the Esherites or the majority, and Bishop Dubbs, who became known as the Dubites, or the minority. The war of words between the two sides was fierce, and so were the court battles which ensued. The primary argument came down to the ownership of the church property.
In 1894, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Esherites and determined that all the church property belonged to the majority. This meant that even if an entire church body had rallied in favor of Bishop Dubbs, the building they worshipped in now belonged to the Esherites. This meant that the Dubites would have to follow the majority or vacate their church. Many congregations vacated their church buildings, which then sat empty and eventually fell into disrepair.
The Dubites formed a new denomination called the United Evangelical Church and began to build new church properties to replace the ones they had lost in the court case.
Mohn’s Hill was a little different. Mohn’s Hill had sided with the minority and, as a result, had lost control of the church building that they had established in 1838. However, the Mohn family made arrangements to purchase back the church that they had helped establish. These are the notes from the July 21, 1895 meeting:
“The above date was set for the reopening of the church. Reverend A.W. Warfel of Reading was secured to conduct the services...J.G. Mohn, who had bought the church from the Evangelical Association made the following proposition to the congregation: “If the congregation agrees to make all necessary repairs to the property and keep it in repair hereafter, and put all the fences on line as prescribed...and raise $400 today to pay for all the repairs, he would donate the church to the congregation to be known hereafter as the Mohn’s Hill Church.”
The trustees accepted the offer and raised, in one day, $409.35 from the congregation.
A plaque was established in honor of Jeremiah G Mohn’s gift to the new United Evangelical Church’s demonination.
Some other events of note from 1894-1922 include:
1898- Lighting strikes the belfry of the church, igniting kerosene and causing massive damage to the building. The repair is $475.
1901- Reverend Charles E Hess conducts revival services in which 23 people are converted
1917- New carpet and pulpit chairs are purchased for the sanctuary at a cost of $189.94
1919- New flooring is installed in the church at a cost of $127
1921- June 11- after a lapse of 38 years, the Mohn family reunion is held in a grove near Mohn’s Hill Church. 1,100 relatives and friends attend the event which featured a 14 piece band
Well known congregants included:
Jeremiah G Mohn
Pastors who served in those years included:
Reverend N A Barr
Reverend C S Brown
Reverend D. G. Reinhold
Reverend A W Warfel
Reverend Charles E Hess
Reverend D. S. Stauffer
Reverend Charles H Mengel
Reverend H. L. Yeakel
Reverend C. E. Huber
Reverend L. O. Wiest
Reverend E. L. Ramer
Mohn’s Moment: April: 1922-1932
In 1894, after a ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the Evangelical Association was officially split, as the court awarded the church properties to the Evangelical Association and took the properties away from the newly formed United Evangelical Church. As a result, those who had chosen to leave the denomination four years earlier now found themselves without a building. To counteract this situation, Bishop Dubs and the Conference devised a plan called, “Home Missions.” The purpose of the “Home Mission” ministry was to raise funds that churches could borrow from in order to erect new houses of worship. Churches in Annville, Harrisburg and Cressona were some of the earliest recipients. Even with this effort, by 1902, there were still 159 congregations without a church.
This was not the case for Mohn’s Memorial. In 1895, Jeremiah Mohn bought the building back from the Evangelical Association and donated the property to the United Evangelical Church.
Not much changed from 1894 to 1922. The First World War, the pandemic influenza of 1918, which caused the cancellation of many church services, and the general re-organization of the now splintered denomination occupied the minds of the leaders of both denominations.
However, in 1922, an effort was made to join the two splinter halves together once again. The purpose stated for the re-merger was best articulated in the 1920 Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of the United Evangelical Church, where it is recorded, “A common parentage urges upon us a spirit of unity; the great work of the kingdom demands cooperation.”
While the merger talks excited the Eastern half of the United Evangelical Church, the Western half of the new denomination was even more embracing of the possibility. The reason for the embrace by the Western Conference was clear: They felt that they had never received the same funds and support that the Eastern Conference had received. While the Eastern half did try to support the Western half, the truth was that the Evangelical Associations presence was greater in Western Pennsylvania, and the relationship between the two denominations was friendlier.
However, despite much conversation, the Eastern Conference, and some churches in the Western Conference, voted against the merger. Their reasons varied, but in large part were based on the concept of church building ownership returning to a denomination instead of the individual congregation. While some United Evangelicals did return to the Evangelical Association, others chose not to enter back into the denominational fold.
Following some court battles, but nothing to the extent of the 1890 battles, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court did uphold the right of the United Evangelicals to keep their Articles of Faith and the legal right of the congregations to own their church property. This meant that the Eastern Conference had a legal standing; however, because some churches had merged back into the Evangelical Association, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the name United Evangelical could no longer be used.
In a special meeting, the name “Evangelical Congregational” was chosen to be the new name of the denomination. (CLICK) Bishop Woodring explained the name by stating that Evangelical is who we are, and Congregational represents the ownership of the church property.
At Mohn’s Memorial, events from 1922 to 1932 included:
1922- Mohn’s Hill chooses to remain apart from the Evangelical Association
1926- The rules and by-laws are amended to allow for the formation of a commission to work in harmony with the church in the operation and care of the adjacent cemetery. The organization became known as the Mohn’s Memorial Cemetery Commission
1927-1928- The membership at Mohn’s grows to the point of needing a physical change to the building. While the construction is ongoing, the church meets in the Gouglersville Grange Hall. Changes to the building include a room added to the rear for Sunday School and a new bell tower containing the foyer. The updates also included memorial windows and a fresco behind the pulpit called “The Agony of Gethsemane” by Cyrus M Marks. The old pews and the altar rail were donated to the Temple Mission. The cost of the renovation was $10,725.39. A memorial gift of $1,000 was donated by Charles E Mohn by his wife and son, Winfield.
1928- Legal action is undertaken during this time by the congregation for the execution of a “Quit Claims Deed” which releases the property from any claims associated with the United Evangelical Church. From hereafter, the congregation is identified as an Evangelical Congregational Church.
Well known congregants include:
Charles and Elmer Leininger
Pastors who served from 1922-1932 include:
Rev C W Heffner
Rev Elmer F Brown
Rev Herbert M Snyder
Rev Harry I Carmichael
Rev Eugene I Erb
Rev H E Samuels
Rev Raymond W Kribel
Mohn’s Moment 1933-1941- May
On October 29, 1929 nationally known as Black Tuesday, the prosperity that had been gained following the Great War came to a screeching halt all over the world, including the United States. In just one afternoon, with the stock market crash, the security that America’s financial future had enjoyed was plunged into darkness and an economic depression set in.
During this time, the new Evangelical Congregational Church sought to make sure that it had firm footing. With no court battles and no building battles coming from the failed merger with the Evangelical Association, the EC Church was free to begin to accomplish the work God had prepared for them. Part of that work was securing a new discipline. In 1929, the first Discipline of the Evangelical Congregational Church was approved and set forth the duties of stewards, trustees, and class leaders.
In 1931, at a special session of the Eastern Conference, the denomination accepted an offer to buy the former Albright College for $25,000. (CLICK) In 1934, Bishop Woodring, in his departing address, would urge the denomination to create a seminary to train future pastors. The campaign to raise the money necessary for such a venture began in 1938, and it raised $110,00.
Through the period of America’s economic Depression, the new EC Church only saw small gains in the Eastern Conference. “Despite repeated evangelism efforts in the late 1930s and 1940s to increase giving and membership, this period saw losses in prayer meeting attendance and church membership” as people focused on the events within the secular world. Furthermore, as World War 2 came, and the draft began, many of the members of the congregation served in the war effort. This resulted in a loss of 1,700 people for Sunday School and a gain of only 528 new members in 1942.
However, despite these difficult situations, many churches continued to make their allotted contributions to the denomination.
As the World War drew to a conclusion in 1945, the church turned its attention to the social issues that resulted from the effects of the terrible war. (CLICK) “In his first postwar Episcopal Address, Bishop Albert Cooper focused on alcoholism as one the widespread problems that the social breakdowns of the war had spawned.” Bishop Cooper argued for a spiritual awakening if the social order was to be restored and for evangelistic efforts to be in full swing.
At Mohn’s Hill, events from 1933-1945 were limited due to the Depression and World War, but included:
1940- The donation of the land by Mr. Charles B Hackman on the southwest side of the church property
1941- The painting of the exterior and interior of the church structure. The varnishing and waxing of the furniture, and the laying of 80 feet of curbing at the front entrance.
Pastors who served from 1933-1945 included:
Rev. Raymond W Kriebel
Rev. B.P. Gieske
Rev Charles D Rabuck
Mohn’s Moment: 1945-1955 - June
By the middle of the 1940’s, the Evangelical Congregational Church, a work of God which had seen a severe schism in the early part of the century, was now firmly established with its Articles of Faith, its Discipline, its own catechism, and a growing number of churches that blossomed in large cities and small towns.
“During the 1950s, Evangelical Congregational churches, along with a majority of American churches, experienced significant growth.” This growth came in part because of the unity experienced in patriotism following the second world war, a commonly held belief against communism, and a willingness to link the American ethos and faith together.
As a result, churches were able to secure more funding and to further mission’s work, which included both forgien and domestic efforts. “After World War 2, financial support for missions increased; the 1950 General Conference Journal reveals a sizeable increase for 1946-1950 over the previous four year period for both home and foreign work.”
In 1950, Bishop Cooper passed away to his eternal reward. (CLICK) Elected to succeed him was Bishop John A Smith. Bishop Smith served eight years, from 1951-1959. During his tenure, Bishop Smith oversaw the establishment of the Evangelical Congregational School of Theology, an expansion on the Burd and Rogers Memorial Home, and watched as many EC Churches expanded their property.
Weekly Sunday services were conducted within the EC Churches and were a mixture of, “revival informality and civilized decorum.” During the services, clergy attire remained a simple suit, but pipe organs and choir gowns reinforced a more formal side of morning worship. In some churches, this formality irritated the sensibilities of some who had a strong desire to maintain the simple roots of a country church and an evangelical religion.
(CLICK)At Mohn’s Hill EC Church, the end of World War 2 brought a new revival to the church with special events and increased ministries:
For instance, on May 5th, 1946, A Singspiration Service was conducted by the Pawlings. This monthly fellowship of lively choruses, special music selections, and messages with chalk and objects would continue until about 1982.
Also in 1946, Mohn Brethens Manufacturing Company promised a grant of $1000 to the cemetery commission. The interest from the grant was used for the upkeep of the graves of the Mohn’s family.
Mohn’s Hill saw an increase in Sunday School attendance which called for the creation of a room in the basement. Members of the congregation volunteered to excavate the space; however, they encountered rocks so large- that to remove them- would endanger the foundation. They chose to bury them below the basement floor line.
On February 15, 1947, a “Welcome Home Veterans Dinner” was held in Mohnton. Reverend C.D. Rabuck was the master of ceremonies. Many veterans from Mohn’s Hill were present.
(CLICK)On April 15, 1948, the body of PFC Ray A Bowman was brought home and laid to rest in Mohn’s Hill Cemetery. PFC Bowman had been killed on October 9, 1944. Reverend C. D. Rabuck conducted the service. A memorial plaque in PFC Bowman’s honor can be found in the entrance to the preschool.
Notable members of the church included:
J. Allen Pawling- father of Bob Pawling
Pastors who served Mohn’s Hill between 1945-1955 included:
Reverend B.P. Gieske
Reverend Charles D Rabuck
Reverend Kenneth M Weaver
Reverend Henry A Minnich
Mohn’s Moment 1955-1965- July
During the late 1940’s and 1950’s, the Evangelical Congregational Church continued to grow numerically, financially, and globally. However, with the civil unrest of the 1960’s, the gains seen by the church would soon become depleted.
According to Terry Heisey, author of Evangelical From the Beginning, “...during the 1960’s all authority, including the authority of the church, was challenged. In the closing years of this period the church was under attack and local congregations turned inward.” This challenge to the authority of the church, and the reaction of the church to turn inward, resulted in a decline in attendance and membership across the denomination.
Complicating the matter was the economic hardship that stemmed from the decreasing anthracite coal regions. In the early years, the coal regions had been the backbone of the denomination because of the economic resources made available and the growth of churches in the region. In 1950, 24 churches in the coal region reported a membership of 4,294 (about 178 members per church). By 1998, four churches had closed, two had merged, and the membership from the region was 2,360 (about 98 members per church if the same number of churches in 1950 is used).
At Mohn’s Hill some important events occurred from 1955-1965. They included:
Prominent members of the time included:
Pastors who served included:
Mohn’s Moment 1965-1975 - August
During the 1960’s, social, racial, and political upheaval caused the nation to be rocked with scandals and turmoil. While the war in Vietnam escalated, protests in the streets of America displayed a distrust and disunity within our nation. The winds of change were blowing strong across the country.
Just like our nation, there were also changes occurring within the Evangelical Congregational Church.
For instance, in the 1940’s and 1950’s, typically ten percent of each congregation attended weekly prayer meetings. However, by the 1970’s, with a steep decline of prayer meeting attendance, many churches began to look at other approaches to corporate prayer. According to Dr. Terry Heisy, “A standing committee of the 1970 General Conference recommended that churches consider the establishment of home centered prayer cells.” In some churches, these cells were successful, while in others, they did not achieve the intended goal.
In the area of race relations, The Evangelical Congregational Church led the way toward integration. As early as 1956, the Eastern Conference of the EC Church stated that race cannot be a determining factor when understanding God’s love for mankind because equality is a right in the sight of God. “Subsequent actions by the conferences bolstered this stand and called on churches to open their doors to minority segments of the population.”
In the case of revivals and evangelistic services, during the 1950’s such services were successful events that caused many to give their heart to the Lord. Yet, by the 1970’s, the General Conference realized that such events were not successfully reaching the lost. The Conference made recommendations to the local church, but most failed to implement the suggested changes. This resulted in negligible gains in evangelistic effectiveness.
The change in culture also affected Sunday School classes. With the baby boomers of the 1950’s, EC Churches saw a record number of students attend the Sunday School classes that were offered. However, by 1970, all the students gained during the 1950 were erased, and the number of people attending Sunday School programs returned to pre-1950’s numbers.
At Mohn’s Hill, big events were taking place. On August 16, 1965, the Building Committee was given authority to proceed with the erection of a parsonage. Morey Brothers Inc was selected as the general contractor.
On January 6, 1966, the dedication of the new parsonage was conducted by District Superintendent Reverend Paul Cressman. The cost to construct the 8 room parsonage finished at $16,897. Members of the building committee included Kenneth Harding, Glenn Baker, Clair Bowman, and Reverend David Heffner.
In June of 1968, the first Graduation Banquet was held to honor the high school and college graduates of the congregation. The event was held at the Holiday House in Reading.
In September 1970, Mohn’s Hill celebrated its 75th anniversary. The four day event featured four former pastors of the congregation. The Calvary Aires Quartet, The Soul Winners, and the Harmonaries Quartet performed special and uplifting music. The celebration also featured special guest speakers from the denomination. Services were held in the field which is now the backyard of the parsonage and news coverage of the events were reported in the Reading Eagle.
Please see the special display of pictures of this event on the table in the back of the sanctuary.
Prominent members of the church included:
Elmer Shupp- father of Fern Welker
Robert Bechtel- Board Superintendent
Samuel Powell- Assistant Superintendent
Clair Bowman- Treasurer
Larry Koch- Board Secretary
Pastors Who Served During this Time Included:
Reverend David Heffner
Reverend James Shield
Reverend Bruce Hall