East Vincent United Church of Christ
The Historic Church High on the Hill — Part 1

It is hard to realize just how far back it was when this church had its beginnings.  It was in the year 1733.  Ben Franklin was just a young man of 27 moving about Philadelphia, and George Washington, the one who was to become the “Father of Our Country,” had just celebrated his first birthday.  Other leaders who became well known in the dramatic events that brought forth a war against the British, and a Declaration of Independence, names such as Thomas Jefferson, John Hancock and both John and Samuel Adams, had not as yet been born.

Yet, that was the year when the earliest records are found for the beginnings of what today is the East Vincent United Church of Christ.  In 1733, it is recorded that a child by the name of Barbara Schonholtzer was baptized, indicating the existence of a group of worshipers.  Seven others followed her in baptism over the years before a formal church body took shape, sometime before 1751. 
The earliest members of that body, soon to become known as the German Reformed Church, had come from Europe’s lower Rhine Provinces in a territory that today is known as Germany.  Those were troublesome times for the people for their land was the scene of frequent wars and battles.  Many saw little future for themselves if they remained and so they began to seriously look toward America and the hope that the New World could offer.  Braving a long journey across the stormy Atlantic, one group of settlers chose to put down their roots in the fertile valley of the French Creek, just to the west of the Quaker settlements. 
In their new home, as they had done in the past, they were faithful in maintaining “divine services” as often as possible.  Without a meetinghouse, they had to make use of one of their homes.  In 1751, with their numbers growing, a church building was finally built on some donated land.  Like other buildings of the era, it was a log cabin, and following well-established tradition, it was planned to be used as both a church and a schoolhouse.
The church’s first pastor was John Philip Leydich.  Like so many others of the time, he arrived from overseas, having been commissioned by the Reformed Synod in Holland for a ministry in America.  His charge was to serve the two Reformed Congregations on the other side of the Schuylkill, but he soon began visiting the church on this side and in 1753, he was appointed as the pastor, making him now responsible for three congregations; services on this side of the river were held every other week. 
About the same time, a Lutheran pastor arrived to care for those of that tradition.  Both congregations, the German Reformed and the Lutherans, shared the same facility and grew as the population increased.  Before long, the building proved to be too small to serve both congregations comfortably.  The difficulty was solved by the separation of the two congregations.  The Lutherans continued in the building with a name that is still with us today, Zion Lutheran.  The Reformed Congregation surrendered their rights and established a separate fellowship.  They erected a new log cabin church about one mile to the south of the original one.  It was dedicated on May 27, 1758, with John Philip Leydich continuing to serve as the first pastor. 
Over the next two and one-half centuries that congregation witnessed many changes.  The log cabin is now a stately church building, their name has changed more than once, their denomination has merged with another, the German language has given way to English, and the people are no longer British subjects but are American citizens.  Yet some things have not changed through all of those years:  the location of that congregation high on the hill overlooking the entire landscape, and its mission to effectively serve the community. 

Dr. Robert W. Price
Historical Commission