Heidelberg United Church of Christ, Hatfield, first gathered as a community of faith and fellowship in 1899, as Heidelberg Reformed Church. From its first service until today, Heidelberg has been serving the members of our local community and the needs of the wider world in the name of Christ. Over the years of service to Christ, we have maintained the closeness and connectedness of a Christian community where all are welcome, and each can discover that he or she has a place. We are a nurturing, caring and generous community of faith in which each member – regardless of age or circumstance – is embraced and honored for the gifts, talents, and spiritual graces he or she brings to the overall ministry and mission of our congregation. With the guidance of our pastor, Rev. Dr. Marianne Unger, the leadership and membership are committed to the vision of spiritual growth, enrichment, and further strengthening our bond of Christian love which God calls us to as a challenge of faith.
Mission and ministry are essential expressions of our faith. Heidelberg supports several mission projects and has consistently been 5 for 5 in supporting Our Church’s Wider Mission and the Special Offerings of the United Church of Christ. For seven years we sent mission teams to New Orleans after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. More recently, we sent a mission team to Binghamton, NY, to clean up after Hurricane Irene. Mission for us also includes compassionate care that addresses the needs of both our own members and our community. Even our youngest members are involved in mission and are currently raising money to “buy” a variety of farm animals through Heifer International.
Hatfield is a close-knit community where the churches come together to share in ministry and celebration. We worship together in community Lenten, Good Friday, and Thanksgiving Eve services, and for one week each July we all gather at one of the local churches for a community Vacation Bible School. Our choir even “takes the show on the road” by performing both our Christmas Cantata and our spring All Music Service for two of the local elder care facilities. In all we do, we seek to fulfill our Lord’s commission to carry His Word and His Love for all His children and creation into the world, both near and far.
The cornerstone of the first church building, located at 30 E. Lincoln Ave., was laid on October 13, 1901. This building, erected by the donated labor of the members at a cost of approximately $6,000 and with no basement, was dedicated and put into use on May 4, 1902. There was no electric service at that time in Hatfield Borough and illumination was by kerosene lamps fastened to the walls. There were no water or toilet facilities though a double “privy” was located at the rear of the church lot. The windows were plain glass painted in a diagonal pattern. Heat was from a warm air heater in a pit beneath the floor. Initially, the church used a pedal pump organ for music accompaniment, adding a piano later.The Rev. John O. Lindaman was the organizing pastor and at the dedication of the new church building, his text was,
“I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord.”
1901 – 1922
The Tohickon Classis of the Eastern Synod of the Reformed Church in the United States officially organized the congregation a month later with 27 charter members. They were: Nathanial Overholtzer, Elinora Overholtzer, David Appenzeller, Ida Appenzeller, Wilson S. Ott, Jacob S. Ott, Bertha Ott, John H. Stoneback, Rosa Stoneback, William B. Hedrick, Samuel Frantz, Mrs. Samuel Frantz, Clara F. Snyder, Essie Hildebrant, Ida Wismer, Elizabeth Wismer, Lizzie Crouthamel, Emma J. Myers, Alice Richards, Elizabeth Richards, Howard Richards, Sylvester R. Cressman, Rosa Cressman, Henry Wismer, John Diehi, Abel H. Haldeman and Maggie Haldeman. The last of these charter members, Rosa Cressman, died in 1959.
In its infancy, because of its small size, Heidelberg Church was just a “supply point” with preaching and pastoral duties assigned to a minister whose chief responsibility was to another congregation. Heidelberg Church, however, never received financial help from the denomination.
The little congregation grew, and numbered 75 members in 1910, when Rev. Lindaman was succeeded by the Rev. Samuel E. Moyer who served the church for thirteen years. Since Rev. Moyer served two other churches, as well as Heidelberg, it was necessary to have services in Hatfield on Sunday afternoon one week, and on Sunday evening the next week. After many years with this schedule, the congregation expressed the desire for Sunday morning worship. Rev. Moyer’s schedule would not permit this and he consequently resigned his pastorate of Heidelberg Church. For a short time after this, Rev. Lindaman again served as the pastor, this time on a full-time basis, so that the congregation was finally able to have both morning and evening services each Sunday.
In 1918, a group of young men from the congregation excavated by hand shovel for a basement which then was used for a heater room and several Sunday School rooms. A small addition was built to the vestibule to house a stairway to the basement.
1923 – 1943
The Rev. James A. Boehm, of Sellersville, with the understanding that the pastoral relationship would be only temporary, was appointed to serve as the pastor from 1923 to 1925.
In 1925, Heidelberg Church called the Rev. H. A. I. Benner to serve the congregation, which by this time had a membership of more than 150. During his pastorate, on March 16, 1935, the congregation was incorporated under the name “Heidelberg Evangelical and Reformed Church.” (The Reformed Church in the U. S. merged with the Evangelical Synod of North America in 1934, thus creating the new denominational name.) This is still the corporate title of Heidelberg Church. In 1937, the church purchased from LeRoy and Lavinia Clemens a small bungalow just east of the church building, which was then used as a Sunday School Annex. (From 1914 to 1922, this little bungalow was a post office. The Postmaster’s name at that time was Mr. Hollenbach.) Rev. Benner served as pastor for 13 years, retiring from the ministry in 1938 due to advancing age.
At that time, Tohickon Classis suggested Heidelberg Church join with Keller’s Church, fifteen miles away, to form Keller’s Charge. This was done and the Rev. Warren A. Breisch was called as the pastor of this charge. In 1940, a brick parsonage building was erected at 63 Blaine Avenue and the Rev. Breisch’s family was the first to occupy it. Also during his pastorate, the Philadelphia Synod of the Evangelical and Reformed Church was organized and Keller’s Charge became a part of it. In 1942, the church building was extensively remodeled. The sloping floor of the sanctuary was made level, an addition was added to the rear of the church building for rest rooms, a steam heating system was installed and a Hammond organ and new piano was purchased and installed. Rev. Breisch resigned in 1943 to become pastor of Christ Church at Indian Creek. At this time both Heidelberg and Keller’s congregations recognized the impracticality of the “Keller’s Charge,” and it was dissolved.
1944 – 1958
In 1944, Heidelberg Church was able to call its own full-time pastor in the person of the Rev. Walter R. Clark. Also in 1944, Heidelberg Church started the tradition of playing Christmas carols over a public address system. Various churches, individuals and organizations would provide the recorded music which was broadcast from an amplification system in the tower of the old Borough Schoolhouse. The music was enjoyed throughout the Borough. This continued until at least 1952.
In 1949, the chancel of the church was completely renovated. The altar, pulpit, lectern, clergy seats and surrounding paneling were in solid white oak with extensive hand carvings and artistic finish. In May, 1952 a parcel of land facing Poplar St. to the rear of the church was purchased from Melvin Landis and used for parking.
Rev. Clark served the congregation faithfully for thirteen years until his retirement from the active ministry in 1957. During his pastorate, Rev. Clark saw the congregation grow from 157 to more than 250 active members. Following Rev. Clark’s retirement, the pulpit was supplied, for about a year, by the Rev. Alfred M. Raim of Souderton. During his interim the pulpit committee traveled extensively visiting Churches served by pastors recommended by the Placement Committee of the Philadelphia Synod. The committee was impressed when they heard the Rev. John M. Light preach to his congregation in Taylor, PA and following the service interviewed him and invited him to consider the pastorate of Heidelberg Church. Shortly thereafter, in September of 1958, Rev. Light accepted the call.
In March, 1958 the church purchased the dwelling at the corner of E. Lincoln Ave. and Poplar St. from Jacob Gottshall, with the intention of using the property as part of a planned long-range building program. This was previously the home of Jacob S. Ott who was a charter member of Heidelberg. His grand-daughter, Catherine Auchy, a present member of Heidelberg, was born in this home.
Discussions and planning for expansion of the Church building were under way shortly after Rev. Light’s pastorate began. In 1959, after much deliberation by committees and the congregation, it was decided not to expand the Lincoln Ave. church’s facilities but to purchase a tract of 22 acres of land located a 1101 Cowpath Road in Hatfield Township from Russell Sturzebecker on which to build a new church. Following this decision in 1959 and until the ground breaking for the new church in October, 1966, there was a little group working behind the scenes and unknown to most people, called the 4 horsemen (working like work horses) using planning, projecting, promoting and praying for this enormous project. The four were Walter K. Godshall, J. Linford Snyder, J. Walter Snyder and J. Conrad Watson.
The greatest evangelistic appeal in the history of Heidelberg Church took place during the week of October 23 to 30, 1959 when the Teaching-Reaching-Preaching Mission was held. Heidelberg Church was one of 40 churches in the Philadelphia Synod participating in the T-R-P Mission. Heidelberg’s Missioner was the Rev. Oliver Maurer, D. D. of St. John’s Church, Red Lion, Pennsylvania, who worked with the Pastor, the Leaders and the Workers of Heidelberg. The theme for the week was “Participating In The Gospel,” and the Aim of the Mission was: To Teach – The Churched; To Reach – The Indifferent and the Unchurched; To Preach – The Living Word of God.
A regional rally for 15 churches in the North Penn area was held on Sunday evening, October 25, 1959 at the Souderton High School. The speaker for the rally was Dr. Thomas D. Garner of Nazareth, Pennsylvania. A mass choir of 200 voices participated and over 1000 people attended the service. Lay members comprising the steering committee for the entire regional mission and the mass rally were: E. B. Laudenslager, Chairman; J. Linford Snyder, Publicity and Paul Wack, Finance.
1960 – 1967
In 1960, the name of the congregation was changed to “Heidelberg United Church of Christ” to conform to the denominational change due to the merger of the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational Christian Churches.
On October 16, 1966, following the morning worship service at the church on E. Lincoln Ave., the congregation went to the church’s new Cowpath Road property for a ground-breaking ceremony. Two months later, the congregation presented its first Living Nativity at its Cowpath Rd. location, which continued every year until the early 2000s.
Then at 3 P.M. on May 21, 1967, a special service for the laying of the cornerstone was held and on November 5, 1967, at 3 P.M., the new church was dedicated. This was a great day for Heidelberg Church with attendance of 310 people which was the largest attendance ever at a service for Heidelberg Church. Special services were held the following Tuesday and Thursday and the following Sunday.
1967 – 1977
A special congregational meeting was held on December 3, 1967, at which the congregation approved the sale of the entire Heidelberg property in Hatfield Borough for $35,000 to the Blaker Construction Co. This included the old church building, the parking lot, and the two dwellings at the corner of E. Lincoln Ave. and Poplar St. Proceeds from the sale of the property were applied to the mortgage on the new church property. The parking lot is now Meadowbrook Apartments-West. The two dwellings have been replaced by a building housing two commercial tenants. The old church building is now owned and occupied as a dwelling and business property by William DiPietro.
The church contents and church bell were not included in the sale. The bell is now standing in the narthex of the new church and is tolled at the beginning of each church service. This is a very historic bell which weighs 1800 pounds and was manufactured by the Meneely & Co., West Troy, NY foundries in 1905 and brought to Hatfield by train and then transported to the church on Lincoln Ave. by horse-drawn wagon. Meneely & Co., West Troy, NY foundries also manufactured the second Liberty Bell in Philadelphia and the bells at Valley Forge Park.
In the early years, the John Stoneback family had charge of most of the music and their son, Raymond (Brick) Stoneback was a great chorister. In the mid 1930’s, Linford Snyder organized a group called the Octavian Singers made up of: Sopranos – Loretta Hutt (Davis) and May Roberts (Boyd); Altos – Florence Moyer (Rice) and Anna Moore (Uhrich); Tenors – William N. DeTurk and Robert L. Davis; Basses – J. Paul Krupp, Jr. and J. Liriford Snyder. After several years, May Roberts resigned from the group due to the tremendous time and effort required. Pearl Snyder (Fryer) then replaced her as a soprano. Carolyn Moyer (Snyder) then became the pianist for the group. Most music by the Octavian Singers was acappella. The group sang together for about six years, singing in churches and for various functions of all types throughout eastern Pennsylvania and part of New Jersey. They also broadcast each Sunday for about two years on WIBG radio in Glenside, PA. Their theme song was “When Day is Done”. This group also produced a new type of minstrel show for the Hatfield Chamber of Commerce for several years during this period. In 1950, Linford and Caroline Snyder took charge of the Heidelberg music and did so until retiring in 1977. During that time the choir consisted of 18 to 22 people. Cantatas were produced many times and also for some years cantatas were produced with participants from all of the church choirs in the Hatfield area. These productions were always given twice on Mother’s Day at Grace Lutheran Church as they had the greatest seating capacity.
1977 – 1999
When the new building was constructed in 1967, Heidelberg had purchased a new Rodgers electronic organ for the church. This organ was replaced through the efforts of organist, Arthur Crouthamel, with a much larger and more modem Rodgers organ, and dedicated on October 6, 1991. The older Rodgers organ was donated to Emmanuel E. C. Church in the Borough, in honor of Rev. Gregory F. Dimick, and dedicated on November 17, 1991. Organists participating in that service were Arthur Crouthamel, Mark Dimick, and Trudy Morshead.
In November, 1991, the parsonage on Blaine Ave. was sold. The proceeds from the sale, along with additional funds, were placed in an investment account. The interest from the account goes toward the pastor’s monthly housing allowance.
Active membership of Heidelberg United Church of Christ in early 1998 was about 290. In addition to Heidelberg Church and Sunday School, other groups or organizations used the Heidelberg facilities including Lansdale Korean Church, Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Little Lambs Day Care, Alcoholics Anonymous, and Aerobic Rhythmics. On August 10, 1996, a ground breaking ceremony was held for the Edward Berry Memorial Cabin for future use of the Boy Scouts. This is an addition to the barn on the property and the second floor will be used as additional storage space for the church.
In the entire life of Heidelberg Church, only one member entered the Christian Ministry and that person is the Rev. Nancy Light Hardy who formerly served as the Senior Pastor of Zwingli United Church of Christ in Souderton. Rev. Hardy is the daughter of the late Rev. John M. Light, Pastor Emeritus of Heidelberg Church.
Heidelberg United Church of Christ is dedicated to the worship of Almighty God, the ministry of the Word and Sacraments, help for the ill and the troubled, sympathy for those in need, brotherhood with all people, civic righteousness and justice, through the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
1999 – 2015
Rev. Dr. Albert J. D. Walsh was called into service as pastor of Heidelberg UCC in 1999 after serving as pastor of First United Church of Christ in Schuylkill Haven, PA, for 12 years. Pastor Walsh resigned from Heidelberg in December of 2013.
Reverend Thomas Adil was called to serve as our Interim Pastor in January of 2014. He comes to us with the skills and heart to guide us as we search for a new settled pastor.
Our Current Congregation
Reverend Dr. Marianne Unger was called into service as pastor of Heidelberg UCC in January 2016.
Heidelberg United Church of Christ’s mission is dedicated to the worship of Almighty God, the ministry of the Word and Sacraments, help for the ill and the troubled, sympathy for those in need, and brotherhood with all people through the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This is evidenced by the warm, friendly atmosphere and fellowship one experiences during a visit to Heidelberg and the strong sense of stewardship seen in work such as our annual mission trips, which began with a relief mission trip to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
Our Sunday School program ministers to all ages with classes for preschool-aged kids, children/teens, and adults. Several years ago, the Vacation Bible School program was revived with great success. In addition to Heidelberg’s church ministries, other groups or organizations use the Heidelberg facilities including Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, and Boy Scouts.