West Sunbury United Presbyterian church

Church history

"The United Presbyterian Church of West Sunbury came into existence on May 6, 1835, when the Reverend Joseph Johnson reported to the Lakes Presbytery of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church that a new congregation had been formed in Butler County. The initial records of the newly begun church are dated June 27, 1835, when the first baptisms took place. The first records of session meetings present the names of Robert Findley, William McMichal and Dunbar Christy as elders.

Regular services were held - presumably in private homes - until 1840, when it was decided to construct a house of worship. A meeting was held in Samuel Ekin's home where John Smith, Samuel Louden and Joseph W. Christy were appointed as the building committee members. They awarded to Joseph Wasson the building contract in November 1840, with the building to be constructed on a parcel of land located west of town and donated by Samuel Ekin and Mrs. Robert Findley. Builder Wasson was to receive $700 and 'one choice pew' for the construction of the church. He, however, did not complete the building and the responsibility for this task fell to members of the congregation. Pews were auctioned to provide the moneys for the building fund and a yearly tax was placed on the pews to provide for the minister's salary and congregational expenses.

Sixteen years after the first building was erected, the need for a larger building was seen. The congregation awarded a contract to Hugh Sproull for $2100 to build a new house of worship. The ensuing years saw the building removed and rebuilt on Beaver Avenue in town. The Reverend J. Hall Breaden was pastor at this time and W.J. McKinney contracted the moving and rebuilding project at the cost of $2200. The first meeting was held in the new church on August 28, 1891, and worship services continued in this building until December 1932.

The history of the West Sunbury Presbyterian Church is closely linked with that of the old West Sunbury Academy which was established in 1851. In 1858, the Reverend William T. Dickson who was a Presbyterian minister and a native of Butler County took charge of the Academy. On Sundays he held religious services in the school. Interest in the services grew, and several families presented a petition to the Presbytery of Allegheny asking for a church organization. The request was granted and a church was organized on September 4, 1860. The thirty-seven original members were received on certificates from other churches and the first elders were Henry C. Linn, M.D. and Joseph W. Thorne.

The first official records of the new congregation were dated February 1862, when four new members were received and the Reverend John Coulter was installed as pastor. Rev. Coulter had been serving the congregation at the Concord Presbyterian Church since 1823 and now jointly served both congregations for two years. In historical records of this time, the West Sunbury Church was spoken of as a daughter of the Concord Church.

Worship services were continued in the Academy building for almost fifteen years until a new church building was constructed by Hugh Sproull at a cost of $5000. This new building was dedicated on July 4, 1875, and was in continuous use until the last service was held on August 9, 1953.

The first official record of any attempt toward uniting the United Presbyterian Church (previously the ARP congregation) and Presbyterian (PCUSA) congregation is found in the congregational record of 1916. However, this attempt ended in failure, as did a second attempt three years later. Joint church services were held for a period of eight months in 1919 and 1920, with worship alternating weekly between the two buildings. This union also ended in failure. Again in September 1923, an attempt was made toward the federation of the churches but this did not become a reality for ten more years. On October 19, 1932, both the Presbyterian and the United Presbyterian congregations held meetings to vote on articles which would form the basis of a union of the two churches. Both congregations voted in favor of the union and on January 1, 1933, the United Presbyterian congregation moved into the Presbyterian Church building and joint services were held. In May 1933, the formal union was ratified by both Presbyteries and on May 29, 1933, the final formal steps were taken, seventeen years after the initial step.

Through the years it grew more apparent that more sanctuary and sabbath school room was needed, and as early as 1939 there was discussion of an addition to the church. At a congregational meeting in April 1950, a report was given concerning the building of a new church or the remodeling of the present structure. A vote was taken, with the congregation being in favor of constructing a new house of worship. In 1951 the trustees were given authorization to acquire land that had belonged to the Academy and Arthur Wick. A building committee consisting of Arthur Wick, Lyle Hilliard, Clair L. Glenn, Lynn Hockenberry, and Robert A. Young was formed. B.J. McCandless was chosen as architect, Frank McCarrier was general contractor, Ronald D. McCarrier and Robert A. Young served as building fund treasurers and Dr. Samuel L. Louden led the congregation spiritually through the building years. The cornerstone was laid on September 20, 1953, and special dedication services were held on September 26, 1954, with the new pastor, Rev. George W. Woodstock, and former pastors, Dr. Samuel L. Louden and Dr. Homer B. Henderson, participating.

One hundred fifty years have passed since the beginning of the United Presbyterian Church in West Sunbury. As a congregation of God's people, we thank Him for His past guidance and blessings and humbly ask for His continued guidance and blessing as we move forward with the work of His Church."

From: The One Hundred-Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration of the West Sunbury United Presbyterian Church 1835-1985. A pamphlet produced for Foundation Sunday, September 1985.

Join us on the journey



Why should you be part of a church community? Isn't God everywhere? Is a church necessary to cultivate a religious life? Those sorts of questions are legitimate. There is truth in them. The reasons that church was so important to so many people for so long are changing. Social media, travel and communications, community sports and social groups all provide ways for people to connect with one another. In previous decades, churches often provided a venue for people to form community. Other people are open to contributing financially to the work of a church, but feel no reason to join. Others are very active in the life of the church, but do not find formally becoming a member necessary. 

For those who find church membership and involvement meaningful, it may be because membership represents something bigger than any individual. Church can remind people of the common good, the idea that we are all in this  together. At its best, church can inspire, encourage and support people, in the context of a community, in the ups and downs of life. Church can provide a place for questioning and learning, for boldly exploring the mysteries of life, death, meaning and purpose.

The church really is a community. It relies on the involvement of multiple people, with different opinions and a multiplicity of talents and gifts. As a non-profit organization, church requires the financial support of those who believe in its mission and work. The church is a group of people, deciding to live intentionally in community together, to celebrate the mystery of life.

At the West Sunbury United Presbyterian Church, you do not need to believe any particular doctrine or dogma to become a member. The essential question is whether you can find in Jesus Christ a doorway into the mystery of God?


1. Introduce Yourself!

Let one of us know that you are here and are interested in uniting with us.  We want to make certain you are warmly greeted and welcomed. You may fill out an information card located on the table in the rear of the sanctuary and place it in the offering box. Alternately, you are welcome to speak with any of the elders of the church.

I1. Meet with the Minister

The Rev. Lang will be happy to discuss partnering with the West Sunbury church by becoming a member. He can arrange a time to meet with you in order to outline the meaning of membership and schedule a brief interview with the session.

III. Be Recognized in the Worship Service

After the session has welcomed you into membership, the Rev. Lang will let folks know you have joined at the beginning of a worship service so that the church community can formally welcome you into the full life of the church.

Who We ARE

With open minds, loving hearts and helping hands, we welcome all people as individual expressions of the image of God: Creator, Redeemer & Sustainer.

We joyfully affirm God's unconditional love for all people, witnessed to in the life of Jesus Christ.

We celebrate God's love and creativity in worship, sacraments, music, ritual and fellowship.

We honor and acknowledge our Christian heritage and Presbyterian tradition, while being open to truth and wisdom wherever it is found, in all spheres of human experience and learning: science, philosophy, psychology, the humanities and other religions.

We strive to create a fellowship that embodies compassion toward one another, our community and the world.

We honor the beauty and value of the earth, not for what it can provide us, but, in itself and for itself, as the good creation of God.

We live in gratitude as we honor the Sacred Mystery that exists within each of us and fills our universe, as we cultivate

Christian faith community that ever looks forward toward to the unfolding adventure of the future.