No one is quite sure how long the oak tree has stood at the intersection of York and Street roads in Lahaska. Some say it may have first sprouted in William Penn’s time. But it certainly has been there for at least 170 years, which is how long it has spread its protective branches behind the Lahaska United Methodist Church.
Founded in 1823, the church’s congregation is celebrating its 170th anniversary this year. Celebrations will culminate Sept. 17 with a special multi-church service, which is open to the public. Members attribute its longevity to friendly members, charismatic ministers, an impressive choir and extensive community outreach.
“I like to think of it as we are small but mighty,” said Linda Dilks, a lifetime member of the congregation. “The church is marching forward, changing with the times and helping the community.”
Susan Stotz, a member since 1951, has seen many changes in her years attending Lahaska. When she joined, Bucks County was still a farming community and most members came from within a mile or two. Today they travel from a variety of distances and instead of farmland the church overlooks Peddler’s Village, the popular shopping destination.
Stotz remembers a time when they welcomed a new minister each year, until they finally were assigned one that stayed for 22 years. Today’s pastor is the Rev. Steven McComas, who has a dual assignment as minister of Lahaska and Rolling Hills United Methodist Church in Pipersville.
“I never dreamed that in my 70s I would still be serving one, let alone two, United Methodist congregations,” said McComas, who Stotz credits with helping to draw new members to Lahaska.
Lahaska UMC has a long and rich history that began in the 1850s when its early members met in the home of congregant Peter Johnson. As membership grew, so did the need for a church building. The church cost $1,000 to build and opened in 1853 with a circuit rider minister.
A place for families to join, having three generations as members is not uncommon, said Dilks.
With that kind of membership, it’s not surprising that the church has lasted so long. “We are very determined to keep the church together and moving forward,” Dilks said.
As part of its community outreach the church members help needy families during the holidays, support Midway Fire Company, sell homemade soup and hold craft shows. The next soup sale is Sept. 30.
More recent improvements to the church building have included building a Sunday School and adding air conditioning.
Throughout its 170 years, the church’s membership has welcomed visitors and new members.
“We have a very welcoming congregation,” said Dilks.
“Come and visit,” said Stotz. “See what we have to offer.”
Services at Lahaska UMC are held Sundays at 9:30 a.m. with McComas officiating. He expects he will be there for some time to come. “In the future, I will continue to provide spiritual leadership as long as there are people who want ‘to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8),’” he said.
The special service will be held at 9:30 a.m. Sept. 17. The Rev. Dr. Andrew Foster III, district superintendent, will lead the service.