Our History: It Really Is About Sharing Jesus’ Love
Over two centuries ago, waves of immigrants from Europe began to settle on the North American continent. Some of those settlers originated from German speaking lands, and while they shared a language they did not share the same understanding of Christianity. In the old country, German Reformed Christians and Lutheran Christians shed blood over their religious differences when the princes forced one side to adopt the practices of the other.
In the new country, freedom of religion meant that no one from the most senior member of government to the newest immigrant could force their faith on another. Consequently, the religious differences that were a factor in much of the conflict in Europe were much less significant to German Christians from the Reformed churches in America, especially given the two groups of Reformed Christians shared a language and a culture different from the settlers around them. So members of the German Reformed Church and German Lutherans built schools together, and then churches, sharing not only their language and their culture but their faith, and what little they had at the time in terms of material resources.
These union churches survived for a very long time in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States of America in spite of their religious differences. Eventually, though, those differences reasserted themselves and as the prosperity of members and the communities in which they lived increased, the union churches began to separate. Our church faced the question of whether to remain a part of a union church or to separate every subsequent generation of the church until it became clear that we could not do the Lord’s work as a part of a union anymore. We could, the two congregations, die together or we could live apart.
A committee was put together to study the question of the union and bring a recommendation to the Church Council. In the midst of our discussions, Mrs. Sue (Bortner) Barnhart, a member of that committee, said that what came to her in her prayers was this: that we are St. Jacob’s Lutheran Church, and we are called to Share Jesus’ Love. The Holy Spirit confirmed her declaration, not only in our hearts and prayers but in the events that followed. The committee moved, with much sorrow yet hope, that a separation of the union of the two churches was what God was calling us to do at this time in our history. In time, the Church Council and the congregation voted to relocate to a new facility, understanding as they did that they would suffer pain and loss as a consequence of this decision. But we determined, as a family, that the only way forward to effectively share Jesus’ love was to move.
So, you see, for us it really is about sharing Jesus’ love. And while we don’t always do it as well as we might, we are committed to doing just that, sharing Jesus’ love, with one another, with our neighbors, with the world.