The Reformed Church of Bushkill: Sharing God’s grace
Striving to Do What Christ Tells Us through Scripture.
The Reformed Church of Bushkill is part of the Reformed Church in America. (Some folks have heard of us as the Dutch Reformed Church). The Reformed Church in America is strong wherever Dutch people went as our country and Canada were being settled: New York State, New Jersey, Western Michigan, Iowa, Illinois, California, Ontario and British Columbia. Of course, the settling of North America was a long time ago, and we’ve started churches in a great many other states and provinces since then.
The Reformed Church in America is part of a large body of Protestant churches generally referred to as Reformed. The various Presbyterian denominations are also part of that group of churches. These churches adhere to Reformed theology, which has two primary characteristics: a strong and unwavering commitment to the centrality of the Bible in the individual’s lives (all that we do and believe springs from the Word of God); and an understanding that God is sovereign over the universe (God is in control of the world, calls us to faith and is Lord or Master of our lives). The Reformed body of churches generally has a Presbyterian system of government. That is, they elect elders and deacons to rule the life of the church.
Elders oversee the general spiritual life of the congregation, while deacons take charge of matters of material maintenance (accounting for offerings, distributing benevolent gifts, and encouraging mission). Individual churches are accountable to a larger group of churches (in our case called a classis). In our system of government, there isn’t really a hierarchy of power – it’s people running their church as they hear God leading, and churches guiding and helping other churches.
The Reformed Church of Bushkill traces its history from 1737, when a group of Reformed churches was established in the Delaware Valley. The first church building was erected in 1832 on a lot donated by Henry Peters, approximately two-and-a-half miles north of our present location. The church building was rebuilt in 1874 (the white clapboard church by the blinking light on Route 209). Bushkill Outreach, our area’s assistance center, now occupies the old church. Beyond that, not a lot of history is known about the church - many early documents were lost in a couple of fires down through the years.
To be honest, that's okay. The more recent history of the Reformed Church of Bushkill is a lot more interesting. It wasn't that long ago that we'd have to admit our church had lost its way. We were down to a dozen or fifteen worshippers on Sunday mornings. Church life consisted of constant concern over money issues. The federal government had purchased the entire village we served (including the church) and it became part of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. We were a church without a constituency, and frankly, we wouldn't have known what to do if we had one.
Then a funny thing happened. A retired minister by the name of Isaac Rottenberg, someone who had spent most of his career involved in church bureaucracy, was asked to provide some basic pastoral services for the church on a part time basis. Pastor Rottenberg, who came in 1989, was not particularly interested in only providing pastoral services. He could see that the throngs of people moving to the Poconos meant that there was a future for this church, if only it could once again learn to do the things that a church is supposed to do.
He emphasized vital worship, Bible study, and using our finances as God asks rather than simply doing fundraising. He pushed us to support mission outside our doors and to welcome people inside our doors. The church began to hear him, and things began to happen. Attendance began to grow. Finances took care of themselves. Most importantly, people became alive in their walk with God. The unspoken theme of the church was, we will simply follow Christ, and see where we end up.
The place we ended up was with a sanctuary filled with diverse people of all races, ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds and religious histories. It's a group of folks who are concerned with following Christ as they live out their lives. This is a congregation that also enjoys being with each other, and often lingers in the fellowship hall for an hour after service, drinking coffee and listening to their brothers and sisters.
In 2004, we moved to our present location. The people of our church sacrificed in a significant manner, in both time and money, to bring the dream of a new site for ministry to fruition. The building is much larger and more considerably modern than the old white clapboard church. We have come a long way in recent years – and not simply in the two-and-a-half mile relocation effort. Yet we understand we have a much longer way to go in the service of Jesus Christ!
We invite you to join us as we follow Christ together.