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Happy 60th Anniversary Lenape Valley!

60 years ago…

On Sunday, March 25, 1962, people gathered in the basement bar of the VFW in Chalfont for worship… yes, worship in a bar.  Before the people assembled, several of the men had come to complete their Sunday morning ritual- clearing away empty beer bottles and wiping down the bar from the revelry of Saturday night.  The children rushed in, eager to claim one of the coveted stools at the bar.  The pool table was set as the ‘communion table’.  Members of the Philadelphia Presbytery stood ready in the kitchen, dressed in black robes and liturgical stoles.  They peered through the serving window into the bar area.  The founding pastor of this fledgling church entered the room.  Like the setting of this ‘church service’, the pastor was a rather unique individual.  Rev. Jack Heinsohn was a retired trapeze artist from the circus, small in stature, with a bigger-than-life personality and a pompadour hairdo to match.  All was set for a celebration that would mark the official charter of Lenape Valley Presbyterian Church.  Ninety-nine people signed the charter that day, making a commitment be the witnesses for Jesus Christ in the Chalfont- New Britain area.  Among the signers: Emily Broughton, Bill and Janis Burnett, Bob and Jean Cotton, Joe and Jane Hellberg, Jay and Elaine Millane, George and Jean Myers, and Bert and Elaine Schillo.

That day was six years in the making, beginning with the purchase of six acres of land from the Francis Meyers dairy farm on Rt. 202 in New Britain.  It would be nine years before that land would become the home of a new faith community, on May 16, 1965.  Before then, the people of Lenape Valley worshipped at the Grange (the second floor of what is now the Chalfont Family Restaurant), the bar at the VFW, and the Methodist Church on Main St. in Chalfont.  Each Sunday after worship, teams ventured into the neighborhoods growing up around the Chalfont area, going door to door to invite people to join this new adventure.  Bert Schillo described those Sunday afternoon strolls as wonderful opportunities to share what God was doing in their midst. Jack Heinsohn’s charismatic personality and the dedication of the founding members successfully gathered a faith community.  Bert said it was hard to say ‘no’ to Jack.  That core of believers continued to invite their friends, each Sunday adding to their number.  On September 27, 1962, the Cornerstone was laid for their first building on the corner of Ute Rd. and Butler Ave. An exciting beginning, yet God had only just begun to raise up a witness in New Britain.

Over the next 60 years, thousands of people would come through the doors of Lenape Valley to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.  Think of how many hymns have been sung, how many sermons preached, how many Sunday School lessons taught, how many baptisms performed, how many cups of coffee enjoyed, how many rowdy youth group games played… Yet, all that has happened within the walls of Lenape Valley is just the beginning of the story.  From the founding of this faith community, Lenape Valley has embraced a missional calling, to bring the grace of Jesus Christ out to our neighbors.  We are a community of believers sent into the world… called to be the mission of Jesus Christ to the world God so loves.  From supporting missionaries around the globe, to getting our hands dirty on the local mission field during the Church Has Left the Building, to the generosity of our people during the pandemic- feeding and housing our struggling neighbors, to donations sent to help the people of Ukraine, one step at a time God has given us the privilege of bringing God’s grace to the world.

As we celebrate our 60th anniversary, God is once again calling us out onto the mission field.  We are partnering with WorthWhileWear to build a House of Refuge in Souderton.  For years we have partnered with WorthWhileWear to rescue women out of human trafficking, giving them hope and a future.  On October 17, 2021, our Adult Mission team worked with WWW to gut a house on Main St. in Souderton.  Now that house needs to be rebuilt and furnished so that it can be a House of Refuge for women in our community.  What better way to celebrate the faith home God has built for us, than to help build a home for women in need?  Your mission contribution will buy kitchen cabinets and water heaters, washers and dryers, beds and flooring.  Your gift will create a home for those who need to know God’s grace.  I look forward to working with you on this mission project.  I know that God will surprise me yet again by your generosity!

With you out on the mission field,
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