Sunday Morning at Derry Presbyterian Church

Presbyterians established a congregation at Derry, Pennsylvania (present day Hershey) in 1724.  The congregation is celebrating its 290th birthday this year and gearing up for a gala 300th anniversary celebration in 2024.  Yesterday, as part of the 290th anniversary festivities, I was invited to give a lecture on the links between Presbyterianism and the Conestoga Massacre of December 1763.  Much of the lecture drew from research I had done for talk I gave in December 2013 at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies Paxton Boys/Conestoga Massacre conference, although I spent much more time at Derry discussing the local history of the Derry Presbyterian Church, the Paxton Presbyterian Church, and their two 18th century clergymen–John Roan and John Elder.  (Once again, I apologize to those in attendance for constantly referring to Roan as “Doan”).

After the lecture I took a tour of the church facilities with Jack Henderson and Megan Talley of the church heritage committee.  I had met Jack at the Paxton conference, but it was especially good to see Megan, a former Messiah College history major.  Megan is working as an administrative and programming coordinator at the M.S. Hershey Foundation.  According to her LinkedIn page, she organizes tours and travel groups who want to visit Hershey Gardens, handles ticket ordering for special events, educates children on field trips “about plants, bufferflies, and Pennsylvania history,” and coordinates the Hershey Gardens volunteer program.  It was great to learn how Megan is putting her history major to good use.
Thanks to Debbie Hough, minister of Christian education, for inviting me back to Derry.
Here are a few pics:
18th-century Derry Presbyterian Church graveyard in the shadow of the Hershey smokestacks  A striking contrast
The Derry Presbyterian Church “Session House” (18th century).  The protective display house was commissioned by Milton Hershey