The Reformed Church of Bushkill traces its history back to 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 in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. The church building was rebuilt in 1874. 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.
In the 1980’s we were down to a dozen or so worshippers on Sunday mornings. Church life consisted of constant concerns over money issues and the congregation had lost sight of its true calling. 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 future or a constituency, and frankly, we wouldn’t have known what to do if we had one.
But God in His Grace and Mercy has a way of turning the tides. 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. God had given him a vision. He took notice of the throngs of people moving to the Poconos and that meant that there was a future for this church. Pastor Rottenberg changed the attitude of the church from a congregation that was inwardly focused on its own needs and problems to a congregation that was focused on doing the things that Christ called us to do; vibrant worship, Bible study, missions and financial stewardship God’s way- built on faith, trust and obedience. It was no surprise that the church began to grow under his leadership.
In August of 1997 the Lord called Pastor Steve Sayer to lead the Reformed Church of Bushkill into a new chapter of its history. Pastor Sayer’s leadership and passion for people and ministry made him the perfect fit for a church that was growing in an increasingly diverse community. Pastor Sayer had a gift for understanding the trends and direction of the church. We began to outgrow the little white clapboard church and made plans for a new building.
In 2004, under the direction of Pastor Sayer, we moved to our present location. The people of our church sacrificed in a significant manner in many ways to bring the dream of a new site for ministry to fruition for the Glory of God. The building is much larger and considerably more modern than the old white clapboard church, yet it still retains the feel of a traditional sanctuary.
Pastor Sayer was called to another church in January of 2015. The church brought in Jim Virtue to fill the pulpit and provide some basic pastoral responsibilities on a part time basis while they searched for a full-time pastor. In July of 2016 the church was led to make Jim Virtue the full-time pastor. Jim left his full time job of 25 years in the tile and stone business to answer God’s call to full time ministry. Building on the work of Pastor Rottenberg and Pastor Sayer, Pastor Virtue’s passion for ministry focuses on the preaching, teaching and application of God’s Word in a way that is relatable and understandable. Our history has proven that the Lord is in control and that He has a plan. He raises up certain people at just the right time to fulfill His plan. One thing is certain; God has a plan for the Reformed Church of Bushkill and we are all blessed to be a part of the work that He is accomplishing through this small body of believers in the little town of Bushkill, Pennsylvania……. (to be continued)