History of St. James

The German Settlement was the Reform Congregation and the Reform Congregation was the German Settlement.

St. James UCC is the oldest congregation within what is now the United Church of Christ in Virginia.

The first church building of the German immigrants who came to our area was constructed of log not long after 1733 on a low hill east of the present Town of Lovettsville. An entry from a 1760s record book states ‘the dilapidated condition’ of that building, and a second log building was constructed in 1775. ‘Indisputable evidence exists,’ wrote one of the early pastors, that a third church, this time built of brick, was erected and served the congregation until it began thinking of building a new church in town.
 
During the term of Reverend Rinker (1873-1891), the Mite Society, a women’s organization of the church was formed, and through dinners and other means of raising funds purchased a lot in Lovettsville for $300 and presented the deed to the consistory. However, this lot was sold and the consistory bought another, bigger lot from the Potterfield family, and it was there that the present church was built in 1901 and consecrated ‘with no debt rested upon it.’ It became St. James Reform Church. In 1934 it merged with another congregation with a similar heritage and became St. James Evangelical and Reform Church. In 1940, the stained glass memorial windows were installed, adding great beauty. In 1957, the church merged with the Congregation Christian Church and became the United Church of Christ, a mainline denomination. In 1983 a historical marker was secured through the Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission and placed in front of the building.

– compiled by the late Susanne George, St. James UCC Trustee, from Lovettsville, the German Settlement by Yetive R. Weatherly and Celebration of a Heritage, a booklet produced by church council members in 1983 to celebrate the church’s 250th Anniversary.

This brief history of Lovettsville (The German Settlement) describes the people who migrated between 1683 and 1775 from Germany, initially to Pennsylvania, then later settling in the Catoctin Valley. Like the Quakers, Germans in the area did not own slaves, perhaps due to their own long history of persecution in the Old Country and a firm belief in personal liberty.

Now having come from Pennsylvania, a colony which had had religious freedom since William Penn, these people were now settling in a colony where everyone was obliged to attend the Church of England. In Virginia, church and state were not separated. In fact, they functioned reciprocally as the parish rolls were used to collect taxes. Nevertheless, it appears that The German Settlement ignored the dictates of both church and state, for they established their own Reformed Church, which played a prominent role in shaping the early life of The Settlement. Their early church leaders performed the functions of both preacher and teacher. Although public education did not become common until many years later, the church leaders saw to it that all of the children were taught to read, write, and cipher.

Our heritage of independent thought and open minds continues to be reflected in our commitment to authentic justice and prophetic witness, our interfaith work, and our statement of faith:

We gather in worship as an inclusive community, an Open & Affirming community of faith that transcends any distinctions based on gender, sexual orientation, nationality, race, or religion…and with a formal worship that flows into a living worship of love and support for one another as we pursue ways to reflect God’s reign of mercy, justice, and peace in our community and throughout the world…along with a continuing search for ways to celebrate the goodness of life together…and always reaching out to draw others, with total inclusiveness, into this communal experience..