SUMMIT CHURCH HISTORY
Located at the corner of Saxonburg Road and Caldwell Drive in Butler PA, Summit Church just celebrated 150 years of serving the Lord Jesus Christ!
In 1821, when the Allegheny Presbytery was first organized, it included the area from the Allegheny River northward to what is now Franklin, Pennsylvania and was composed of about twenty congregations with a membership totaling about 625. Shortly after its inception, new churches began to organize and the next fifty years saw many new congregations formed throughout the area. One of the last churches to join the Allegheny Presbytery before it was reorganized into the Butler Presbytery was the Summit Presbyterian Church.
Prior to the organization of Summit Church, families in the area were compelled to travel long distances to attend services. It was not uncommon, weather permitting, for people to gather together for open-air services. Private homes or a schoolroom also served as places of worship. So urgent was the need for a church in the area that two churches were organized at about the same time although they were only a mile apart.
In response to a petition, praying for the organization of a church at Jefferson Summit, five miles south of Butler on the Saxonburg Road, Presbytery, on April 12, 1864 appointed a committee to study the matter. Approval was granted on May 2, 1864 and the church was officially organized. Twenty members were certificated. Included among those twenty were names such Graham, McClellan, McGreary, Wright, Cochran, Johnston and Martin. The church was officially named Summit Church.
In August 1866, two years following the founding of Summit church, one acre of land was purchased at a cost of $20.00 from Joseph and Nancy Robinson. One year later, on June 17, 1867, the original church building was dedicated. Isaac Wise, local carpenter built the structure. Two cemetery lots were offered as partial payment for his labor. (Cemetery lots then sold for
$8.00 each.) The church and cemetery were incorporated on January 11, 1869.
For the first twenty years of its existence, Summit Church was served by
supply pastors some of whom were associated with the Witherspoon Institute
in Butler. In 1890, the churches of Middlesex and Summit united in a call to
Rev. Willis S. McNees who served for the next six years. Over the next few
years, Rev. William J. Hazlett, Rev. W. Lamont McMillan, Rev. Henry B.
Ellwood and Rev. H. Russell Crummy served as pastors. One of the longest
pastorates in the church's history began in 1926 when Rev. John C. McElroy
came to serve as Stated Supply. He served for 22 years. It was during this time that initial steps were taken which ultimately led to the purchase of additional land the erection of the present church building. In about the year 1938, the old church was supplied with electric power whereupon the Ready For Duty Sunday School Class initiated a fund for the purchase of a sweeper to aid in the cleaning of the church. After the purchase of the sweeper there was a forty-five dollar balance and the class donated this amount to the church with the suggestion that it be credited to a Building Fund. In the years that followed this initial deposit, the members of Summit church engaged in numerous fundraising efforts. The next minister to serve at Summit was Rev. David M. Thompson. He had the honor of breaking ground for the new church on January 20, 1950. The five-acre tract upon which it would stand was purchased in 1949 from Mr. Porter Mechling at a cost of $2,900. The acreage lay south of the old church across what is now Caldwell Drive. During the pastorate of Rev. James R. Chain work continued on the new church, much of it being volunteer hours given by members of the congregation. Rev. J. Ray Thompson had the honor of dedicating the new sanctuary on October 7, 1956. The manse was also built during his tenure. At this time a unicameral system for the Session was adopted.
Rev. Henry l. Millison became the next minister in June 1960. It was at this time that the publication of a monthly church newsletter entitled the Summit Herald began.
As the church grew it became apparent that we needed better facilities for the Sunday School. Classes were being held in the balcony, the prayer room, the kitchen and in the Fellowship Hall, which was divided with curtains. Ground was broken on May 12, 1968 for an Educational Building. C. T. Dumbaugh was chosen as the General Contractor at a cost of $100,000. Again it was volunteer help of the members to assist in the completion of the interior of the building. It was dedicated on March 23, 1969.
The Rev. James W. Chard served for a short period from 1971 to 1973. Rev. James E. Jacobs started his tenure as a student pastor in 1976, was appointed Pastor upon his graduation from seminary and served until 1986. Rev. Mark T. Ruppert was called from Titusville to fill the pulpit in 1987. It was during his tenure that a program was developed with the theme If there is no vision, the people perish. If there is no plan, the vision perishes.
Since then, Summit Presbyterian Church has continued to grow. Carol Novy became our Director of Christian Education in December 1991. After Pastor Mark Ruppert left in April 1994, Pastor Paul Roberts was called from Pittsburgh to fill the pulpit in May 1995. During this time, we started the Confessing Church movement. God also blessed the church with the addition of property formerly owned by Sue and Russ Morrow with the view of being able to provide more room for activities for the youth. Soon after that, the South Butler School District decided to sell its old elementary school buildings. A concerned neighbor who did not want the school grounds to be turned into a bus garage provided $410,000 of the $445,000 for Summit church to purchase the former Jefferson Elementary School. It is currently being used for His Kids Christian School, which provides preschool thru 4th grade. An active group of teenagers use the gym for volleyball each week and the YMCA Child Care Center is renting several rooms. The building is also available to church members and the community for special events.
When Pastor Paul Roberts was called to Eastminster Presbyterian Church in August 2003, Pastor Jonathan Evans became our pastor in February of 2005. He served until August 2010 when he was called to a church in Wickenburg, AZ. For six months we were served by a variety of guest pastors until the Rev. Dr. Tom R. Jones, became our Interim Pastor in February 2011 and then called pastor in November 2013.
Over the past decade, after becoming increasingly concerned with the liberal direction of the PCUSA, the congregation voted to sever our ties with the PCUSA. This was agreed upon becuase the deonomication drastically strayed from its biblical foundation. In January 2013, the dismissal process began. The Beaver-Butler Presbytery voted to exempt the CCO building and grounds from our cost to "exit with property" from the PCUSA. Summit and the Presbytery agreed to a buyout cost of $100,000, and we were "dismissed with property" in March 2013. In July 2013, we became provisional members of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) in the Presbytery of the Alleghenies. The EPC stresses biblical theology in worship and practice, and a mission-oriented approach from the local to the international level with Jesus Christ as Lord. We look forward to the opportunity to work with the EPC to spread the Gospel both at home and around the world!
Summit Church observed its 150th anniversary of serving the Lord Jesus Christ in May 2014.