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York County’s own Civil War – Part IV


This postcard shows the steeples, right, of what today is Trinity United Church of Christ and, far right, the mother church that became Zion United Church of Christ. The congregations had to address immense issues during the mid-19th century. Related posts: York County’s own Civil War, Part I; Part II; Part III; Part IV.

Several previous posts have established York County churches as a battleground for differences in the Civil War. (See scores of local Civil War posts at: York’s Civil War.
Simply put, York’s position on the Mason-Dixon Line irritated political differences on whether the Civil War was justified. Those differences spilled into the churches.
But York County German Reformed and Lutheran churches were undergoing additional conflicts. Both churches wrestled with whether services should be conduct in English, German or both.
The German Reformed Church also was consumed with a controversy over style of worship – high church or low church. This was a national controversy in that denomination that probably impacted locally.

– In the 1860s, York’s German Reformed church split because of language differences. The German-language backers got the building, then located at the site of the former Woolworth’s building. The congregation later moved next to Penn Park and today is known as Zion United Church of Christ.
– The English-language backers erected a building a couple of doors east. That’s known as Trinity UCC today.
– The German Reformed congregation probably had differences over liturgy and worship as well. The English congregation definitely favored the high church tendencies put forth from Mercersburg Seminary, where pastor J.O. Miller graduated. Benjamin Griffin, in his history of the church “The Americanization of a Congregation,” does not state where the German speakers stood on the matter, but Trinity erected its new building in high church style with the altar in the center, different from the former building in which the pulpit stood in the center.

Incidentially, the high-church Mercersburg Seminary had roots in York County. This seminary for the German Reformed denomination operated in York County in the 1830s before moving to Mercersburg.
Strife over Civil War politics, language, style of worship — it’s a wonder those York churches survived.
But Trinity and Zion UCC congregations continue to meet weekly, though they are facing another challenge – aging memberships.
Also of interest: Civil War dispute lands York pastor in slammer.