The Presbyterian Church of Portersville has been a presence in the Portersville/Muddy Creek Twp. area for almost 200 years.
The church was initially organized on October 13, 1820. Prior to 1814 Rev. Reed Bracken preached occasionally in homes of Presbyterian families around the neighborhood. When Thompson McCosh built his cabinet shop, it became at once the place for religious services, with Rev. Bracken as supply pastor. The church was originally called “Eight Tracts” and bore that name until 1834, when the Presbytery approved the name “Portersville Presbyterian Church.” It is probable that the first church building was built in 1824 on one-half acre of ground conveyed by deed by Robert and Margaret Stewart to the trustees of the church for the sum of twenty dollars. This building was a small frame structure and it enjoyed the distinction of being the earliest frame church building in the Presbytery of Allegheny.
Ten years later, in 1834, the church was remodeled and ten to twelve feet were added to the length of the building. Mr. Bracken was succeeded in the pastorate by his son, Newton Bracken, who was installed in the year 1841. It was during his ministry in 1842 that the frame structure was replaced by a brick building.
In 1823 a Union Sunday School was organized in the homes of the villagers and continued until 1855 when a Sabbath School was organized in the church. The Sunday School has proven to be a real educational factor in the preparation of our children for church membership.
The church celebrated its centennial with a series of celebrations on September 12 through 14, 1920. The congregation of 500 used this time of celebration to renew old friendships, as many former members and pastors returned to participate.
In the years 1927-1928 our building was completely remodeled: a brick tower was placed on the northwest comer, stained glass windows were installed and electric lights were added. The present structure is the result of these efforts.
The Missionary Society was organized in 1879, giving to home and foreign missions. The society has continued over the years. At times, there was more than one Missionary society. The ladies took an active interest in getting the congregation to increase its benevolence giving in the 1930s. The church members have given to the support of many missionaries and upheld them in prayer before the throne of grace. One of the unique events is the annual Missionary Conference. Various mission projects are presented to the congregation and an offering taken for Christmas gifts for the Missionaries. Interest in the field of missions is maintained by engaging missionary speakers to take part in the Church services when they return from the field.
The Church began holding annual homecoming services in the early 1930s and the tradition continues into the present. The church began a Vacation Bible School (VBS) ministry in the early 1940s. It has been a very successful outreach to children within the church and to other children in the community. It continues to be a major event of the summer. An organ was purchased by the congregation and dedicated to the memory of Rev. George H. Cheeseman in 1948. He was our pastor at the time he was called Home.
In the late 1950s the need for a larger and better equipped building for the children and young adults was felt. Plans were made for an educational building and in 1963 the structure was completed. It was dedicated in the spring of 1964. The building provided for a nursery, secretary’s office, a pastor’s study and classrooms in the basement and a modern kitchen and large fellowship hall on the main floor. The burning of the mortgage on the educational building was part of the sesquicentennial celebration in 1970.
It was decided in 1991 that repairs were required on the building and grounds. A new roof was installed over the sanctuary and the driveway was paved. A hearing impaired system was also installed giving the hearing impaired a greater opportunity to participate during services. The system was given in memory of Grandma Mabel Myers. A handicapped ramp with a small patio and railing was added on the west side of the church and some of the sidewalks were repaired in 1992 and 1993.
Other projects in the 1990’s included repair of the stained glass windows, cleaning and touching up of the mural at the front of the sanctuary which was painted in the 1950s, remodeling and expanding the offices, painting the sanctuary and replacing the educational building roof. Many minor projects were also performed by members of the congregation.
In 2001 and 2002, the Church embarked on an expansion of the Breezeway linking the sanctuary building and the educational building. Doing most of the work in-house or acting as contractors, the members of trustees and session did a marvelous job of expanding the breezeway into a beautiful meeting-and-greeting area, with ADA-caliber facilities and a tunnel between the basements of both buildings for safe egress. The sanctuary and breezeway were then re-carpeted and reupholstered. Recently the sanctuary was repainted.
Since 2000, the church has become even more committed to doing and supporting mission locally and around the world. In 2005, the youth group went to Mexico with Pastor Dana Opp and Youth Director Margie Opp. In 2006, the church led a group of 42 down to Long Beach, Mississippi to help in Hurricane Katrina relief. The church undertook its biggest project in 188 years; seeking to peacefully leave the Presbyterian Church USA for the more theologically compatible Evangelical Presbyterian Church. The church was successful in this, leaving the PCUSA in November 2008 and entering the EPC in April 2009.
This church continues to pursue the mission that has marked it for many years: Upholding the Word of God and engagement with missions. Because of this, we are experiencing a renewal of younger families attending and worshipping with us. This is a congregation that lives and gives, both locally and around the world, to the glory of God.