SCPC ~ 125 Years as a Congregation

On Sunday, November 15, 2015, SCPC celebrated the 125th year as a congregation.

Click here to view a video presentation share memories from these past 125 years. (Video produced by Jerry Sawyer)

Humble Beginnings

SCPC had very humble beginnings, being organized in 1890 with only 58 members who transferred to the tiny village of State College from Le- mont’s Spring Creek Church. Building at the corner of Locust Lane and College Avenue on donated land, the members established a Sabbath School, emphasizing Bible study, preaching and prayer meetings. The courage, sacrifice and vision of these few is beyond measure when you consider there was no borough organization, and there was a population of 150 with an additional 167 college students.

IMG_2099By 1912 SCPC had added a manse at East Beaver Avenue and Locust Lane and was ready to consider a new and larger edifice on two West Beaver Avenue lots. Known as “The Church Beside the Tower”, the handsome native limestone structure took form in the Gothic style. The Presbyterian Board of Education of the General Assembly, the Synod and the Presbytery all agreed to contribute funds for this building. In return they would charge this church to be responsible for the care of the Presbyterian students on the college campus. This student work was the first of its kind on any college campus. In 1922 the Rev. D. W. Carruthers began a 30–year ministry as Pastor-to-Students at SCPC.


In 1938 plans were laid to add a religious education building to provide more Sunday School space and rooms for the student serving Westminster Foundation with Rev. Carruthers as its Director. This building was completed in 1942.  World War II found 136 of our members in the armed services and Red Cross, and our Pastor as a Chaplain in the Army Air Force. These were dark and difficult days, but when the war ended in 1945, the life of the Church picked up and expanded in all directions. At that point, SCPC had five international and three national missionaries, and 24 elders on Session, including five women. The church supported two camps, distributed monthly newsletters, and sponsored Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops. A new Women’s Association was also formed and the Deacons had 30 active members, including six women. Staff grew with the addition of a Christian Education Director, an Assistant Pastor and a second secretary.

By 1962, there was a discussion concerning the establishment of a second congregation, adding to the present structure, and locating on the edge of town. Due to the 1912 commitment to college students, members voted to remain at the Beaver Avenue location. As a result, in 1966, 93 families transferred their membership to the newly-formed Diakonia Church, a United Presbyterian Church in State College.

More Changes

A new method of ministering to college students evolved with the formation of United Campus Ministries, and the Westminster Foundation was dissolved in 1965.

By 1966 there were four singing choirs and a bell choir, involving a total of 162 members. This necessitated a larger choir loft and other remodeling, including a new organ. New groups and events continued to spring up, such as Presby-Pairs, The Niners, Senior High Fellowship, and the Deacons’ Palm Sunday breakfast.  In 1978 Session declared an intent to “implement and maintain” a comprehensive CE program. God Squad, Presby-Pairs and Spares, Exploring and Scouting, FISH (Fellowship In Senior High) and Playschool were initiated. In the 1980’s our FISH participants began their annual summer week-long retreat to Assateague Island National Seashore in MD.  In 1990 the LOGOS for program for elementary and middle school grades 4-8 began; in 1991 programming for grades 1-3 was added.

In 1990, attention was focused on the year-long Centennial Celebration for SCPC. This culminated in October in a procession of the congregation, choir, ministers and guests to Schwab Auditorium for a celebratory service and lunch.

In November 1992, a Nine-year building campaign kicked off to raise over $2 million for a new education annex. To lead this venture, the Rev. Charles Curley was called as Head of Staff in 1993.  In September 1995, the new building was dedicated.  Between the two Sunday morning services a ribbon-cutting ceremony took place, complete with the sounds of bagpipes and the church bell.

Throughout the 90’s the LOGOS and FISH programs grew. Additionally, SCPC’s commitments to diversity and peacemaking expanded, as well as missions at every level. By 1997, an intensive outreach to college students included an exam week study break program, a College Connection luncheon and the AGAPE weekly fellowship gatherings.

Year 2000 and Beyond

In the year 2000, we saw an active and dedicated congregation involved in many fellowship and outreach activities. These included progressive dinners, coffee house entertainment, the middle school program “Chrysalis”, mission trips to Haiti, Presbyterian Women’s Strawberry Socials, various seminars and lecture series, a hospital visitation ministry, the Visitation Deacons team, and the Stay and Play Preschool program. 2005 saw the formation of “Westminster Presbyterian Fellowship,” the umbrella organization for the college-age ministry programs of the church. WPF is a recognized student activity by the Office of Student Affairs of Penn State University, with activities occurring at both the church and on campus.

The second decade of the 21st century saw an increased emphasis upon spiritual development with the formation of the Spiritual Formation Ministry Unit under the direction of Associate Pastor Joel Blunk.  In this period, we began the annual Crossings retreat for young men and monthly Sabbath Away meetings for all ages.

This decade also saw the church participating and leading in ecumenical efforts to address needs in the community.  The ‘Out of the Cold Program’ began to house homeless persons during the winter months, and the church continued its involvement with outreach organizations such as Interfaith Human Services and the Center County Women’s Resource Center.

In 2013, the Reverend Dean Lindsey was called to be Pastor of the congregation following the earlier retirement of Chuck Curley.  That Fall, the congregation celebrated the 100th anniversary of the sanctuary building.  Discussions about the condition of the sanctuary began at that time and led to the development of a comprehensive plan for addressing long term maintenance needs throughout the church.  A campaign called ‘Restoring God’s House’ was launched in early 2017 to provide funding for this effort.  Due to the enthusiastic response of the congregation, the campaign raised nearly 1.2 million dollars in gifts and pledges.

In 2015, Michael Ozaki was ordained and installed as Associate Pastor for Mission and Youth.  He began the ‘Parents of Little Ones’ (POLO) group as a ministry with young families in the church and continued important strong traditions in the FISH program such as an annual Spring Break mission trip and the Assateague trip.

The church also has taken important steps towards being a leader in caring for God’s good creation.  We received certification as an Earth Care congregation from the Presbyterian Church (USA) in 2014.  In a pilot program with the Borough of State College, we became one of the first businesses to participate in a composting program that generates over a ton of material each month.  As part of the ‘Restoring God’s House’ program, energy conservation has also been a major priority with the installation of LED bulbs, increased insulation, and energy efficient windows in all parts of the church.

Within the larger Presbyterian church, decisions about the inclusion of LGBTQ persons within the ministry of the church have led to important steps locally, as well.  In 2014, the Session adopted a Welcome Statement to make clear that we joyfully accept all people into every part of the church’s life.

In all of our ministries and in the history that has brought us to this point, we sense God’s blessings have been abundant among us.  We look forward with the confident expectation that the Spirit will continue to lead us into deeper love for one another, care for our neighbors around us, and faithful service in the name of Christ.

A Little History …

1775 — The site of the first Presbyterian worship service was a log school house by Cedar Creek near Linden Hall. In 1779, James Martin became the first settled pastor.

1802 — A log building called “Slab Cabin” or “Branch” Church was built on the banks of the Slab Cabin Branch of Spring Creek. The cemetery still stands by Centre Hills Country Club. In 1866, The Rev. Dr. Robert Ham- mill organized the first Sabbath School.

1872 — The structure for the Spring Creek Presbyterian Church was built “at the end of the mountain”, as Lemont was called. From 1875 to 1885, that church gave birth to four colonies; Pine Grove, Bald Eagle, Buffalo Run and State College.

1888 — The building for the first State College Church was built at the corner of College Avenue and Locust Lane, where Faith United Church of Christ now stands. In 1890, 58 people were received into membership.
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1913 — Our present Beaver Avenue facility was completed with an obligation to serve college students.

1922 — The Rev. Don Carruthers became Pastor and served for 30 years.

1941 — Over sixty years ago, the cornerstone was laid for the present Christian Education Building. It contained a box of historical documents and was dedicated in April 1942.

1994 — The Christian Education annex was completed. These upgrades have provided us with a comfortable and attractive place for worship, Christian Education and programs.

2010 -Rev. Charles J. Curley retired as Pastor Emeritus on November 30, 2010 after serving as Pastor and Head of Staff for 17 years.

2012 – The Sanctuary pipe organ was refurbished and converted to a “hybrid organ”

2013 – Rev. Dean Lindsey was called as Pastor and Head of Staff in July 2013

2015 – Rev. Joel Blunk accepted a call to serve as Co-Director of the Richmond Hill community in Richmond, VA after 21 years of service at SCPC.

2015 – Rev. Michael Ozaki was called as Associate Pastor for Youth and Mission