Founded in 1863 as the Historical Society of the German Reformed Church, the Evangelical and Reformed Historical Society was formed in 1934 when the Reformed Church in the United States merged with the Evangelical Synod of North America.
Origins and History
The Historical Society of the German Reformed Church was founded in 1863 at the time of the tercentenary celebration of the Heidelberg Catechism. The Rev. John Williamson Nevin was elected the first President. Even before the founding of the society for the purpose of stimulating an interest in the church’s identity and encouraging accurate record keeping, Reformed churches recognized the importance of recording baptisms, marriages and deaths. In the mid-eighteenth century Michael Schlatter, who gave important leadership to colonial Reformed churches, brought record books with him from Germany to Pennsylvania for the newly organized congregations.
In 1934 the Reformed Church in the United States merged with another church of German Protestant background, the Evangelical Synod of North America. With that union the society became the Evangelical and Reformed Historical Society (ERHS). When the Philip Schaff Library was built at Lancaster Theological Seminary in 1967, the society, at the invitation of the seminary’s trustees, transferred its collection from the Fackenthal Library of Franklin and Marshall College to the Omwake Room on the second floor of the Schaff Library.
From the former Reformed Church, the ERHS collection includes minutes of synods, classes, congregations; records of the mission boards; hymnals; liturgies, and important publications such as the Reformed Church Messenger and the Mercersburg Review.
Most records from former branch archives at Catawba College in NC, Heidelberg University in OH and Lakeland College (Mission House in WI) are now housed at the Lancaster Archives on the second floor of the Schaff Library at Lancaster Theological Seminary 555 W. James St. Lancaster, PA (717)290-8734 email@example.com
Especially noteworthy are original manuscripts of the Mercersburg theologians, John W. Nevin, Philip Schaff, Henry Harbaugh and Emanuel Gerhart. Also valuable are the manuscripts and transcriptions of records of early German Reformed churches and ministers in America which the society received from the library of William J. Hinke in 1947.
The resources of the society are available without charge to its members and to ministers and local congregations of the United Church of Christ. Local churches celebrating anniversaries or wanting information concerning their history may receive assistance from the society’s archives. Confirmation classes and other church groups are welcome to visit the archives, as are scholars who are conducting research. Genealogical researchers are required to pay a daily fee or to subscribe to a membership.
Research at the Historical Society is by appointment only. Please phone or email to arrange a suitable time for your visit.
Office Manager & Archives Assistant: Alison Mallin
Collections Processor: Kathleen Kuzmiak
ERHS Board President: The Rev. Richard Berg
The Evangelical and Reformed Historical Society receives support from donations, contributions, investment income, and the annual UCC Historical Council appeal. Churches and individuals are encouraged to add to the society’s endowment to help assure the continuance of its mission. They are invited to contact ERHS for further information. The ERHS is a sponsored agency of the United Church of Christ.
All current donors receive two newsletters a year, are welcome at public programs and are entitled to research help from and tours of the archives
The society holds an annual meeting at which lectures are presented and business is conducted. All are invited to participate in these meetings and share in the work of the society.