Huts of Peace...
In the early 1700s Moravian missionaries passed through this area. They were the first white settlers to arrive. The Moravians’ main purpose was to Christianize the Native Americans living here at the time. Conrad Weiser, in 1737, was one of these explorers hoping to contact them to spread Christianity. In 1766 a meeting house was built just east of Wyalusing. There is still a monument there today marking the place of the meeting house, called Friedenshutten, meaning “Huts of Peace.”
Following the American Revolution, circuit riders came through the area, holding church services approximately once every month. Settlers moved into the area from the south and the northeast, especially from Connecticut. They established Pike Township, which was much bigger than it is today and was part of the Tioga Circuit, which was discontinued in 1828.
The first church built in Pike Township was the St. Matthews Episcopal Church in 1799 on Route 706 East of Stevensville, which is still holding some services today. This was built by the settlers from Litchfield County of Connecticut.
First Congregational Church of Pike Township
In 1803 a Congregational Church was established in Pike Township in what today is the Le Raysville Borough. The services were originally held in homes or barns. The first minister was secured in 1812, and in 1825 the first sanctuary was built here. In 1833 it was incorporated as the First Congregational Church and Society of Pike Township, which is still our legal name today.
This sanctuary building was torn down in 1857, and the present Le Raysville Church was built on the same spot. It took three years to build, from 1857 to 1860. In 1866 it was voted to build a parsonage for the preacher to live in. The parsonage was not built until 1871, and it was built at a cost of $1,056.87.
The Congregational Church
The Potterville Church we worship in today traces its roots to a meeting of eight people in 1815. These people met in the home of Preserved Buffington in South Warren and organized a congregational church knows as the church of Warren and Orwell.
The early church, while starting as congregational, was Presbyterian from approximately 1824 to 1828. The Warren and Orwell church divided in 1828. The church members met in homes and schools until a church building was constructed on Ridge Road, near the Eastman Farm. The Potterville church became a separate congregation in 1851, splitting from what was then the Orwell church.
The current community hall (that is next to the Potterville Church) was constructed in 1849 for use as a church. This served as the church until the present church in Potterville was built in 1875 at a cost of $4,000.00.
The Federated Church
About 1940, five groups of people decided to build a community hall next to the Le Raysville Church. The five groups were: Grange, Borough Council, Le Raysville Congregational Church, Church and Home League, and People at Large. Much of the materials and the windows for the building came from tearing down the Methodist Church.
On March 8, 1937, members of the Congregational churches in Potterville, Le Raysville, and Neath gathered for the purpose of yoking these three churches and calling a minister. The vote was unanimous to call Rev. Carl Dille as the minister of the newly yoked churches, and this call was extended March 21, 1937. The congregation of the Congregational Church of West Warren later became associated with this cooperative.
Rev. Dille started a movement to have the four churches operate on their own but as part of one parish. After being here for almost two years, Rev. Carl and Lois Dille were called to the mission field in Africa. In honor of their missionary call, at a farewell party for their departure, a motion was made by Mr. Olyn Johnson to name the “Larger Parish” as the “Dille Cooperative Parish.”
The Dille Cooperative Parish
The role of minister for the Dille Cooperative Parish was then filled by Rev. Theron Zimmerman on October 1, 1938. Under his leadership, the Dille Cooperative Parish had approximately 450 families associated with the parish, and services were held in each of the four member churches each Sunday—three worship services in the morning and one worship service with a youth fellowship (Sunday school) meeting in the evening. Rev. Zimmerman was called to another pastorate in March of 1943.
The man called to fill Rev. Zimmerman’s vacancy was Rev. Jordan Cole. He served the Dille Cooperative Parish until January 1, 1947.
The Dille Cooperative Parish was served by Rev. H. Marshall Budd beginning on June 1, 1947, by Charles F. Hood from 1951 to 1953, and by Rev. Reginald Merrifield from 1953 to 1957.
In April 1958, Rev. Philip Jerome Cleveland was called as the church pastor. He is remembered for his authorship of a number of books, including Three Churches and a Model T and Beauty’s Pilgrim.
Merger of the Dille Cooperative Parish & United Church Of Christ
Rev. Jacob Zang followed Rev. Cleveland in the four churches of the Dille Cooperative Parish. He was very interested in the youth program of the churches, and he worked hard to revitalize the program during his years in the parish, from 1961 to 1963.
Of particular note was his effort in organizing a youth caravan for high schoolers. During the closing months of Rev. Zang’s ministry, the congregation discussed a proposed merger of the Dille Cooperative Parish with the United Church of Christ.
Dille Parish UCC
The United Church of Christ was formed by the merger of two national denominations: the Congregational Christian Church and the Evangelical and Reformed Church. On March 17, 1963, the Le Raysville Congregational Church voted for the church to be affiliated with the United Church of Christ. The Neath Church elected not to affiliate with the newly formed United Church of Christ, leaving the Dille Cooperative Parish a parish of three churches: Le Raysville, Potterville, and West Warren. Worship services rotated between each of these three churches for nearly two decades.
During the summer of 1963, Mr. Daryl Clemens served as a student pastor under Rev. Zang’s direction. There were many youth activities that summer, including the construction of the “Forest Chapel” (known as the Vesper Site) on the property of William Davis, Jr. on the road from Le Raysville to Neath.
Rev. Zang resigned in the winter of 1963. Between the departure of Rev. Zang and the installation of Rev. Daryl Clemens on June 28, 1964, Rev. Benjamin Klauser of Nichols, New York filled the pulpit. While Rev. Clemens served the church, children from the Fresh Air Program were hosted in a number of families’ homes.
Following Rev. Clemens, Rev. Barry Harbach served the Dille Cooperative Parish from 1969 until 1973, and Richard T. Peebles served the Dille Cooperative Parish from August of 1973 until 1977.
The old bell from the Methodist Episcopal Church in Le Raysville was mounted and dedicated in 1976 by the trustees of the Le Raysville congregation.
Rev. Gerald Cobb was called after Rev. Peebles. He served until 1982, and then Rev. Daniel Yolton served until 1985.
In the late 1980s Carl Whitehead wrote a resolution to incorporate the three churches into one church body, using three buildings. Since all people voted as one body, enough people voted against this, so it was defeated. In the early 1990s Rev. Steve Crabtree proposed the same thing but stated that each church would vote individually. Le Raysville and Potterville voted in favor of the proposal and West Warren voted against it and dropped out. Thus, today we have two church sanctuaries but one church. It was named the Dille Parish UCC. Rev. Steve Crabtree served until 2000.
One of the main reasons for incorporating the three churches as one parish was too many meetings for the minister to go to. With three churches in the Dille Cooperative Parish, each church had a monthly board meeting and then a parish meeting. Each church also had a small Sunday School and very few in any church service. After West Warren left, we had only one service but rotated every Sunday. We settled on services every month in each church like we do today.
Building The Parish House
In 1998 Rev. Crabtree felt there was a need for a community building to use for outreach ministries. After more than a year of meetings and drafting a mission statement, there was strong negative feeling within the congregation about the direction we should take, so the conference was called because of the agreement with the congregation. Our conference minister came up and explained what had to be done in order to solve the situation. Carl Whitehead and Rob Winston became co-chairmen, and Mark Honchell, an architect, offered his services.
The Parish House was built and occupied in June of 1999. The cost was approximately $250,000. The money for this came from the bank stocks left by Samuel Buck about one hundred years prior.
After Rev. Crabtree left, pastoral duties were fulfilled by a pulpit supply pastor for a year before the Dille Parish called our first female minister, Rev. Sharon Temple. After her departure in 2008, the pulpit supply was again used until the Parish called Le Raysville native Rev. Tom Burlington as pastor of the Dille Parish in 2010. Rev. Burlington retired from ministry in 2019.
In 2020, the United States and the world experienced the COVID-19 pandemic. This caused many churches around the globe to temporarily close their doors for the health and safety of their congregants. Many churches found new alternative ways to reach their congregation and continue to worship together. The Dille Parish began livestreaming our worship services on March 22, 2020 over Facebook. This was not only a way for our congregation to continue to come together to worship, but it also allowed us to reach out to new friends from the area and from around the United States. We resumed in-person worship in May of 2020, but with a very different look: six-foot social distancing and face coverings. During this pandemic the Dille Parish continued their search for a permanent replacement for Rev. Burlington and it was during this time that Rev. Barbara Rowlett was called as our pastor on November 1, 2020. Rev. Rowlett is a bi-vocational and bi-residential pastor serving our congregation. In the Spring of 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic began to improve, and social distancing and face mask protocols were finally lifted in June of 2021. Livestreamed worship services became our new norm as we returned to normal in-person worship without the needed health and safety protocols. People from around the area and the country continue to join us via the web every Sunday to worship our Lord.
We believe that “No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey you are welcome here”. Our journey of faith has brought us to today, where we continue to welcome others as we have been welcomed.
On May 7, 2023, Dille Parish United Church of Christ congregation voted to leave the United Church of Christ and become an independent church. The Dille Parish remains an outward and visible sign of our commitment to mission: to learn, grow, and work together, to respond to the needs of others, and to experience love in this place. We believe God makes this mission possible.
The Pastors of the Dille Parish
Rev. J.D. Jones: 1886 -1892
Rev. David Davis: 1892 – 1896
Rev. Hugh Jones: 1896 – 1912
Rev. James Williams: 1912 – 1919
Rev. Andrew Drew: 1919 – 1921 (Supply)
Rev. Charles Morrison: 1919 – 1921 (Supply)
Rev. D. Glyn D. Lewis: 1921 – 1924
Rev. David Harris: 1925 – 19??
Rev. Donald Corwin: 19?? – 1934
Rev. Merton Fritz: 1934 – 1936
Rev. W. Gilbert Condit: 1936-1937
Rev. Carl Dille: 1937 -1938,
Rev. Theron Zimmerman: 1938 – 1943,
Rev. Jordan Cole: 1943 – 1947,
Rev. H. Marshall Budd: 1947 – 1951,
Rev. Charles F. Hood: 1951 -1953,
Rev. Reginald Merrifield: 1953 – 1957,
Rev. Jerome Cleveland: 1958 – 1961,
Rev. Jacob Zang: 1961 – 1963,
Rev. Daryl Clemens: 1963 (Summer Student Pastor)
Rev. Benjamin Klauser: 1963 – 1964 (Interim)
Rev. Daryl Clemens: 1964 – 1968,
Mr. Jeff Kistler: 1968 (Summer Student Supply)
Rev. Barry Harbach: 1969 – 1973,
Rev. Richard T. Peebels: 1973 – 1979,
Rev. Joseph Merchant: 1979 – 1980 (Interim)
Rev. Gerald Cobb: 1980 – 1983,
Rev. Daniel Yolton: 1984 – 1986,
Rev. Richard Druckenbrod: 1986 – 1987 (Interim)
Rev. Steven Crabtree: 1988 – 2000
Rev. Jose Valencia: 2000 – 2001 (Supply Pastor)
Rev. Sharon Temple: 2002 – 2008
Mrs. Sharon Rockefeller & Mr. Shawn Burns: 2008 – 2010 (Supply Preachers)
Rev. Tom Burlington, D. Min.: 2010 – 2019
Mrs. Sharon Rockefeller 2019 -2020 (Interim Lay Pastor)
Rev. Barbara Rowlett, M. Div. 2020 – 2022
Pastor Justin “Judd” Ford 2023-