Shortly after the founding of the village of Emmitsburg by William Emmit, the Lutheran and German Reformed churches shared
services in a log church at Tom's Creek; this was in 1768. In 1797 a new union church was erected in Emmitsburg.
Thomas Mawell purchased this ground from Samuel Emmit in 1795. The German Reformed congregation, utilizing
the building (now the site of Elias Evangelical Lutheran Church) on alternate Sundays with the Lutheran congregation, was served
by several dedicated clergymen in the early years. One of the earliest recorded charges was formed in 1820 under the pastorate of
the Rev. J. William Runkel and consisted of six congregations: Emmitsburg, Taneytown, Haok's (Haugh's), Apple's, Gettysburg and
Mark's. Services were conducted completely or partially in German until 1826 when the liturgy became entirely English.
By 1824 the new pastor, Rev. David Bosler, was ministering to eight congregations: Emmitsburg,
Creagerstown, Herbach's ( Harbaugh's), Apple's, Woodsboro, Rocky Hill, Gettysburg, and Millerstown (Fairfield). In 1884 the German
Reformed church became a charge by itself. The single congregation church remained the norm until 1958 when a new charge was
formed with St. James Church near Littlestown.
In 1867 Joshua Motter, elder and treasurer of the Consistory, has secured the title to property called the
John Nickum property. He offered the land, which is the location of our present church, to the congregation for the sum of
$800.00. On September 8, 1967, the Consistory resolved to purchase the property for the building of our new church. In July 1868
work began on the construction of the church, for the estimated sum of $5,000.00.
On August 1, 1868 the church was officially named Church of the Incarnation. On this date the cornerstone
was laid with the following enclosures: a Bible, hymnbook, catechism, order of worship and constitution of the German Reformed
Church in the United States, copies of the proceedings of the General Synod of 1866 and the Eastern Synod; a copy of the Reformed
Church Messenger and the Treasury; a children's paper, a history of the Emmitsburg congregation, including actions relative to the
new building; one each of one-, three-, and five-cent pieces, as well as a ten- and a twenty-five cent United States fractional
currency note; and the names of the architect, builder and church.
On July 31, 1869 the church was consecrated. Joshua and Harriet Motter officially deeded over the property
on which the building was erected to the trustees of the church on January 1, 1870.
In April 1873, Rev. Abner Kremer was elected pastor of Incarnation Church. Just after the beginning of his
pastorate, the spire of the church was thrown to the ground during a severe storm damaging the church itself, but not harming the
bell. It was Rev. Kremer who was responsible for the creation of "Mountain View Cemetery" and the selling of lots in 1881.
In 1884 after the Emmitsburg congregation had established itself as a charge, independent of the other
churches, the question came up of obtaining a parsonage. In 1885 the trustees of a property on West Main Street turned over the
deed to the Incarnation church. This property remains today the property of Incarnation Church and serves as its parsonage. It is
without a doubt one of the nicest properties in the town, having been completely renovated within the past five years.
On January 19, 1913, the Rev. Elnathan Lewis Higbee was elected pastor. It was during his pastorate that
the Evangelical Synod of North America and the Reformed Church of the United States united and the church became the Church of the
Incarnation Evangelical and Reformed Church. Rev. Higbee served as pastor for over thirty years until his death in 1942.
Rev. Edmund P. Welker was installed as pastor in November 1943. On February 26, 1950, fire completely
destroyed the church building, leaving only the exterior walls standing. Stunned, but not undaunted the congregation held services
in the parsonage. Trinity Methodist Church in Emmitsburg made their church available to Incarnation for services also. At a cost
of $22,812.00 our church was rebuilt and dedicated at special services during March 1951, one year and one month after the fire.
In 1958 St. James Evangelical and Reformed Church near Littlestown, Pa agreed to join in a parish
relationship with the Emmitsburg congregation and Rev. John C. Chatlos was installed as pastor of the joint charge in July of
1959. In 1957 the Evangelical and Reformed churches and the Congregational Christian churches merged to form the United Church of
Christ. In 1959 the Emmitsburg congregation adopted the name of Incarnation United Church of Christ and the logo under the
headlines became the official symbol of the United Church of Christ.
The Incarnation United Church of Christ hosted the first cooperative Communion service in the history of
Emmitsburg on March 2, 1966. 121 members from all the Protestant churches of town partook of the celebration of the Lord's Supper
around a common table. It was in October of that same year that a proposal was made at a meeting of church leaders for a Council
of Churches. This proposal became a reality in 1967 and the Emmitsburg Council of Churches continues to serve the community as an
effective Christian witness.
In June of 1968, after several years of discussion, planning and fund-raising of nearly $5,000.00,
construction was begun for a fellowship hall and educational building which provided additional space for the activities of the
congregation. Rev. Chatlos served as pastor at Incarnation UCC until June 1984 when he retired.
Today, Incarnation is a small, older congregation with approximately 65 members, of which 50% are retired.
The congregation can be pictured as a loving family unit, where everyone cares for the health and well-being of one another, and
closeness exists between members of all ages. Whether a situation is a joyous occasion or one of sorrow, support thrives within
the walls of our church. With the addition of a monthly fellowship hour and an occasional breakfast, Incarnation unites together
as a church family to focus on their faith in Christ, and their love for their church and its future.
Incarnation had an interim pastor, Rev. Theodore Haas, since the fall of 2001 until 2007. Our previous minister,
Rev. Margaret Dodds, retired in July 2001. Our current pastor is Rev Katie Penick.
Our main asset at Incarnation is its musical program; we have a dedicated choir and a congregation that
loves to sing. The church houses a well-maintained pipe organ with chimes, and the beautiful music embraces all who enter our
After many years without a Sunday School program, classes were re-established five years ago. Since the
group fluctuates between 2 and 10 attendees and ranges in age 4 to 12, a multi-age curriculum entitled, The Whole People of God
best serves our needs. They support local and mission projects, and serve in the capacity as lay leaders. They bring joy and
laughter to a caring congregation.
Incarnation actively participates in the ecumenical movement within the Emmitsburg community.
Representatives from the congregation, as well as the minister, attend regular meetings and provide assistance in planning special
events, which are well-attended and supported. Currently, the president of the Emmitsburg Council of Churches is a member of
We at Incarnation United Church of Christ are committed to working as a team to grow and prosper in the
name of Jesus Christ.
Read the Histories
of Other Churches in Emmitsburg