By Caitlin Kerfin, York Daily Record. (Pennsylvania)
Fifty years ago this December, Faith Presbyterian and First Presbyterian churches in York merged.
It was one of a few such religious mergings of its kind in the country, with a white and black church coming together, congregation member Virginia Hunter said. She was born and raised in the Faith Presbyterian Church.
John Noble, Hunter’s great-grandfather, was one of the founders of Faith Presbyterian in the 1890s. In the 1960s, the congregation was predominately African-American with less than 100 members. Their building was small and in need of some repairs, but the church wasn’t in a very good financial situation. They weren’t able to support a full-time minister.
“We had to merge,” Hunter said. “There was no question about it. It was merge or disband, because we couldn’t support ourselves.”
Douglas Parks was a pastor that came to Faith Presbyterian and later had the opportunity to march with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“That whole experience (marching with King) though energized me. Returning to York, I worked on the merger with renewed faith and fervor,” read a letter Parks wrote to Faith Presbyterian.
King encouraged him to try merging with another congregation, Hunter said.
His job was to not only pastor the congregation, but to also look around at other Presbyterian churches in the area and see if he could find one that would merge. First Presbyterian was the one.
“York was segregated (in the 60s),” Hunter said. “There were places blacks could go and places blacks were not welcome to go.”