MT. CARMEL PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, ALIQUIPPA, PA
The congregation today known as the Mt. Carmel Presbyterian Church began in 1793 when a group of settlers organized a church then known as the White Oak Flats Presbyterian Church. Elder John Riddle was the first representative to the Presbytery. The first worship services were held in a tent in the flat area along Logstown Run and Raccoon Creek crossed by the military trail called Brodhead Road. This new church was probably the third oldest Christian congregation in Beaver County and certainly the first one within the bounds of the modern City of Aliquippa.
Supply ministers served the congregation until 1810 when Rev. Andrew McDonald became the first resident pastor. Rev. McDonald began the first church register of membership and baptisms. A cemetery was established on the hill about one mile from the "Flats". Here are buried two veterans of the American Revolution, Thomas Reed and William Davis. By 1812 the services were being held in a meetinghouse, probably made of logs. This structure was probably adjacent to the cemetery. Rev. McDonald retired in 1822.
During the early years of the church, the resident minister often served other nearby Presbyterian congregations. Among these "daughter" churches were those in Hopewell, Flaugherty, Sewickley, Bethlehem, Beavertown, North Branch, Logstown and Woodlawn.
Rev. James D. Ray was the next long-term pastor, serving from 1829 to 1843. He initiated the change of the name of the church from White Oak Flats to Mt. Carmel. On April 16, 1837, the church building burned to the ground. Soon afterwards a new church, made of bricks was constructed. It was also located at the site of the cemetery.
Rev. W.G. Taylor served the Mt. Carmel Congregation during the American Civil War (1862-1866). Two members of the church, Alexander White and John S. White, who were first cousins, were killed on the same day during the Battle of the Wilderness and are buried side-by-side at the Mt. Carmel Cemetery.
Rev. Philander J. Cummings was installed as pastor in 1866. In 1871, the congregation decided to build a new church. They decided to return to the "Flats" area then called the village of New Sheffield. This building was of frame construction with a low steeple, and a basement with walls of fieldstone. Although the steeple was replaced when struck by lightening in 1915, the frame church served the congregation until 1976. Rev. Cummings left the church in 1883.
During the latter part of the 19th century, Mt. Carmel Church experienced a time of trouble. Many members left for other churches and the church was in debt. Many members were attracted to the newly formed Woodlawn Presbyterian Church. If it were not for the persistence of elder Edward Hill Douds, the congregation might have disbanded. The opening of the J. & L. Steel mill and the immigration of diverse ethnic groups into Aliquippa, changed the nature of the community. In 1906 there were only 70 members. Between 1908 and 1927 a series of pastors helped Mt. Carmel to stabilize its financial situation and to increase its membership.
Rev. J.R. Thompson served the church from 1927 until 1957, helping Mt. Carmel through the traumatic times of the Great Depression and World War II. In 1934 the membership of Mt. Carmel Church was 481. In 1956 a new manse and a 2-story stone education building were constructed.
Rev. Carl Bowman Jr. was pastor of Mt. Carmel from 1958 to 1969. During this time, a new 4-lane road, Kennedy Blvd., was constructed on the south side of the church property.
Rev. William Lightbody served as pastor from 1969 to 1984. By 1975 the old frame church had become structurally unsound and the session voted to erect a new sanctuary. This one-story, hexagonal building was attached to the older education building and the frame church was torn down. The new building was dedicated in 1976.
Rev. Jack T. Patrick was pastor of Mt. Carmel from 1988 to 2007, the latest of a series of long pastorates. By 1992, membership of the church reached 365 with average attendance at worship services of 172. During his tenure Mt. Carmel formally celebrated its two hundredth anniversary. A worship service was held in a tent to recreate the early worship services held by the church founders. The session also voted to expand the fellowship hall in order to better accommodate church social and fellowship activities. Rev. Patrick left Mt. Carmel in 2007. Mt. Carmel was lead by interim pastor Dr. David Watson until April of 2008. In July of 2009, the Rev. Michael Anastas became the new senior pastor at Mt. Carmel, and we are excited to begin a fresh period of change and growth under his leadership.
Throughout its long history, the Mt. Carmel Congregation has been led by its elected Session and (prior to 1962), the Board of Trustees, The Deacons of the church provided for the ministry of sympathy and service. Christian Education has been provided by regular Sunday School Classes and by annual Vacation Bible Schools. The earliest mention of "Sabbath School," is in 1840, though it probably existed earlier. The first Vacation Bible School was in 1943, directed by Mrs. Clyde Byers. The Good Cheer Class was established in 1934 for Christian Education and fund-raising. The Presbyterian Women and previous groups of a similar nature have helped the church with its mission and outreach tasks.
Music has probably been part of the worship service at Mt. Carmel for many years. The first mention of an organ was in 1905. Printed hymnals were first mentioned in church records in 1910 when the "Sisterhood Organization" purchased 100 copies. A permanent choir was first established in 1916. A men's choir was established in 1932. There was a youth choir as early as 1943.