We, the congregation of North & Southampton Reformed Church, were officially organized on May 20, 1710. ("Organized" is Reformed speak for official recognition as a congregation with elders, deacons, and being self-supporting.) Having "organized" ourselves, we were now in the position to "send out a call" to a pastor to come and join us. We called the circuit riding Domine (Dutch for Reverend) Paulus Van Vlecq to be our first pastor, and he accepted. We were the first Dutch Reformed Church in Pennsylvania and the first congregation of any denomination in Bucks County. In 1737, under the pastorship of Rev. Petrus Hendricus Dorsius, our first church building, known as the Low Dutch Church, was erected in Feasterville, Pennsylvania.
In the glow of the revolution (we have a revolutionary war general buried in our cemetery), the congregation sought incorporation in 1782. Along with the switch from Dutch to English language services, the incorporation was an act of patriotism on the part of the congregation solidifying their part as citizens in the new United States of America. The incorporation was granted by an act of the state legislature then still sitting in Philadelphia. (The Legislature would move to Lancaster in 1799 and finally Harrisburg in 1812.)
Construction on a new church building, in its present location was completed in 1816. The original sanctuary was of frame (wood) construction with the building being remodeled in 1845 to add the fieldstone and slate you see today. The rafters in the attic above the sanctuary are painted with the names and dates of some of those who worked on the building during the 1845 construction period.
In keeping with the missionary and revival fervor sweeping the United States at the time, the Ladies Missionary Society was founded between 1868 and 1870. This group was part of a larger movement within the women of the Dutch Reformed congregations that was the forerunner of all of the formal women’s organizations in the Dutch Reformed Church. Today the women’s groups are still active in our congregation and our women’s "circles" (small groups) are part of the larger denomination wide Women’s Ministries - Reformed Church in America.
Our church building was remodeled once again in 1902 in a style befitting the Victorian period. To reflect Victorian tastes, the rear of sanctuary was raised to create a sloping, theatre style floor and access to the sanctuary was by two long staircases on either side of the main entry door. At this time, memorial stained glass windows were installed along with the creature comforts of acetylene gaslights and steam heat. In 1905, a pipe organ arrived. The Rev. Horace P. Craig led the congregation through these changes between the years 1891 and 1911. Despite all the change, Rev. Craig was so well respected that one of the babies he baptized was named for him – Horace P. Cornell.
Acetylene quickly gave way to electricity and between 1912 and 1917 electricity was brought into the church. In 1923, a well was drilled on the property that did away with the practice of hauling water in milk cans for church functions. The publication of The Church Messenger and the use of a weekly bulletin were instituted between 1929 and 1936 under the encouragement of Rev. Daniel Brink.
Begun under Rev. Brink, reactivated after the Depression under Rev. Marion De Velder, and finally accomplished under the leadership of Rev. Floyd Nagel, a new education wing at the east end of the building was finished in 1940. Rev. Nagel also organized, researched and translated many old church records from the Dutch.
The arrival of Rev. Harold Schut in 1948 marked the beginning of a population boom in the community as well as in our congregation. The church building began to seem much too small for all the activities taking place within it. Increased attendance necessitated double sessions of both Sunday School and Worship services. To provide space for everything going on, groundbreaking for a three-story west side educational wing took place in March of 1958. Not surprisingly, it was determined that Rev. Schut needed support to minister properly to our congregation, and the Rev. Carl Kleis joined him as an associate pastor in 1959.
Searching for a replacement for the departed Rev. Schut, in 1962 the congregation searched for a new pastor and found one already in the building. The associate pastor, Rev. Carl Kleis, was called by the congregation to be their new Senior Pastor, and he accepted. To support Rev. Kleis, the Rev. Joseph Cookson was hired as Director of Christian Education in 1963. Rev. Cookson was later installed as associate pastor. Joe eventually resigned his position and became a "regular" member of the congregation. As a "regular" member, Joe was elected to serve as a deacon as well as elder for several terms, making him one of the few persons to hold the three offices of deacon, elder, and minister within our denomination.
In 1968, under the leadership of Rev. Kleis (who was to become our first pastor to earn his Doctorate while in ministry with us), another building program was begun involving the enlargement, renovation and restoration of the sanctuary. The front and center Chancel (the fancy name for the fenced off area at the front of a church) with choir section and organ, of the Victorian renovation of 1902 was rolled back. The sanctuary floor was returned to its pre-1902 place at ground level with the choir and the organ being moved to the new balcony. The opaque glass, painted glass, and stained glass windows were removed. As part of the congregational grieving for the loss of the windows, the Fidelis Bible Class, then meeting, converted some of the window glass into jewelry. The sale of this jewelry netted more than $11,000 and made up a substantial portion of the approximately $18,000 this Bible class contributed to the Building Fund.
In 1979, the congregation looked to one of its members, Barbara Fillette, to fill the position of Associate for Christian Education. This was the beginning of Barbara’s formal ministry in our congregation. Feeling the call to deeper theological understanding, Barbara went on to get her Masters of Divinity degree, graduating from New Brunswick Theological Seminary in May of 1988. Accepting the call to become a pastor, Barbara was embraced by the congregation who called her to become a new pastor alongside of Rev. Dr. Carl Kleis. (As was stated at the time, "Where else should she serve?") Upon Carl’s retirement in 1995, Rev. Fillette accepted the congregation’s call to the position of Senior pastor. Barbara has the distinction of being the first woman to be called and serve as pastor for NSRC. While many aspects of community, education, and liturgy saw her touch (her doctoral studies focused on the use of liturgy in the church), it was under her able leadership that the church’s pipe organ underwent major overhaul and modernization.
The Rev. Gordon Wiersma joined Rev. Dr. Fillette in 1995, serving 4 years before leaving for Holland, Michigan to take up a new position. Rev. Ryan Nace arrived in 2000, leaving for New York state and a new pastorate in 2003. Rev. Fillette retired in 2008.
In 2003, a seminary student by the name of Bethany Devos was hired as of Director of Youth Ministries. Her husband, Corstian, also a seminary student, became an intern to our congregation at that same time. It was no apparent coincidence that end of Bethany and Corstian’s formal seminary studies matched Rev. Fillette’s anticipated retirement date, slated for January 2008. As had happened with Rev. Kleis and Rev. Fillette, the congregation in early 2007 proactively undertook the search for a new pastor and found what they were searching for right at home. At the end of the search process, the congregation extended calls to both Bethany and Corstian to become our first husband and wife co-pastor team. They accepted.
Bethany received her Masters of Divinity degree and was ordained in her home church in North Syracuse, New York. Her installation as pastor of NSRC occurred in November of 2007. Corstian received his Masters of Divinity degree and was ordained at his home church in Wainfleet, Ontario, Canada. He was installed as co-pastor of NSRC in May of 2008. Through God’s grace, the Revs. Devos now provide our pastoral leadership at this momentous time – the time of our 300th anniversary.