Summer Stories: Highlighting the Congregation of Deep Run
This is the first of three “Summer Stories” that highlights ways our churches are striving to live into their calling to be the body of Christ in the world today by Clare Balsan (Young Adult Advisory Delegate for the 225th General Assembly).
The Presbyterian Church of Deep Run is a medium-sized church located on a beautiful 10-acre campus in Bucks County. Pastor Rev. Dr. Kris Schondelmeyer describes the church’s setting as “ruburban”- a word he invented to describe the area’s suburban setting with a rural look and feel. Founded in 1725 and integrated into the Presbytery of Philadelphia in 1732, Deep Run is one of the presbytery’s oldest congregations. A quick stroll around Deep Run’s campus proves that the church holds onto its deep and rich history with pride. In addition to the church building (which is built in the shape of a cross) they also have a one-room schoolhouse from the 18th century, a graveyard with over 30 Revolutionary War soldiers, and the historical Irish Meetinghouse which served as the church’s original chapel.
Rev. Dr. Schondelmeyer notes that the church’s history plays an integral role in informing the church’s purpose and identity in the 21st century. In addition to preserving the many historical buildings and land on the church’s campus, Deep Run is a congregation that stresses the importance of education. William Tennent, a Presbyterian pastor and educator, is one of Deep Run’s founders. In addition to helping create Deep Run, Tennent ran a religious school, often referred to as the “Log College” which later became a part of Princeton University. With the help of a generous financial gift given by a church member, Rev. Dr. Schondelmeyer and Deep Run were able to honor this unique piece of the church’s history by creating the “virtual Log College.” Virtual Log College is a paid high school internship where students run the church’s Sunday morning live streaming services. Deep Run also runs a thriving nursery school that currently ministers to over 100 students, and is seeking out ways to include even more.
The congregation’s devotion to education is not confined to the church’s walls. In the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year, Rev. Dr. Schondelmeyer, with the Session’s support, wrote and sent a letter to the local school board in response to their efforts to ban any mention of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in their schools. According to Rev. Dr. Schondelmeyer, his decision to write this letter on behalf of the church was part of Deep Run’s duty as a Matthew 25 church to combat systemic racism. One of the goals of the letter was to start a compassionate conversation that would address the presence of racism within the community. Later that year, Deep Run would go on to host a church and community-wide discussion on racism and ways to be antiracist.
Rev. Dr. Schondelmeyer identified contextual leadership as the most important work of the church today. In order to be effective in mission and leadership, the church must take into account the location and history of both the church and the community in which it is located. He adds the caveat that context needs to always be weaved into the central mission of the church, which is to define the good news of the Gospel as welcoming and loving to all, and use this good news to give voice to the voiceless and to fight against hatred, bigotry, and prejudice.
- Pastor Kris with his wife Abby and their three children
- Deep Run’s main sanctuary decorated for Pentecost
- The one-room schoolhouse
- Some of Deep Run’s live streaming technology utilized by the Virtual Log College
- The historical Irish Meetinghouse