This congregation, once known to many as "First Dutch", has its beginning with a group of German-speaking people of the Reformed persuasion. They had left Germany because of persecution and had settled throughout Pennsylvania. While they spoke the German tongue and traced their religious history through Germany to the Protestant Reformation, the German Reformed people received considerable religious assistance in this country from the Reformed immigrants from the Netherlands.
A group among the members of the Race Street German Reformed Church at Fourth Street provided the impetus for an English-speaking congregation. Some parents petitioned the governing body of the church for at least one service in the English language. Although the petition was granted, the practice did not continue and these individuals withdrew from the congregation.
The small group who withdrew conducted services in English in the Whitfield Academy on Fourth Street below Arch Street in July 1806. The title given the group was "The Second Reformed Association."
The Reformed Church of Willow Grove was formally organized in Jan 1810 on Crown Street above Race Street, as "The Evangelical Reformed Congregation of the City and Vicinity of Philadelphia." The church joined the RCA in May 1813 and took the title "First Reformed Protestant Dutch Church of the City and Vicinity of Philadelphia."
The church moved several times, finally moving to current location in 1957. In 1957, a call was extended to Rev. Dr. Leonard Kalkwarf, who led the church until his retirement in 1991 (with a brief hiatus from the fall of 1964 to the fall of 1965). During his tenure church membership grew from 29 to a peak of 414. After Pastor Kalkwarf's departure, the church went through a period of discovery and self-examination before extending a call to Rev. Harold Delhagen in 1993. In 1995, Rev. Harold Delhagen accepted a call to another church. After Rev. Delhagen's departure the church went through another period of self-examination and resolved several issues under the leadership of Interim Minister Robert Eggebeen, after which a call was offered to Rev. Ronald Lokhorst in 1997. Under Rev. Lokhorst's leadership, the church started several programs focusing on prayer, bible study, and community outreach. Upon Rev. Lokhorst's retirement in 2002, a call was issued to Rev. Dr. Eugene Voss. During Rev. Voss's time with the church several programs for community outreach were established. In 2009 Rev. Voss accepted a call to another church. At this time a cooperative ministry with Rev. Dr. Arlen Salthouse and a senior seminarian, Christopher Heitkamp was established. Following Christopher Heitkamp's ordination and the end of Rev. Salthouse's contract, a call was issued to Rev. Heitkamp in September of 2010. On November 7, 2010, "Pastor Chris", as he is affectionately known, was installed as the Reformed Church's fifth pastor. Under Pastor Chris' leadership, and with God's guidance, we move confidently forward into the future, and welcome you to join us!
Our church is a member of The Reformed Church in America, Delaware-Raritan Classis, which was originally known as the Dutch Reformed Church. It made its appearance in this country in 1628, thus making it the oldest continuous Protestant church in America. Well known ministers in our denomination include the late Norman Vincent Peale and Robert Schuller. We belong to that worldwide family of churches that are Reformed in faith and Presbyterian in their form of government. Our local congregation is administered by a consistory made up of elders and deacons elected by the church members.
For information on our denomination, we invite you to visit the Reformed Church in America web site.