Month: June 2024

Laura Cox • Director, Derry Discovery Days Preschool

Derry Discovery Days preschool wrapped up a busy and exciting year at the end of May!

A special highlight of the year included hosting two family-focused events that involved fundraising components.  The first event was our Stride and Ride Fall Festival in late September at Patriot’s Park. Students collected donations from family and friends and biked and scootered all around the park’s loop. It was a lovely morning of fellowship and fun!

Our second event was a Pancakes and Pajamas breakfast in January where families had a delicious breakfast made by the Bartz and Farbaniec families, played games, decorated cookies and participated in a silent auction featuring items donated by many local businesses including the Hershey Country Club, Sweet Velvet Macarons, Where the Wild Things Play and many more!

The success of both of these fundraisers helped DDD purchase a new slide for the playground that was installed in April  The structure features a double slide, climbing opportunities and provides hours of fun.

Another wonderful addition to the playground was the addition of the Nature Kitchen, built by Adele Hosenfeld as part of her Eagle Scout project. The kitchen allows children to use their imagination to create culinary creations with leaves, rocks, acorns and items found throughout the playground.  Thank you, Adele, for your creativity and craftsmanship!

We are so grateful for all of the love our teaching staff provided to our students. Our teachers provide a warm, nurturing environment and make learning fun. We are truly blessed to have the best staff and we look forward to welcoming back our students for the 2024-25 school year on September 3!

New Member Classes Begin Aug 4 


In the summer series of New Member Discovery Classes, you’ll learn about the mission and ministry of Derry Church and discover how you can to share your talents in the life of the church. You’ll meet staff and leaders over the course of four weeks and tour the building. Those who decide to join will be received on Sunday, Aug 25.

Registration is appreciated by not required: sign up online or call the church office (717-533-9667).

Spring House Installation

Lynn Shirk, Heidi Keene, Karyn Hooper, Jill Peckelun, Carolyn Foster and Claudia Holtzman are the artists behind the panels that surround two sides of the pump house in the ravine below Derry Church. The art was commissioned by Derry’s 300th anniversary committee to celebrate the spring that drew the first Presbyterians to this location. 

Rev. Shawn Gray • Associate Pastor of Christian Education

Last week I had the opportunity and privilege to venture to the Dominican Republic with Derry Church. This trip is organized by Bridges for Community, a non-profit that has had connections to Derry Church from its inception. We were partnered with a group from Morgan Stanley that was comprised of mostly young professionals who worked in AI, investment banking, algorithms, and more. We also had a wonderful range of belief systems represented: agnostic, atheist, Church of Latter Day Saints, Jewish, Catholic, Muslim, and Presbyterian. Many in the group were first and second generation immigrants. This led to hours of conversation where we shared our stories and created new ones together. This group was driven, sharing a common goal to do the most good possible. Bridges helped to direct this energy into tangible results. Over the course of the week, we built three houses from concrete and block, each one about 400 square feet.

Bridges for Community is a secular, non-profit organization that attempts to aid impoverished communities in the DR in the areas of housing, education, and health. The impact they have is dependent on how many people make the trip. Their model is simple in that nearly all the money raised goes directly into the community. They have eight consistent staff members (two from the US and six in the DR). They contract out all the cooking, masons, construction, cleaning, and laundry needs to the people in the local villages.  They buy all supplies from local vendors. This helps the local economy in the communities that we are serving.   

Bridges has built 53 houses for communities since 2018, and while there is still a need, this has created momentum and energy from within the community.  While we were shoveling and mixing cement, people from the village walked up, grabbed a shovel, and helped. I later found out that these were often recipients of houses previously built, or they are related to someone who received help. Their help was much appreciated.  What we could do in our boots, gloves, and hats, was often doubled by the locals wearing crocs and using their bare hands.

I was impressed by this organization and have seen firsthand how being a consistent presence that offers aid through a relationship that offers dignity can truly make a difference.  While there is still much to do, this community can thrive, and it is amazing that Derry Church through Bridges of Community gets to be a part of that. We had five from Derry go this year. I hope that next year we can double that number. 

Volunteer at a Sewing Summer Camp in Allison Hill


Join members of our Mission & Peace Committee on a few summer afternoons working on a denim sewing/decorating project with children in the Allison Hill neighborhood of Harrisburg. Many hands needed… especially volunteers with sewing skills. 

Whether or not you’re able to attend, you can support this project by donating denim fabric (jeans, shorts, jackets, shirts) and scrap material, iron-on patches, fabric paint and markers, etc. Donations will be used for this project and then remain with the sewing classroom for future projects. 

Carpooling available. RSVP to Kristen Campbell.

Courtney McKinney-Whitaker • Derry Member

Because most of our historical records were lost in a fire at the end of the 19th century, we know very little about Derry Church during this time. What is clear is that during the 19th century, Derry endured a period of significant decline. There are a variety of probable causes: many of the traditionally Presbyterian and ever peripatetic Scots-Irish moved on from the area, seeking new lands to the south and west, and the ethnic character of the area became increasingly German. Those who remained nearby may have abandoned Presbyterianism, a denomination still focused on formal religious education and entrenched in polity, for the more exciting Methodist and Baptist revivals of the Second Great Awakening, as those denominations came to dominate the American religious landscape.

After Rev. Nathaniel Snowden left Derry and Paxton in 1796, Derry Church struggled to keep a pastor for another decade. In 1799, Rev. Joshua A. Williams accepted a call to Derry and Paxton, but he departed for another position only three years later. Derry then called Rev. James Adair, who died before his installation. Not until 1807 did Derry and Paxton extend a call to the Rev. James Russell Sharon, but it seems to have been worth the wait. Rev. Sharon served both churches for 36 years, until his death in 1843. At that point, Derry and Paxton called the Rev. Albert Marshal Boggs, who served from 1844-1847 before resigning from the ministry. Following a three-year vacancy, the Rev. Andrew Dinsmore Mitchell served Derry and Paxton for the quarter-century from 1850-1874, when he resigned to become an army chaplain.

Derry Township remained a rural farming community until the 20th century. However, in the early 19th century the Horseshoe and Reading Turnpikes (now known as State Roads 322 and 422) and the Union Canal linked the area to the wider world, providing transportation for farm goods and raw materials such as lumber and limestone. Most significant for Derry Church was the arrival of the Lebanon Valley Railroad in 1858 as the tracks passed uncomfortably close to Derry’s cemetery. The wooden topper on the cemetery wall had to be removed due to the frequency of catching fire from railroad sparks!

Even as church membership declined, the community grew. The one-room schoolhouse now on Mansion Road was built in 1844 to serve the village of Derry Church, an area encompassing around one to two miles from the church. It was the first one-room schoolhouse in Derry Township, and it operated until 1904. (Six-year-old Milton Hershey attended school there during the winter of 1863-64.) From 1858 to about 1900, Derry Church rented the Session House to the community of Derry Church for use as a post office.

By 1883, only a few members remained at Derry Church, and the 1769 building known as “Old Derry” was dangerously unstable and had to be torn down. Luckily, community organizations such as the Dauphin County Historical Society and the Harrisburg Historical Society, as well as descendants of early members, recognized Derry’s historical significance as one of the earliest churches in the area and stepped in with $7,000 to build a stone chapel. Other area churches donated money for the stained glass windows, which honor Derry’s early ministers.

As funds were raised over time, the Chapel was built over the course of four years and dedicated in 1887. The original Memorial Chapel consisted of a sanctuary with a chancel, a west transept used by the choir and Sunday School, and a bell tower. The chapel still contains some items from Old Derry, including the Lord’s Table and two chairs. The 1831 pulpit hangs on the wall of the east transept in our sanctuary, and we continue to use the pewter communion set originally purchased for use at Old Derry.

The 19th century was nearly fatal for Derry Church. Most of the original founders and their descendants had moved on, and the church building itself was crumbling. But a time of renewed energy and church life was coming. In some respects, Derry Church died and was reborn at the end of the 19th century, and the true ancestors of the church we know today are those who built the stone chapel and breathed new life into Derry during the Sunday School movement, which you will read about in next month’s article.

June 2024 Financial Snapshot

Cash Flow – Operating Fund as of 5/31/24:

        YTD      BUDGET
Income YTD:     $645,625     $546,167
Expenses YTD:      $534,411     $564,775
Surplus/(Deficit) YTD:      $111,214      ($18,608

New for Girls: Tween Time!

1:30 – 3 PM MONDAY, JUNE 17 IN ROOM 6

Girls ages 8-12 are invited for a time of informal fellowship and fun. For the first Tween Time, we’re offering an open art studio with all the supplies needed for girls to make their own projects. This event is hosted by Lauren June and Courtney McKinney-Whitaker.

Sargodha Schools Update

Many Derry friends have supported fundraisers for scholarships benefiting students in Sargodha, Pakistan. Here’s a thank-you video and progress report on a new academic building that Derry Church was instrumental in funding. A trip to visit the school is being planned in fall 2025.

Coin Return on Sunday, June 16

Change 4 Children will be collected on Sunday. Your coins benefit ACE Zambia (Alliance for Children Everywhere), which has several programs. One of the newer efforts is serving as partners with the government to prepare over 450 local families for fostering and adoption. Four areas of the program are:

  • Raising awareness of the need for foster and adoptive families in Zambia
  • Preparing prospective ones through training sessions
  • Evaluating families’ preparedness
  • Maintaining a registry of vetted families to be matched with a child for emergency, short-term and permanent placement, with a goal of maintaining family relations whenever possible

Place your coin-filled ziplock bags in baskets as you exit the Chapel and Sanctuary, bagging any foreign coins separately. Make sure bags contain ONLY coins (no paper clips, pins, batteries, tokens, or extraneous items). Thank you for supporting children in Zambia.

Pete Feil • Derry Member

In June 1989, 20 members of Derry Church went on the mission trip to Yonkers, NY. The names of some people in this photo have been lost to time. Here are the ones we can identify: First row: Bill Daniels, Maggie Becker, Marion Alexander, Glenda Speicher, Blondie Ferguson, Marcus Geist. Second row: Charlie Koch, Claudia Holtzman, Pam Garver, unknown. Third row: unknown, Fred Speicher, unknown, Dale Ferguson, David Reinert, Paul Reinert.          

Just over two months ago, Derry concluded its collection of the One Great Hour of Sharing Offering (OGHS), exceeding the goal of $19,000 by more than $1,000. At Derry, this offering is shared equally with the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) and Bridges to Community (BTC). You might ask, who is BTC? In our 300th anniversary year, what is the history of the connection between BTC and Derry and how has this played out over the years? 

The story begins with Derry member, the late Dr. Jack Hewlett. Jack’s cousin, Rev. Bill Daniel, was a Presbyterian pastor who had a project called SWAP (Stop Wasting Abandoned Property) which was rehabbing burned-out rowhomes in Yonkers, NY. A mission project began in the late 1980s with Rev. Daniel and many people at Derry. SWAP quickly became Sweat With a Presbyterian in the Derry vernacular! Many of the people moving into the rehabbed apartments were from Central America. In the early 1990s, Rev. Daniel decided to move to Nicaragua to see if he could help improve their living conditions. He was joined there by another Presbyterian pastor in a series of public works projects, which then developed into the organization known as Bridges to Community. Derry maintained contact with Rev. Daniel and BTC projects over the years. In fact, Derry helped buy a white Kia truck for BTC use. 

Fast forward to the turn of the century. Derry’s Mission & Peace Committee (M&P) was looking to establish a long-term, international mission partnership. The Committee established guidelines for mission trips to include participation by the entire congregation, yet realizing not everyone would be able to go, for one reason or another. Those going on a trip would be responsible for the costs of transportation and room and board: these would not be Derry subsidized vacations! Other costs, such as those for administration and construction, would be covered by various fundraising projects, such as currently with the shared OGHS Offering. Remarkedly, no funds from the M&P budget have been used to support a trip. It has all been via trip participants and this congregation’s generous support! 

In 2001, Derry reconnected with Rev. Daniel and BTC in Nicaragua, helping to build homes following the destructive effects of Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and an earthquake in 2000. As we left the airport, our luggage was loaded into a white Kia truck! Among the suitcases were several containing Bible school supplies. From the very beginning with SWAP in Yonkers to today, Bible school activities have been an integral part of Derry’s mission trips. Many thanks to Claudia Holtzman for organizing and directing these activities over the years.  

Derry’s trips to Nicaragua continued annually through 2017, after which they were curtailed by political unrest. BTC was operating a similar program in the Dominican Republic, so we were able to go there for two years until halted by Covid. The lack of trips almost brought an end to BTC’s mission, but they have come back strong and we have rejoined them for the past two years. Through the years we have been impressed by the BTC model for helping. A local committee decides who will receive a new home. The home is built with local masons, supported by the family and neighbors, and volunteers. There is a payback period by the family, which goes into the local community fund and whose leaders then decide how to further assist community needs.

PCUSA uses the OGHS Offering in three ways: Presbyterian Disaster AssistanceSelf-Development of People, and the Presbyterian Hunger Program. The effects of a new home through BTC offer similar results. What does a homeowner get? A new home with securable doors and windows, safe from the elements and theft. We have seen new businesses like stores and a bakery being run out of new homes. This is an agricultural area where many homes are adjacent to the fields which provide food for the family and a source of income. What do they get? The fellowship and knowledge that there are Christians from the United States who care enough to help them build a better quality of life. 

Now you know the origins of Bridges to Community and its historic connection to Derry for over 35 years. Thank you for your continued prayers and financial support for this ongoing mission project.         

Join the Derry Day Trippers to Visit Highpoint Mansion


Here’s your chance to tour Derry’s next-door neighbor, High Point Mansion, the home of Milton and Catherine Hershey. Tours accommodate 10 people, so the Day Trippers have reserved space on the morning and afternoon tours. In between, the group will have lunch at the nearby Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant, 101 W Chocolate Ave.

Civil Rights Bus Tour Oct 19-26

Our neighbors and friends in Dongeal Presbytery invite you to travel with them to Charlottesville VA, Atlanta GA, Albany GA, Montgomery AL, Selma AL, Birmingham AL, Memphis TN this fall in a tour led by Dr. Todd Allen, professor at Messiah University. Click to learn more and register. Former Derry member Lynn George went on the tour last year and highly recommends the experience. Contact her by email if you’d like more information. Click here to watch a 2-minute promo video shown last week at her church, Westminster Presbyterian Church in West Chester.

Take Part in Derry’s Summer Reading Olympics June 2-Aug 20

Derry Church is back with another exciting summer reading program! Each event or challenge you complete earns you a chance at coming up with a title for one of Pastor Stephen’s upcoming sermons. There are 10 possible challenges in Derry’s Summer Reading Olympics. Click this link to access the information sheet with all the details and a place to keep track of your progress. 

Send your photos to Sue George and earn two raffle entries per photo!