An Historic Congregation
In 2014, Beulah Presbyterian Church in Churchill marked its 230th anniversary of being a place of Christian worship. It has a long history, deeply intertwined with the early settlement of English-speaking people in the area. Worship has continued there since a gathering of soldiers led by British Brig. Gen. John Forbes who defeated the French at Fort Duquesne in 1758.
The Presbytery officially recognized the church in 1784 and the church-- originally called Bullock Pens for the soldiers’ cattle yard there, later called Pitt Township Presbyterian Church -- was named Beulah in 1804.
After meeting in two earlier log structures (one a simple cabin, the second a cross-shaped building), worshippers built the first brick church in 1837, and that building still stands at Beulah Road and McCrady Road.
The cemetery holds the graves of veterans from Gen. Forbes’ troops, as well as men who fought in the Revolutionary War, Civil War, World War I and World War II. Grave markers for men, women and children carry names now found on area streets and landmarks: Johnston, McCrea, Lindberg, MacFarlane, Kelly.
Early members of the church, believed to be one of the first Christian churches west of the Alleghenies, later founded other Presbyterian churches in the region: East Liberty (1828), Crossroads (1836), Hebron (1849), Wilkinsburg (1866), Turtle Creek (1878), Forest Hills (1904). Although membership was at 126 in 1826, the number had declined to 95 in 1872.
Current members credit the leadership of pastors the Rev. George Taylor (who came in 1947, with membership at 125 growing to 687 in 1953) and the Rev. Dale Milligan (arriving in 1955) with bringing a boom in church membership. There were 832 members in Rev. Milligan’s first year. To serve the community, the church dedicated its current sanctuary and school building in 1957. At that point, the church had swelled to more than 1,100 members – from the cluster of eastern suburbs, Churchill, Wilkinsburg and Penn Township (now Penn Hills). The suburbs – among the first postwar residential communities in Pittsburgh – added a new kind of community outside of the city and the surrounding mill towns.
In 1955, Rev. Milligan had begun a teen ministry, which later grew to a highly successful Youth Club during the baby boom years. The curriculum was adopted by churches nationally, and it was known as the LOGOS ministry until 2013 when it was renamed GenOn.
In 1957, a prominent member of 67 years was Martha Graham Black, great-granddaughter of the Rev. James Graham, who gave the church its new name 153 years earlier.
Today, Pastor Jason Freyer leads a ministry team including Bill Larson, Choir Director and Organist, Carolyn Leah, director of Christian Discipleship, Alexander Ruzanic, director of Youth Ministry, and Kelly Miskis, Director of Emergent Worship and Arts. In addition to serving its membership’s worship and ministry needs, Beulah sponsors summer camps and programs for children in the community and ongoing outreach programs for children and adults, including Beulah Christian Preschool, a nationally accredited nondenominational Christian program for children ages 6 weeks to kindergarten. Tracy Belmonte serves as preschool director.
Beulah has also renewed its dedication to mission that will expands on its annual youth and adult mission trips, leadership in Pittsburgh Presbytery missions to sister churches in Malawi and organized responses to needs found in Pittsburgh neighborhoods. Beulah began a family support ministry, known as Faith Friends, inviting families of all sizes and ages to partner with individual Beulah members to take one step further in their faith journeys.