About us

 

Our mission is to prayerfully equip disciples of all generations to be Christ's hands, heart, and feet in the world.

We are part of a larger church body known as the Presbyterian Church (USA). We abide by the constitution of the PC(USA) comprised of our Books of Order and Book of Confessions of the PC(USA). We are a congregation of the Shenandoah Presbytery.

 

our church staff

David Witt, Pastor
David Witt

Pastor

Tracie Martin

Parish Associate

Susan Ritter, Office Administrator
Susan Ritter

Office Administrator

Carole Witt

Director of Christian Education

Susan Homan, Director of Music
Susan Homan

Director of Music

Bill Heavner, Organist & Pianist
Bill Heavner

Organist & Pianist

Ken Smiy, Finance Administrator
Robert Sydnor, Sexton
Ken Smiy

Finance Administrator

Robert Sydnor

Sexton

Rebekah Witt, Director for Youth & Young Adults
Rebekah Witt

Director for Youth & Young Adults

Laurie Carver

Nursery Coordinator

 
 
Candy Cotton

opequon history

For more than a hundred years after the first English settlement in America at Jamestown,

there still were no permanent European settlements in the Shenandoah Valley. This all changed

during the early 1730s when a group of German and Scotch Irish settlers from Pennsylvania

moved south led by Joist Hite. Hite had received a grant of 100,000 acres from the Colony of

Virginia, but to secure it, he had to guarantee a certain number of permanent settlers.

 

He soon assembled sixteen families to accompany him into these new lands. Among those early

Presbyterian settlers, and others who soon followed, were the Glass, Vance, Hoge, Allen, Reed,

Colville, White, Marquis, Beckett, Chambers, McAuley and McMachen families. They began to

meet for worship in 1732 and formally organized the Opequon congregation in 1736. The name

Opequon was taken from Opequon Creek on which many founding families established their

homes. In 1736, those early settlers built a log meeting house as their place of worship on two

acres of land donated by and with materials supplied by William Hoge. Opequon Meeting House

was thus established and became the first officially organized Presbyterian place of worship west

of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

 

Early church records are sparse, but we believe that the first log structure was replaced in the mid 1750s with a larger log building and that, in turn, was replaced by the first stone church in 1790 during the pastorate of the Reverend Nash Legrand who filled the sanctuary on a regular basis. The 1790 building served the Opequon congregation until it burned in 1873, and the struggling thirteen member congregation did not have the funds to rebuild. Instead, it decided to find another place to worship. Graciously, both the Methodist and Mennonite churches in Kernstown agreed to share their facilities with Opequon, and for the next twenty-four years our forefathers worshiped at those churches.


 

Although the congregation was small and mostly poor in this world’s

possessions, this hard-scrabble group was determined one way or

another to one day rebuild the church. The idea surfaced to construct

the new building as a memorial to the early settlers. It was decided

that, after securing all possible local funding, descendants of the early

settlers now living throughout the country would be contacted for

financial support. The fund-raising was successful, and soon the

congregation undertook construction. In 1897, the fourth house of

worship was completed with stone from the third sanctuary. It was

about fifty percent smaller than the one it replaced. In 1902, a manse,

which housed our ministers until the mid 1990s, was built on land

donated by the Marquis family.


 

Following the end of World War II, membership rapidly increased and soon the congregation felt a strong need to enlarge the church facilities. The addition was to include restrooms, a kitchen, fellowship hall and a number of Sunday school rooms. Up to this point, all Sunday school classes were held in the sanctuary, which also underwent renovation. The building and renovation projects were completed in 1956.


The next physical improvement to Opequon occurred in 1997, when the congregation decided to enclose an open garden area between the 1897 Memorial Sanctuary and the 1956 addition. This infill project included a lower level containing improved restrooms and additional Sunday School rooms, a main level all purpose room, plus an enclosed walkway joining the older and newer sections of the church facility.


Because of continued growth, it was decided in 2000 to build a new sanctuary with necessary supporting facilities. Following a capital campaign, the new structure was undertaken and completed in March 2005. After having worshiped in the 1897 sanctuary for more than a century, the congregation held it last official Sunday morning worship there on March 13, 2005, although occasional special services and programs continue to be held in the Memorial Sanctuary. In 2007, the congregation observed 275 years of continuous ministry around the theme, “Keepers of the Flame,” while in 2011, the church celebrated its officials 275th Anniversary, focusing on “Generation to Generation: Four Centuries of Faith.”

From the handful of settlers who founded Opequon to the large crowds present at the end of the 18th Century, to the dwindling attendance following the Civil War, to surging membership in the 1950’s, then declining participation once again, to our current vibrant congregation of more than 450 members, Opequon has survived and indeed, thrived. During our formative years, Sunday worship was the sole event, then Sunday school was added and they Opequon embarked on mission opportunities. Gradually, more programs were introduced and today many outreach and social activities provide a wide range of spiritual opportunities for all. William Hoge would marvel, indeed, at how his two acre parcel with its lone log cabin has been transformed during our four centuries of faith.

Picture of grave headstones in front of Opequon Church
Old picture of church ongregation standing by gate to cemetery
Large group of people wearing read outfits and with their hands in the air in front of Opequon Church

opequon burial grounds

The Opequon Presbyterian Church Cemetery is full of history, memories, has been a place of peace, and remembrance for many people. The burials and gravestone inscriptions connected with Opequon Presbyterian Church will probably always be a “work in progress.” Early records either were not kept by the church or have been lost forever. Many of the gravestone markers are in excellent condition today and are easy to read. Other stones are broke, worn or otherwise damaged and no legible characters remain to give us a clue to their history. Many other markers, as well as the stone walls that once surrounded some of the burial grounds, were destroyed or removed during the Civil War.

The Burial Grounds

There are five burying grounds at Opequon Church. These are described briefly below
and in greater detail in the 1996 publication by C. Langdon Gordon,
“The Old Burying Grounds of Opequon Presbyterian Church."
  • Burying Ground #1

    • (1736-1799) Adjacent to the north wall of the sanctuary; extends 45 feet north and                                                                          40 feet westward

  • Burying Ground #2

    • (1745-1904) Largest and most prominent; Northeast of the sanctuary; contained                                                                      within the black iron fence

  • Burying Ground #3

    • (1790 – 1860) About 10 feet south-southwest of the present sanctuary south wall;                                                                     about 30 feet by 35 feet

  • Burying Ground #4

    • (1804 – 1866) 200 feet east of Burying Ground #2; in open field near large tree

  • Burying Ground #5

    • (1905-1938) Extreme south end of Opequon Church grounds: about 20 feet by 40 feet in area

For a more detailed history and information on the grave stones that have been recovered and recorded please view contact us.

Memorial Scatter Garden

The Opequon Memorial Garden was authorized by the session in 2008 as a way of memorializing members and non-members of the congregation who wish to have their remains “scattered” on the property and under the supervision of the Opequon Presbyterian Church. The scatter garden is in the shape of a Jerusalem Cross. The Jerusalem Cross was a variant of the Crusaders’ Cross. It contains four smaller crosses that are said to symbolize the four books of the Gospel.

Matthew, Mark, Luke & John

The four distinctive areas are located within a 54 foot diameter circle of stonework that is connected to the church parking lot by a stone path. Each quadrant has plants arranged around two meditation areas with all-weather seating positioned to afford individuals a place for prayer and meditation and an unrestricted view of the beautiful Kernstown Civil War Battlefield.

Each leg of the cross is oriented to the compass and each quadrant of the cross (northwest, southwest, southeast and northeast) would serve as a designated scattering area. Services will be oriented toward one of the four quadrants with the presiding minister officiating from the raised sub-cross in the flowerbed. Guests and members of the family would be seated on the two intersecting legs of the cross.

A grave headstone that has worn away in the weather in front of Opequon Church
Opequon Memorial Garden Layout 2018.jpg

Members of the Opequon Presbyterian Church would be entitled to have their remains scattered in the Opequon Memorial Garden for a one time fee of $600. Non-members would be interred in the Memorial Garden upon approval of the Session. Non-members would be entitled to the same recognition and services for a fee of $700. Records as designated above would also be provided. Inscription of the individual’s name on a memorial plaque in one of the four quadrants would be available for an additional fee to cover labor and materials.

 

Join us on Sundays for in-person worship at 8:30am or 11:00am. Please wear a mask, if you're not fully vaccinated. Live stream worship is at 11:00am. Search for Opequon Church on YouTube or click here. We are located at 217 Opequon Church Lane, Winchester, VA 22602.