The History of Hope Church
Hope Reformed Presbyterian Church held its first morning worship service at the University Lodge on December 9, 1990. About 140 people showed up that first Sunday. Some of them were friends and well-wishers from sister congregations. Many from the community were curious about this new church in the area. As it turned out, about 90 persons from that original group remained at the end of the first year. The new congregation was on its way.
The foundations for this new church actually began to be set in place almost a year earlier. In the Lord’s Providence, Reverend David Cross, pastor of the PCA congregation in Carlisle, had had contact with some folks in the Shippensburg area who were interested in starting a new church. Specifically, they were interested in a church that would be true to the Scriptures, true to the gospel of grace as rediscovered by the Protestant Reformers, and true to the last Great Commission Jesus gave his disciples: to spread the good news of God’s grace into all the world. With that dream in front of them, four couples began meeting in a home on chilly Sunday evenings in February to study Scripture and, as it turned out, to have their hearts more strongly united in a common purpose. Shortly after this Bible study group began, it moved to a community room on King Street. It seemed that, in one way or another, each group member was searching for something to sustain them, searching for good news that is really good, searching for hope. So, it is really no surprise that, when it came time to choose a name for the new congregation, we chose “Hope.”
On September 15, 1990 the Susquehanna Valley Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in America formally called Reverend David J. Fidati to the church planting work in Shippensburg. After that first official worship service in December, the team that had begun the work of gathering a congregation then set about the task of helping a group of strangers and mere acquaintances become a family of believers. As time went on, we added a Sunday school, a youth ministry, and small group Bible studies in order to better achieve that goal. However, something more was added than the tangible evidence of new programs. Brotherly love began to grow and flourish. This young congregation had begun to grow into a true household of faith. But every family needs a home.
It was in 1991, during the first year of Hope’s existence, that we began our search for a more permanent location and facility. Some leaders in the community pointed us in the direction of Walnut Bottom Road, noting that community development would probably move in that direction and that it was easily accessible from the interstate highway. We started praying fervently that the Lord would give us property along Walnut Bottom Road. We had no money. We had no endowments. We had only our hope in the Lord’s provision.
Not long after we had begun praying for that, the owner of a piece of property on which we had set our hopes in that area was introduced to us. After a short time, it was evident that he and his wife were committed to the fellowship and had a keen interest in its progress. They generously offered the land to us at one-fifth of its value at the time of the agreement. By the time of settlement, the cost to the church was less than a tenth of its appraised value. At the end of the day, our prayers were answered in a way that was beyond anything we could have imagined possible.
On June 6, 1999—about eight and a half years after our first service—we held our first service in our own facility. Almost from the first week, the congregation began to grow. During the first year, several new families and individuals began to find Hope to be a congregation in which they were accepted and cared for and, most of all, a congregation in which they learned the depths of God’s love and grace to us through Christ.
In 2014, Hope Church had the opportunity to plant a “daughter church” in the nearby town of Chambersburg, PA under the leadership of Rev. Jeff Cottone. About 40 people from the congregation of Hope Church began meetings in a local elementary school and later a community center and Redeemer Reformed Presbyterian Church was formed.
Over time, new ministries and programs have been added to Hope Church. Spiritual growth is evident in the lives of the people and we have had the privilege to minister to many people in the Shippensburg community. The congregation at Hope Church has continued to grow and change through the years. But one thing has stayed constant and that we strive to remain “True to the Scriptures, true to the Reformed Faith, and Obedient to the Great Commission.” It is our prayer that Hope Church would be a small outpost of heaven, an outpost of Christ’s kingdom located behind enemy lines.