More Presbyterians are in the Pittsburgh region than any place else in the world. To celebrate that legacy, the Senator John Heinz History Center will feature a lecture and exhibit starting Monday, July 2, on “A Bedrock of Faith: Presbyterian Pioneers in Western Pennsylvania.”
The exhibit, which explores the influx of Scots-Irish immigrants into the region before and after the Revolutionary War and the growth of Presbyterian churches afterward, will kick off with a lecture from 7-9 p.m. at the center. Peter Gilmore, a local historian who specializes in the roots of the Presbyterian presence here, will discuss the region’s religious and social history, followed by a question-and-answer session with a panel of historians.
Gilmore’s lecture is titled “Early Western Pennsylvania Presbyterianism: Diversity and Faithfulness.”
“By ‘early’ I refer to roughly the first 50-60 years, about 1770 to 1830,” said Gilmore, who is an adjunct lecturer in history at Carlow University in Pittsburgh.
The overarching theme of the lecture will be diversity and faithfulness illustrated by phenomena such as the significance of the Irish immigration to western Pennsylvania, how the issue of psalmody especially encouraged creedal diversity and competition within this region, and how faithfulness to the gospel and particular interpretations of Presbyterianism were expressed through communion.
The panel discussion that follows the lecture will answer general questions for the audience. Panelists will be Fred Heuser, director of the Presbyterian Historical Society, Reid Stewart, Presbyterian Historical Society of the Upper Ohio Valley, David W. Miller, Carnegie Mellon University (and Pittsburgh Presbytery), and Gilmore.
Visitors to the lecture will also have a chance to see the exhibit, which features photographs, drawings, text and artifacts from 11 pioneering Presbyterian congregations in the region and Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.
The exhibit, which will feature display panels on churches from Allegheny, Westmoreland, Washington, Beaver and Fayette counties, will continue at the history center during regular hours through July and August.
The history center is located at 1212 Smallman St. in the Strip District, just a couple blocks from the Pittsburgh Convention Center.