The Church of the Brethren is one of the oldest Protestant denominations in America. It was founded in 1708, in Germany, by Alexander Mack. This denomination was know as German Baptist Brethren, Anabaptist, or Dunkards; from that was formed the Church of the Brethren. In 1729, Alexander Mack came to America, settled in the state of Pennsylvania and introduced the Brethren Doctrine.
The Doctrine of the Brethren is salvation through Jesus Christ. The Brethren practice the Love Feast and the washing of feet during communion services, as was practiced by Christ. One is baptized, as an ordinance, proceeding the saving Grace of God. Baptism is by immersion into water, forward three times, as in to Christ, representing the Trinity.
Tearcoat Church was established around 1860 when services were held in homes and in the Shickle Schoolhouse, and Love Feasts were held in barns. The church building was built in 1875, after breaking away from the Beaver Run Church of the Brethren, in Mineral County, which began in the 1770's or 1780's. The church was built on Tearcoat Creek, Hampshire County, about one and a half miles east of its present location.
An unconfirmed legend says, the creek is said to have received its name, when George Washington, a member of the Fairfax Manor Survey Crew in 1748 or 1749, tore his coat while crossing the stream and made a notation in his diary. When the church building was built along this creek, the name Tearcoat Church of the Brethren was born.
Due to frequent flooding, the building was disassembled in 1903, the logs were marked and drug by horses and was rebuilt on its present site in 1905. Membership is recorded at around 45. For over 60 years the building went primarily unchanged. There were two entrance doors and two wood stoves on either side, in front of the church. The church was lit by oil lamps hanging from the ceiling. At each end of the church, the seats were elevated. The men sat on one side and the women on the other side, divided by the middle aisle. The ministers table was on the level with the congregation. Adults only, were members. Around the 1920's, some husbands and wives wanted to sit together for worship, so there was a gradual change for the original custom.
Many Sunday School classes were held in the Sanctuary with teachers trying to compete for their students attention. Baptism was performed at at pool "just out back of the church", which was filled by an old hand water pump in the nearby well. The last baptism ceremony was performed there in 1927 with Sydney Richman Carter being the last person ever baptized in that pool. Following that, baptisms were done in the North River, "back behind the barn", located across from A.A. Rogers Road.
The Love Feast is a very serious and sacred part of our church year. Until 1966, Love Feast was performed in Sanctuary, where the backs of the pew folded back, and were secured by a wooden pen and used as tables. At that time, only adults were allowed to participate and the children sat quietly in the back of the church and observed. It was told that there were also many spectators who came and watched, filling the back of the church. The meal was prepared in the small kitchen (present day - the room off to the back of the pulpit) on a large wood cook stove. The beef was cooked in a huge iron kettle. The communion dishes were handmade of tin and one cup was shared by everyone at each table. Eventually, the tin was replaced by glass dishes.
In 1966 major changes occurred at Tearcoat, with the addition of the basement for three Sunday School rooms, a place for Love Feast, and a new kitchen. A pastor study, baptistery and dressing room were added to the south end of the building in 1978. A few years later plans were drawn for the north end of the church, which included for classrooms upstairs, two rest rooms, and the large vestibule, enclosing the front steps. The three small basement class room divisions were removed, leaving a larger social hall. This work was completed in 1982, and in September of that same year, the steeple was installed. In 1983 the Sanctuary was remodeled with new padded pews, carpet, ceiling tile and a new pulpit.
Currently, Tearcoat is enjoying the benefits of the Family Life Center, our new structure off the wast side of the church. This has enabled more classroom space, larger rest rooms with showers, a larger kitchen and large floor space for the use of a social hall or gymnasium. Currently in the Family Life Center, we have a Wednesday Night program for youth of all ages, called Promise Land Club.
Many changes have taken place at Tearcoat over the years. Men and women sit together, electricity, running water and rest rooms became a luxury, children can become members, the church has been enlarged, a new facility has been added, the congregation has grown, we still have original generation families in our congregation, but the word of God remains the same.
Information taken from the book 'Allegheny Passage', author Emmert F. Bittinger & from members of the church.