Stories from PA History
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Set Apart: Religious Communities in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania has always been a haven for religious refugees from Europe and a destination for spiritual seekers determined to build intentional communities of shared values and faith. The Moravian community in Bethlehem, Ephrata Cloister, the Harmony Society in Ambridge, and less well-known groups help tell the story of Pennsylvania's many holy experiments.

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Overview: Set Apart: Religious Communities in Pennsylvania
Chapter One: The Moravians
Chapter Two: Three Centuries of Utopian Communities in Pennsylvania
Chapter Three: The Harmony Society

Historical Markers In the Story
marker icon Celestia (Sullivan) marker icon Ephrata Cloister (Lancaster)
marker icon Father Divine (Philadelphia) marker icon Joseph Smith (Susquehanna)
marker icon Kelpius Community (Philadelphia) marker icon Northkill Amish (Berks)
marker icon Snow Hill Cloister (Franklin) marker icon Sylvania Colony (Pike)

Lesson Plans for this Story
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Story Bibliography

1370 Birth of John Hus, Bohemian Protestant leader who developed the theological teachings of what became the Moravian church (circa 1370)
1415 John Hus is burned at the stake by the Roman Catholic Church for his heretical teachings
1457 Hus's followers officially congregate as a church near Lititz in Bohemia
1647 George Fox helps establish the Society of Friends, better known as the Quakers, in England
1682 William Penn arrives in Pennsylvania to begin his Holy Experiment in religious toleration
1683 First Mennonites arrive in Pennsylvania and settle north of Philadelphia in a town that they name Germantown
1694 Johannes Kelpius and a group of German pietist hermits establish Pennsylvania's first religious commune on the Wissahickon Creek above Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
1722 The 'Renewed Church' of the Brethren founded by Hus gathers on the German estate of Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf
1730 - 1740 In the 1730s and 40s, a revival of religious enthusiasm known as the Great Awakening sweeps across Britain's North American colonies
1732 - 1732 Conrad Beissel establishes the Ephrata Cloister community
1736 Followers of Swiss religious reformer Jakob Ammann start the first major Amish settlement in the Americas along the Northkill Creek on the Berks County frontier
1741 The Moravians establish Bethlehem and Nazareth, Pennsylvania
1762 Bethlehem and Nazareth make the transition from communal economies to private enterprise
1763 The Paxton Boys massacre twenty Conestoga Indians, who had been converted to Christianity by Moravian missionaries
1787 George Rapp separates from the Lutheran Church in Germany and establishes the Harmony Society
1804 George Rapp and his followers settle in western Pennsylvania
1825 The Harmony Society moves back to Pennsylvania and builds the town of Economy
1830 Joseph Smith begins The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the Mormons
1830 - 1840 In the 1830s and 40s, a Second Great Awakening, a revival of religious enthusiasm, sweeps across the United States
1842 The Sylvania Association starts America's first Fourierite phalanx in Pike County, Pennsylvania
1844 Moravians open the town of Bethlehem to settlement by outsiders
1850 George Armstrong and his followers found Celestia, Pennsylvania
1905 The Harmony Society disbands
1932 Father Divine establishes his growing community in Harlem. Claiming himself a deity, he established a communal society awaiting the realization of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth
1941 The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania opens the Ephrata Cloister as an historic site
1943 Father Divine relocates headquarters of his interracial Peace Mission to Gladwyne, Pennsylvania
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