Wish You Were Here reflects the value of postcards as tools for learning about the past, with images drawn from Manuscript Group 213, Postcard Collection, Pennsylvania State Archives.

“X Indicates my home,” wrote C. K. on a postcard, post- marked August 18, 1909, depicting the United Brethren Church in Mechanicsburg, Cumberland County, to a Miss Hazel Sterner of Selinsgrove, Snyder County. “This is the church I attend. This is located along the trolley line to Harrisburg and near the center of town. I have lived here 20 years and am used to it. Mabel sends her regards.”

Mechanicsburg’s United Brethren Church, located at 43 East Locust St., was built in 1874 as the congregation’s third house of worship at a cost of $6,000. The church was established in 1846 and its first minister was the Reverend Jacob S. Kessler. For the first eleven years congregants worshipped in the Union Church, 39 East Main St., constructed in 1825, which was used by several denominations for a small fee, and is the oldest public building in the community. In 1857, churchgoers completed a second building, which they eventually outgrew, and erected the brick building depicted on this postcard. The former church now houses boxing and kickboxing clubs and a karate school.

Although not organized until 1800, the Church of the United Brethren in Christ—the first denomination established in America not transplanted from Europe—traces its roots to eighteenth-century Pennsylvania. A Great Meeting, part of an interdenominational revival movement known as the Great Awakening, was hosted by Isaac Long (1741–1802) on May 10, 1767, in his barn near Lancaster. More than one thousand people attended the meeting, including Philip William Otterbein, a reformed pastor at York, and heard Mennonite preacher Martin Boehm (1725–1812) tell of his becoming a Christian after crying out to God while plowing a field. Moved by Boehm’s oration, Otterbein left his seat, embraced the preacher, and exclaimed, Wir sind bruder! (“We are brethren!”). Followers of Boehm and Otterbein, who became the United Brethren’s first bishops, formed a loose movement until 1800, when they instituted a general conference for organization and inspiration.

Through 2011 the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, which installed a state historical marker at Long’s barn in 1960, is observing “William Penn’s Legacy: Religious and Spiritual Diversity” as its annual theme.