History

Pennsylvania's history is deeply rooted in freedom of religion and spiritual expression. These essential freedoms were principles set forth by William Penn and his followers in establishing Penn's Woods and in creating a frame of government in the 17th century. Pennsylvania claims many ecclesiastical and spiritual firsts. Native American spirituality was an important part of culture and life among such peoples. Specific denominations were founded here that includes the Scotch Reformed Presbyterians, Brethren in Christ, the United Brethren, and the first Byzantine Catholic denomination in the United States. Pennsylvania is also home to original spiritual communities such as Ephrata Cloister, Celestia, and Old Economy Village. The Keystone State is also home to foundational churches such as Mother Bethel AME in Philadelphia, St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi, the first Italian national parish, and the Polish National Catholic Church. Likewise, 2011 is the 250th anniversary of the founding of the Lutheran Church in America by Henry Muhlenberg and its first church, Augustus Lutheran, a National Historic Landmark, located in Trappe. And, Pennsylvania is home to many religion-based camps, retreats, schools, orphanages and seminaries.