Our area was settled by the Dutch. Dutch gentlemen with an eye to profitable trade and development secured large tracts of land on both side of the Hudson River. Among these early settlers were families named Schuyler and DeRidder. Men who were farmers, artisans, woodsmen, bateaumen and laborers were encouraged to settle with their families.
Many of the Dutch were guided in their lives by their religous faith which they professed as members of the Dutch Protestant Reformed Church. Within a few years the people were of great enough numbers to organize their own religious society in the settlement. (a partial list of early church members can be found online here (click to follow link)).
The first Dutch Reformed Church, as it was known, dates back to the year 1770. The church stood on a four-acre lot south of Fish Creek, given by General Schuyler before the American Revolutionary War. The church served as a meeting house for worship and the place where people learned important news. Its first Pastor was a Reverend Drummond. During the war it was occupied by the British, used as a field hospital, and later served as a storehouse. (a list of Pastors up to 1900 can be found using this link)
Reorganized in 1789, the church was governed by a board of elders and deacons under the supervision of Dominie Eilander Westerlo from the First Reformed Church, Albany, NY. Members of this board, who are still elected to administer the affairs of the church today, are called “shepherds of the flock of God’s people.” The members of the Consistory, elders and deacons, all male, followed the instructions written in 1 Peter 5:1-4 that it was their honorable and responsible role to care for the congregation as a shepherd would care for his sheep. The board of elders extended a call to Samuel Smith to be the pastor. He arrived in December 1789 and was ordained in January 1790. Music, as known today in the church, was not allowed at services inthe 18th century, but in 1790 the Consistory votedto allow only the singing of old Scotch Psalms prepared for the use of Dutch churches.
By 181 the settlement at Saratoga had grown from a hamlet to a thriving village. Seeing the increase in population, and the age of the little church south of the creek, the Consistory resolved to build two new churches. One was built on the site of the present church, and the other, known as the North Church, at Bacon Hill. The church on this site, constructed of wood, burned after a few years and was replaced with a stone church.
After the opening of the Champlain Canal in 1822, Old Saratoga became an important shipping port and a center of business which led to much growth in population. By 1831 the community became an incorporated village named Schuylerville. By 1855 the membership of the Dutch Protestant Reformed Church had increased to the extent that the Consistory decided to build a new and larger edifice. On June 2, 1857 the present church was dedicated.
Women of the church raised money for heating and lighting, and a parsonage was built adjacent to the church. At this time the role of women of the church was first mentioned in church records when they were credited with providing the money for the cushions on the pews. The money was earned by the fairs whicch the women held. From that time forward a gradual change of attitude about women’s role in the church became apparent. In 1977, women were first elected to the Consistory, and foour years later, the church welcomed its first woman pastor, the Reverend Joyce de Velder. She is the 27th pastor to serve at Old Saratoga. Revered de Velder is in her 33rd year of service (2014) at our church. This is the longest tenure of any of our ministers, the previous record being 25 years.
It is interesting to note that in 2011 and 2012, all members of the Consistory were women.
In 1899 the present parsonage was completed and the women accepted the responsibility of maintaining the manse for the pastors and their families.
At the turn of the century the glass paned windows were replaced with the beautiful, stained glass windows seen today in the sanctuary.
In 1995, we celebrated 225 years of Christian ministry at Old Saratoga. We praise God for the living faith past, present, and future. This living faith of the people of the church has been and is reflected in devoted ministry and in expressions of joy in worship and Christian service. We acclaim Old Saratoga Reformed Church to be a church of tradition, a church of today, and church of tomorrow with a vision of spirituality, fellowship, and outreach as we continue to commit our lives to Jesus Christ and his ministry in the world.
Compiled by Richard Behrens