Two Presbyterian churches looking to the past, the future

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“Two unusual types of Presbyterians had an early impact on Indiana and the character of the Presbyterians in the state: the Psalms-chanting Presbyterians and the Cumberland Presbyterians. Groups,”

When LC Rudolph wrote this statement, the former curator of Indiana University’s Lilly Library and the Presbyterian Theological Seminary did not imagine that two of these “unusual” congregations would celebrate the bicentennial almost next to each other. the other.

Those who sing psalms, also known as Reform Presbyterians or Covenanters, just celebrated their 200th birthday on October 10 in Bloomington.

In Bloomfield, Greene County’s only Presbyterian church will celebrate its 200th anniversary in 2023, with a special twist and focus on its origins. It was a Cumberland congregation until it merged with a larger denomination in 1906. But its roots in Cumberland – particularly in missionary activity – are highlighted by robust activity in preparation for the celebration in 2023 .

Reform Presbyterians have played an important role in the history of Bloomington and its university. The name “Covenanter” comes from their complicated history in Scotland and this country. During their year-long celebration, a church historian shared this difficult and long story along with memories of past leaders, dating back to an elder named Faris, a name still present in Bloomington and in the Church. Reformed Presbyterian. A documentary film “200 Years of Grace” has been created.

Members organized tours of the Covenanter Cemetery and shared stories about the role Reformed Presbyterians played in the Underground Railroad. African Americans are buried in their cemetery, and the Covenanters supported abolitionism – a radical stance at the time. But the church also wants to look to the future – having experienced a real resurgence and revival in the past 30 years.

Dr Richard Holdeman is a professor of biology at IU, but he also serves the church with great lay and ministerial help, including Reverend Philip McCollum, originally from Northern Ireland. The “psalm singers” do just that, unaccompanied. They also host a Chinese congregation in their building and demonstrate what a relatively small congregation can accomplish in its university setting. They are eagerly awaiting their next chapter!

The Bloomfield Presbyterians have decided to mark their bicentennial with an ambitious project, supported by the Smock Foundation, which helps Presbyterians in Indiana. Under the leadership of young, creative, part-time Pastor Hana Elliott, they are looking to provide 2,023 hours of service to their community by this year! So far, they are well on their way to reaching the goal sooner.

Each quarter there is a theme, like health, education, hunger, etc. Members are recognized each week for their service work. The purpose is “to envision and tell new stories of mission and of a faithful future”. Some projects they have done in the past, such as “Soup on Saturdays,” feed hungry people in their community. Others are new and exciting interests and avenues for service to others.

As many other small congregations struggle during the pandemic, this Smock initiative has brought enthusiasm and energy to the church. Cumberland churches were strong in overseas missions, and a Cumberland missionary from Bloomfield, Julia Leavitt, spent half a century in Japan. Alicia Holt, Ohio Valley Presbytery-Elect Moderator, says, “Mission is who we are, both local and international. And we are passionate about it! ”

Two churches, of the same Reformed tradition, surviving and flourishing 200 years later! This is something to sing about, using the RP Psalmbook for Psalm 126:

“The Lord did great things for them, the nations agreed. The Lord has done great things for us, and we are really rejoicing! – John Cole, 1810


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