First Presbyterian Church of Carthage has two reasons to celebrate next month. Not only is 2017 the 150th anniversary of the church founding but it is also the 100th anniversary of the building where First Presbyterian began holding services 50 years after its beginning.
First Presbyterian Church of Carthage has two reasons to celebrate next month.
Not only is 2017 the 150th anniversary of the church founding but it is also the 100th anniversary of the building where First Presbyterian began holding services 50 years after its beginning.
Since the anniversaries fall in the same year, church members decided to hold one celebration event for both on Sunday, June 4.
“We thought June 4 would be nice weather-wise but it is also Pentecost Sunday,” said Greg Esselman, who is in his third year as interim pastor.
Pentecost Sunday, of course, commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the remaining 11 disciples of Christ (Judas hanged himself) after the Resurrection of Jesus. It always falls on the seventh Sunday after Easter.
The word Pentecost means 50th day, so Pentecost Sunday is celebrated 50 days from Easter Sunday (including Easter Sunday in the counting).
Pentecost Sunday is also the day of the Pentecost festival, which is a prominent feast in the Ancient Israel calendar marking the giving of the Law on Sinai.
“This is a special day in which the spirit was given to the disciples,” said Esselman, who came on as the interim pastor at First Presbyterian when full-time pastor Matt Roberts left.
Roberts is the pastor of Woodland Heights Presbyterian Church in Springfield, where Esselman served as full-time pastor for 27 years.
The June 4 activities will begin with a continental breakfast at 9 a.m. followed by a Sunday school class for all ages led by Esselman a half hour later.
Worship services will be held at the usual First Presbyterian time of 10:30, with a group photo to be taken of everyone on the front steps of the church, located at 115 W. Chestnut St..
A potluck lunch will follow along with the main course of fried chicken being catered by Chicken Annie’s Restaurant at noon.
A slide show on the history of the church will be presented by First Presbyterian member Jan Kersten at 1:30 p.m., and members or former members will be recognized for longest attendance.
A concert by the Carthage-based Bluegrass Band No Apparent Reason will be presented at 2 p.m. and the benediction held at 3 p.m. to close the event.
“We mailed out 150 letters of invitation to former church members and we also have a former pastor who will be attending,” Esselman said.
Memorial dinner plates to mark the 150th anniversary of the church founding will be presented free to each member household.
First Presbyterian was founded in 1867, two years after the Civil War ended, with the Carthage community still recovering from the effects. The town, including the courthouse, had been burned and destroyed in the Battle of Carthage on July 5, 1861.
Mounds of blackened brick in the center of the town square where the courthouse had stood still remained the year First Presbyterian took root.
In that year of its birth, FPC was like other churches in Carthage with no actual buildings for services.
Presbyterians met in the second story of Mr. and Mrs. L.L. Dunlap’s house on the south side of the square. The Dunlaps’ specifically built their home with a hall on the second floor for the Presbyterians to meet.
Others without a building were Methodists, who held services at the temporary courthouse on the west side of the square.
First Presbyterian was founded 25 years after the city of Carthage was established. The high point of its membership may have been at its 75th anniversary in 1942 when there were over 500 members with 250 attending Sunday school.
Besides meeting in the Dunlop house, the church also held services in a storefront building before moving into its permanent church in 1917.
First Presbyterian membership may be down from previous years but its Christian outreach remains strong.
“We recently helped a family that lost a lot in the flooding with cash and a gift card, we sent money to a Lamar church for its food pantry, we support a Teen Challenge home in Springfield and we help with the Meals on Wheels program,” Esselman said.
Not only that, but First Presbyterian has its own food pantry, helping needy families with food distribution once a month.
“This is what gives us purpose...to make a little bit of the Kingdom of God here on earth,” said Esselman. “I feel assured that if one member of our congregation had a need, the whole congregation would have their back.”