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[PCUSANEWS] 'Carving out a place*'

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Date Thu, 7 Sep 2006 13:12:25 -0400

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06458 September 7, 2006

'Carving out a place*'

Presbyterianism's tricentennial observed October 1 by the Presbyterian Historical Society staff

reprinted from Presbyterian Heritage

Editor's note: The 300th anniversary of American Presbyterianism will be celebrated on Oct. 1, 2006, in Philadelphia, the site of the first presbytery. To mark the occasion, hymn writer Carolyn Winfrey Gillette has written "We Look to You, O Jesus." The lyrics are printed at the conclusion of this story. Gillette is the author of Gifts of Love: New Hymns for Today's Worship (Geneva Press) and co-pastor of the Limestone Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, DE. * Jerry L. Van Marter

PHILADELPHIA * Most Presbyterians know the name of Francis Makemie, a father of American Presbyterianism and the moderator of the first presbytery meeting in the Americas.

It is that first presbytery meeting in 1706 that we are celebrating in this tricentennial year.

Makemie described the presbytery in a March 1707 letter when he mentioned plans to "*attend a Meeting of Ministers we had formerly appointed here; and were only Seven in number, at first, but expect a growing number*."

The six other ministers who gathered with Makemie in Philadelphia in 1706 and 1707 to constitute "The Presbytery" are less well-known, and the limited and often contradictory information about them makes it difficult to gather much knowledge about them.

Jedidiah or Jedediah Andrews (1674-1747) was born in Hingham, Massachusetts, and graduated from Harvard College in 1695. In 1698, Andrews came to Philadelphia to serve the small congregation that eventually called itself the First Presbyterian Church and was probably ordained in 1701. Makemie had preached to that congregation in 1695, and he and Andrews were friends as well as colleagues. Andrews served as clerk of presbytery in 1711, and as moderator in 1709, 1712, and 1714. He moderated the first Synod of Philadelphia meeting in 1717.

Samuel Davis or Davies (d. circa 1725) (not to be confused with Samuel Davies, 1723-1816, evangelist in the Virginia colony and fourth president of the College of New Jersey in Princeton) served briefly at Somerset, Maryland, before moving to Lewes, Delaware, where he was also involved in trade and commerce. Davis served as moderator of the presbytery in 1708.

John Hampton (d. 1721) was a graduate of the University of Glasgow and ordained by the Presbytery of Laggan, Ireland, as Makemie had been. After arriving in the colonies with Francis Makemie and George McNish, who "inaugurated" him, he briefly served churches at Pitt's Creek and Buckingham, Maryland. Both Hampton and McNish had applied upon their arrival in late 1705 for a dissenter's license to preach in the Maryland colony. After a delay occasioned by Anglican protests, the governor issued the licenses in March 1706. A congregation called Hampton to Snow Hill, Maryland, in March 1707, offering tobacco as salary. He served as clerk of the presbytery in 1710 and moderated in 1715.

George McNish (circa 1660 -1722), a Scot and graduate of the University of Glasgow, came to the colonies with Francis Makemie in 1705 on Makemie's return from a "tedious and sick" voyage to England where he had gone to ask for aid. For a short time McNish labored among the people of Monokin and Wicomico in Maryland until the congregation at Jamaica, New York, called him as its eighth minister in 1710-11. McNish served as clerk of the presbytery in 1707, and moderated in 1710 and 1716. He preached the synodical sermon at the first meeting of the Synod of Philadelphia in 1717.

Nathaniel Taylor (d. circa 1710-12) was probably ordained in Scotland about 1702-03 and traveled immediately to Upper Marlborough, which later became the Patuxent Church, at the mouth of the Patuxent River in Maryland with 200 Scottish immigrants. A local landowner, Ninian Beall, donated land for the church.

John Wilson (d. 1712) is recorded as preaching as early as 1702 in New Castle, Delaware, but had no pastoral relationship with the congregation there. In 1708 the presbytery directed him to preach alternately at New Castle and White Clay Creek, and periodically at Apoquinimy. It is likely that after 1710 he devoted all his time to White Clay Creek until his death. He conducted the presbytery's correspondence with divided or uneasy congregations and with Scotland. He served as presbytery moderator in 1707 and 1711.

The Presbytery, formed as a general presbytery with no fixed geographical boundaries, had as its purposes education, fellowship, discipline, and to license and ordain men for ministry.

The founders also began to carve out a place for Presbyterianism in the New World and shape the American tradition emphasizing presbyteries as the primary governing body.

They would add members until they were able to form the Synod of Philadelphia in 1716-17 with four presbyteries: New Castle (Delaware), New York, Philadelphia, and Snow Hill (Maryland), providing a firm foundation for their faith tradition in America.

Carolyn Winfrey Gillette's hymn:

We Look to You, O Jesus

Tune: Lancashire ("The Day of Resurrection")

We look to you, O Jesus * in faith, our Pioneer * For you have gone before us and brought your people here. You showed us all God's kingdom, you gave us work to do; In death you went before us; for life, we turn to you.

We looked to you to guide us three hundred years ago; How different was the land then, from this land that we know. With towns and country growing, your people heard your call, And so they built new churches, proclaiming you to all.

Through times of strife and anguish, through times of joy and grace, Through conflicts with our culture, you've brought us to this place; And still your world is changing, and still we seek to be A church reformed, reforming in faithful ministry.

Perfecter of the faith, Lord, we look to you each day; We work for peace and justice, we worship, learn and pray* And witnesses surround us, a host of saints above, As we continue sharing the joy of your great love.

Tune: Henry Thomas Smart, 1835 Text: Carolyn Winfrey Gillette, 2006


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