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[PCUSANEWS] Presbyterians to celebrate tricentennial

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Date Wed, 27 Sep 2006 09:52:05 -0400

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06490 September 27, 2006

Presbyterians to celebrate tricentennial

300th anniversary fete is Oct. 1 in Philadelphia

by Toya Richards Hill

LOUISVILLE * Before the Lewis and Clark expedition charted its course, the Declaration of Independence was signed or the First Great Awakening of American colonial Protestants, Presbyterians formally organized in the United States.

It was 300 years ago that the first presbytery meeting in the U.S. was held, ultimately paving the way for what is today the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) On Sunday, Oct. 1, the denomination will mark the historic anniversary with a worship service at Old Pine Street Presbyterian Church (aka Third Scots & Mariners) in Philadelphia.

When you think about the fact that Presbyterians were few and far between geographically at the time, and often persecuted by the predominate Anglican population, the presbytery formation "is very impressive," said Margery N. Sly, deputy executive director of the Presbyterian Historical Society.

Organized by the Rev. Francis Makemie in Philadelphia, that first presbytery brought together Makemie and six other ministers from several colonies, including Maryland and Virginia.

"Makemie felt that the connectional form of presbytery government was important," Sly said. "They really needed the fellowship of the other ministers in the other colonies."

The group met for 10 years, during which time "they grew exponentially," she said. And in 1716-17 it expanded into more presbyteries and the first synod was created, Sly said.

The Oct. 1 tricentennial celebration, scheduled for 4 p.m., will include the Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, stated clerk of the General Assembly, the Rev. Joan Gray, moderator of the 217th General Assembly, Elder Robert Wilson, vice-moderator of the 217th General Assembly, and U.S. Sen. Thomas Carper (D-DE), a member at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, DE.

An open house will precede the service from 1:30-3:30 p.m. at the Presbyterian Historical Society, headquartered in Philadelphia. The Historical Society, a department of the Office of the General Assembly, is the national archives and historical research center of the PC(USA).

Its holdings, also located at its regional office in Montreat, NC, include detailed historical information on Presbyterian congregations and foreign missionaries dating back to the 1880s, and documentation on ministers who served as far back as the 1700s.


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