Thursday, March 18, 2010
The Preacher’s Corner
Sturdy walls have stood a long time
The Holly Springs Presbyterians are getting ready to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the construction of their old church.
The interesting picture that accompanies this week’s column was taken by Vadah Cochran during the first great project to restore the Holly Springs Presbyterian Church in the years following World War II. The work was conceived in connection with the centennial of the church and the town in 1936, but the war intervened, and construction got under way when William Bobo was pastor, beginning in 1946.
The 1930s had seen a dawn of interest in historic preservation. It was the decade that the great pilgrimages in Natchez, Columbus, and Holly Springs began. Vadah saw to it that our church was restored with a careful eye to history. But there was optimism for the future. The work on the old church culminated in the addition of a new Sunday school facility behind the historic sanctuary. Mr. Bobo called it the “Kirk House,” and so it has been ever since. Charles T. Ames supervised much of that construction, and so in 1993, it was named in his memory.
Our current project is more modest. Our forebears built well; all we have to do is freshen their work. How much we accomplish by way of physical renovation will depend entirely on what we can raise. Our members have sacrificed; we also look with grateful hopes to the kindness of our friends.
But we still look to the future. The church exists for people. Archbishop Temple said it is the only organization that exists primarily for those outside its walls. What we will do will probably be very different in the second 150 years of this old building’s life than took place in the first 150. But if nothing else, the history of the Kirk of Holly Springs has shown that God’s people have been able and willing to follow their Lord even when the future seemed uncertain.
God has work for His children in every age and generation and will give them the resources to do whatever He asks.
This old church really belongs to the town. When the country people used to ride into town in horse-drawn wagons, it was a landmark people could see from a distance. Graduations for the little college that is now the town museum were held in the Presbyterian Church. Later it was the venue for the baccalaureate services of the high school. The funeral for Mayor Goodrich was held here during the Yellow Fever — the last funeral that could be held until the pestilence had ended. After the war a memorial service for all the dead was held in the church. Today, even on days when its doors are closed, the old church remains an arresting witness to the claims of God in the midst of a busy world.
One can only speculate why the Presbyterians in Holly Springs undertook to build a new church in 1860. The political situation was deteriorating. War talk was the subject of every conversation. It had been a prosperous decade for the plantation owners and railroad builders who built the large homes that line our streets and which tourists still line up to see.
Speaking of that era in one of his writings, Holly Springs historian Hubert McAlexander has remarked upon “a chauvinism that remained a mark of the town.” How true! You can see it in the soaring lines of the architecture. But there is a second piece to the story, for in 1860, the church and its leaders did not want war. The new church was a symbol for peace, even though the war came, and four of its young men died as soldiers, the church served through those grim years as a place of prayer and quiet sanctuary — although once soldiers invaded its walls and stabled their horses within.
Churches are symbols of aspiration. They also express the hope of divine redemption. I pray that our congregation, and all congregations of good will, can serve effectively in the years to come. It takes more than religion to have a healthy community, but I cannot imagine a community without God at the foundation of its life. The sturdy walls of our old churches have reminded us of that for a long time. It is a message we need more than ever just now, don’t you think?
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