Sunday, October 4, 2009

Bovina United Presbyterian Church Bicentennial

Next weekend (October 10 and 11) will be the celebration of the bicentennial of the oldest institution in the Town of Bovina, the United Presbyterian Church. Founded in October 1809, with Alexander Bullions from Washington County preaching the first sermon, it was five years before the congregation had a regular minister, Robert Laing. It was another year before it got a permanent home at what is now the intersection of County Route 6 and Reinertsen Hill Road. Though the first church built by the congregation proved to be too small, sweltering in the summer and freezing in the winter, they used it for 34 years before moving into a larger structure located in the hamlet of Bovina Center itself. Expanded 10 years later in 1859, it was renovated in 1889 to basically its current appearance.

In the 200 years of the congregation, there have been 21 pastors, 108 elders and over 2100 members. Bovina's ministers have had varied backgrounds. The first two were Scottish born. A number of them came from the mid-west, including Illinois, Iowa, Ohio and Missouri. One minister was born in the Phillipines, another in Belfast. Ohio born James B. Lee was Bovina's third and longest tenured pastor, serving in the post for 32 years, from 1856-1888.

For next weekend's celebrations, we're heard that four of Bovina's former pastors are expected attend at least some of the events - Maynard Grunstra (1962-67), Bob Hammer (1968-75), John Kloepfer (1976-84) and Bovina's first female pastor, Reverend Karen Patricia Green (1985-1993).

A number of long-time members will be honored at the Sunday bicentennial service. The two longest served are Agnes Burns and Celia Coulter, who both joined the church on October 13, 1929, 80 years ago. Helen Blair Thomson has the distinction of having the longest membership ever in Bovina's church. Dying at the age of 107 in 1997, she had been a member for 0ver 93 years.

Next Saturday, I'll be doing a brief talk at the site of the original church, where a picnic lunch will be held. That evening, I'll be doing my main presentation - "The Reluctant Reverend Graham and other stories of Bovina pastors." I'll be posting these on my blog after their 'premiere.' During the luncheon after the service on Sunday, I'll give a brief history of the church. It's going to be a busy but fun weekend reveling in Bovina's past. Hope to see some of you there.

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