So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12, NKJ).
The Bloomington (Indiana) Reformed Presbyterian Church recently celebrated its 200th anniversary of ministry in Southern Indiana. Our congregation was founded by committed believers, who left the upcountry of South Carolina in the early 19thcentury, to get away from the evils of slavery. The Reformed Presbyterian Church made the decision to bar slave-holders from membership by 1800, making her one of a very few churches in America to take a stand as a denomination at that time.
The group of RPs who settled in and around Bloomington were arriving just as Indiana University (then the state seminary) was being founded in 1820. When the congregation was organized in 1821, Indiana had only been a state for five years and the city of Bloomington only had around 600 residents. A number of members and leaders of the congregation were active in helping escaped slaves journey to the north via the “Underground Railroad.” The congregation was truly unique in our community at the time as we welcomed African Americans as members and also allowed them to be buried in our cemetery.
The remarkable thing about the congregation is that it continues to serve and worship Jesus in much the same way that it always has right to the present day. There are not many other congregations in this part of our country, who can say that they still believe and teach the Bible as the infallible word of God for even one century, let alone two! And because this kind of congregation is so rare today, we want to acknowledge that it is only by the grace of God working through His Son, the Lord Jesus, that there is any story to tell at all about our congregation.
At our celebration in early August, our congregation gathered with friends, former members, and interested folks from the community to celebrate the work of God (see photo above). You can watch a short, video recap of the celebration here, compliments of Filsonian Motion Pictures. We so appreciate the efforts of filmmaker Eric Filson, who is working on a documentary on the history of our congregation. In addition, a story about us in our local paper was picked up by US News and World Report and can be found here.
We are grateful for the opportunity to tell a little bit of how Jesus has worked in one tiny part of His church. We rejoice that He has maintained and used us for these many years, and we are so thankful that we are not alone! All over the world, Jesus is using small churches, who faithfully serve their local communities year after year with little or no fanfare, to build His great kingdom. If you happen to be serving God in such a place, keep persevering by His grace, knowing that “nothing can hinder the LORD from saving by many or by few” (1 Samuel 14:6, ESV).