By Rev. Sandra Hedrick, Stated Clerk

Light, love and laughter marked two recent celebrations in the Presbytery of St. Augustine.  On November 16, 2014, our Ft. Caroline church in Jacksonville celebrated “50 Years of Mission, Ministry and Christian Fellowship.”  On December 7, our Bethlehem church marked the 130th anniversary of the Archer Sanctuary.

Ft. Caroline PC signageThe Ft. Caroline congregation worships in a spacious campus near Jacksonville University.  As people streamed into the sanctuary from all directions, they were warmly welcomed to the church’s special day.  After the prelude “Build My House,” Dr. Don Heath opened the service and introduced several prior pastors, including Tom Aycock, Marshall Tobias, and Herb Meza.  One of the highlights of worship was the “Time for Young Disciples” where Pastor Tom re-introduced Freddie the Frog and friends, much to the delight of children and adults. Soloist Lynn McNutt lifted us into praise with her offering of “Great Day.”

Current and Former Ft. Caroline Pastors

In his sermon “The Healing Place” (Ephesians 1:1-17), Tom Aycock brought the hopeful word that God still chooses to come to us in Jesus Christ to heal our brokenness and send us as instruments of healing into the world.  “We need to hear the Good News in the church,” because people are hungry for healing both in the church and outside these walls, and we are called be a place that helps hungry people make sense of their lives.  After the service, there was plenty of time to visit with old friends and new ones, enjoy a delicious meal, and hear more about the history of the congregation.  Click here for a short written history that was read at the luncheon.

Bethlehem PC signage

Our Bethlehem church is in Archer, a community west of Gainesville.  The congregation moved to its current location from Wacahoota, eight miles away, in the year 1875, and its amazing historic sanctuary was built in 1884.  On the second Sunday in Advent, Pastor Josh Braley welcomed the gathered congregation, introduced guests and worship leaders, and invited the congregation to share the peace of Christ (which it did for a long time with great enthusiasm).  The worship service included a baptism and an original anthem written by Barbara Campbell named “O Little Church of Bethlehem” (set to the tune of  “O Little Town of Bethlehem”).

Bethlehem PC Rev. Josh Braley

Pastor Josh preached the sermon “A Place Called Bethlehem” from Micah 5:2-5.  In his message, he wove together stories from the history of the Bethlehem congregation with the prophecy about the Bethlehem of Christ’s birth.  He encouraged the congregation with the word that God continues to come to small places in power and love so that Christ may be known and experienced in the lives of many.  Josh also shared that over the history of the church, four members became ordained ministers.  A small congregation can make a great difference “because of one source only, Jesus Christ, who is here this morning in this Bethlehem church.”

In the spirit of gratitude and rededication, the service concluded with a Litany of Thanksgiving.  The luncheon that followed included special covered dishes (including several platters of different kinds of deviled eggs) and an assortment of sweet desserts.  The combination of food, fellowship and an enthusiastic presentation of more church history made for a memorable fellowship time!

Note: If your congregation is celebrating a special event, we would be delighted to share that information in our newsletters.  Also, we gratefully accept articles to share!