To the Orange Presbyterian Church congregation -
In 2017, May Saxton decided to put together a History Committee to prepare for Orange Presbyterian Church’s 175th Anniversary that would be on November 8, 2020. It was a wonderful group that came together: May and Mike Saxton, Lulu Sherman, Winnie Higgins, Carol Couch, Anne Somerville, and myself, Jennie Hill Robinson.
We spent two years gathering historical documents including photos, recording what historical documents we had, making plans for the anniversary and putting together a guest list for the big day.
May Saxton kept us organized, focused and on schedule. Then the Coronavirus arrived in 2020 and all came to a halt. OPC shut her doors and all the committees adjusted with meeting by Zoom. With sadness we decided in August to cancel the plans for a celebration in November.
Winnie Higgins and Carol Couch had been working on selecting highlights of interest from the Session minutes and were reporting them in the monthly newsletter. Covid-19 prevented them from meeting anymore. There was talk of writing something each week about OPC history as a way to celebrate and I agreed to do it. I also kept up with sharing Session minutes highlights once a month in the Newsletter.
It has been a quite an adventure. I started from the beginning, 1854, and quickly was enthralled, even though the handwriting of the Session minutes was difficult to read. I read Deacon minutes, Men of the Church minutes and Women’s Auxiliary minutes. I was reading about my great grandmother, my grandmother, my great aunt and my cousin Lelia Sanford. I learned things I did not know about them…but was not surprised by what I learned. These women were just a few of the saints of this church. In 1911, we were moving in to our new church on the corner of Main and Caroline.
In 1968 we were hiring architects to design a new church and it was dedicated in 1971.
The body of the church has been rich with families. The membership made up of doctors, lawyers, teachers, farmers, pharmacists, bankers, architects, businessmen and their spouses and children. Some families becoming 3 and 4 generations strong. They have been dedicated, involved, inspiring, and leaders. The young people formed youth groups and benefited and grew from the activities selected by the adults involved.
I joined the FB page, “You are from Orange if you remember…” to see if I could learn more about our church and ended up connecting with one of Rev. Dick Taylor’s daughters, Martha and son, George. There have been other connections made while researching and I am grateful.
I am moved by what I have learned about our congregation and have enjoyed my opportunities to share with all of you. As I write this, I am reminded that today is our 176th Anniversary. I am honored to have been a part of this past year and hope you have enjoyed what I chose to do to celebrate.
I go back to what Robert Jones said in 1995 during our 150th anniversary…I think he said it best: “… it is a vital part of the Orange Presbyterian Church to remind ourselves of the saints of this congregation. And to thankfully celebrate their lives and their example, by bringing up the memories of the part they have played in the continuity of who we are and who we strive to be.”
Happy 176th Anniversary,
November 8, 2021
Jennie Hill Robinson