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We spent two years gathering historical documents including photos, recording what historical documents we had, making plans for the anniversary and putting together a guest list for the big day.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
At the September Session meeting, we had a great discussion about what to do with the church's Memorial Funds. The funds total $19,500. Yes, $19,500!
We talked about the wonderful people who were no longer with us, and the gifts they had given us and our community. We considered ways we could honor our friends and loved ones.
The Memorial Garden
Everyone loves and admires the memorial garden. Jennie Hill Robinson, Ann Somerville, Shirley Newman, and Nancy Crowder used their talents to turn a small piece of lawn into a beautiful sanctuary. The central stone was given in honor of Dot Browning. The benches were given in memory of Fred Sherman, Leroy Crowder, and Joyce Palmer.
Jennie and Ann continue to maintain and nurture the garden. They do this in memory of all our church friends and family who are no longer with us.
Occasionally, you can see flowers left in memory of someone.
Improving the sanctuary
A few years ago, we used memorial funds for a different purpose. They purchased and paid for the installation of a new sound system in the sanctuary. We dedicated the system to the memory of Fred Sherman. What a perfect gift to honor Fred, who faithfully operated the old system for decades.
Improving our physical plant
Memorial funds paid for a replacement door to the Sunday School wing. It was in memory of Cheryl Lewis' father. The funds also turned the men’s room in the East Room into a handicapped bathroom. Cheryl’s dad was in the hardware business, and she thought this was a perfect gift.
A scholarship was been given to the OPC preschool in honor of Eleanor Vasquez and Jean Berkman. These two ladies were the founding members of the preschool.
In our discussion, we realized that we wanted to do more. We wanted to reach out to our community in honor of church members. In keeping with Matthew 25, we decided to move out into the community. Each month we want to memorialize church members with gifts to local organizations or groups.
In September, we voted to give a scholarship to Shady Grove Academy, in downtown Orange. This was in memory of Pat Stewart. Pat loved giving all people a helping hand.
In October, we voted to honor Joyce and Syd Palmer by donating to the Orange Art Center. The donation supports their outreach programs, which include children and handicapped adults.
Let us know what you think. We have many more people to honor. Do you have a suggestion? Come to the Session meeting and pray with us. We would love to talk to you. Please let the Clerk of Session know you will be coming, so you can be on the agenda.
- Diane Haberland