living history


    We stepped back into the history of our church today for our annual worship service at O’Kelly Chapel, the birthplace of our congregation (as explained by this plaque):

    We had an amazing cool, sunny spring day for our gathering, which included dinner on the grounds following worship.

    We used the old hymnals, which meant we got to sing a lot of old gospel songs I grew up with, using the old pump organ and the piano in the chapel, niether of which had been tuned in some time. We augmented the accompaniment with fiddles, guitars, and harmonicas.

    Being in that wonderful old wooden room with the gentle breeze blowing through the open windows made me want to know more about how we got from there to where we are now. If you come out of the chapel grounds and turn left on Highway 751 all you have to do is stay on the very same highway until you get into town and come to Pilgrim UCC on the right. The spiritual journey of our congregation is more complicated and interesting; the path is not quite so direct. Most any faith journey is full of twists, turns, and surprises.

    To stand knee deep in a history I don’t know was fascinating to me because I found much there that felt familiar. The old hymns were the same ones I grew up singing in the Baptist church. The old wooden building was much like my seminary pastorate in central Texas. But I felt something more profound than my personal connections. I caught a sense of the line of faith that connects us all across the ages; our church history doesn’t end at O’Kelly Chapel, but runs through it instead, one thread of a web of grace and love that has caught us all.

    Like the old song says:

    All glory and praise
    to the God of all grace,
    Who has brought us and sought us
    and guided our ways.

    Hallelujah! Thine the glory
    Hallelujah! Amen.
    Hallelujah! Thine the glory
    Revive us again.



    1. I love that James O’Kelly was born in Ireland or Virginia!
      How wonderful to go back to the church’s roots each year.

    2. We, too, sat in a country church this weekend singing old hymns to the pumping rythmn of a reed organ, feeling a bit like Laura Ingells and Almanzo Wilder. The opportunity connected us with my ancestors, courtesy of Putnam Township’s annual Memorial Day worship service and American Legion tribute. We tagged along with my parents (as we do every other year) to attend Memorial Day services at Union Church and Cemetery. It’s a country church just over a mile from my grandparents’ homestead…

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