WAMU 88.5 : Metro Connection

Filed Under:

On the Coast: Presbyterian Church Keeps The Faith For 300 Years

Play associated audio
The Old Rehoboth congregation was formed in 1683, more than 30 years before the present church was built.
Rehoboth Presbyterian Church
The Old Rehoboth congregation was formed in 1683, more than 30 years before the present church was built.
The church is on the National Register of Historic Places. (Rehoboth Presbyterian Church)

In 1706, a group of colonists founded a fledgling church on the banks of the Pocomoke River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. More than 300 years later, that church — Rehoboth Presbyterian — is still thriving.

“I still get surprised by the details of the three centuries and more of history from this congregation,” says Rev. Kirk Dausman, who came here from rural Georgia a little more than a year ago. “It is an honor and I'm very humbled that they would choose me as a pastor in a line that traces their ancestry theologically back to Francis Makemie.”

Francis Makemie is known today as the “father of American Presbyterianism,” and played a leading role in this church in its early days. In the mid-1600s, a man named Colonel William Stevens settled on the Eastern Shore and founded a plantation that he named Rehoboth. He opened his home to people from a number of different denominations over the ensuing years, and eventually decided there was a need for regular church meetings. He sent a request to Europe for a minister, and Makemie was the person sent back.

Since then, the congregation has continued to worship in the church’s red-brick building.

“It’s almost as if it’s been protected, this building,” says the church’s session clerk David Pollack. “We have enough money to keep the building in pretty good shape. It’s hard to keep the materials because they don't make it like they used to, but we try to replace brick with brick when we can find it.”

In its early years, Rehoboth Presbyterian was home to a congregation of about 150 to 200 people. After the Civil War, the congregation shrank to only 8 people, but by the 1950s it had rebounded again to about 150. Right now, the church is at about 81 members.

“This congregation has proven itself to be patient, in many ways and over many generations,” says Dausman.

Music: "Sea of Love" by Tom Waits from Brawlers / "Presbyterian Guitar" by John Hartford from Aero-Plain

NPR

'Rolling The R's' Is A Story About Coming Of Age And Coming Out

Rolling the R's tells the stories of restless teenagers in the disco era in a gritty neighborhood in Hawaii. Author R. Zamora Linmark discusses the book's impact, 20 years after it first came out.
NPR

'Sweetbitter' Is A Savory Saga Of Restaurant Life And Love

Oysters, cocaine, fine wine, love triangles: Stephanie Danler's debut novel Sweetbitter follows a year in the life of a young woman working at a top-tier Manhattan restaurant.
NPR

Trump Rolls Into Washington For Biker Rally

The presumptive Republican nominee for president addressed Rolling Thunder, the annual gathering of motorcyclists, on Sunday. The group seeks to raise awareness of veterans' issues.
NPR

After Breast Cancer Diagnosis, She Channeled Her Ups And Downs Into Texts

NPR's Scott Simon talks with Natalie Sun about her project, textingwithcancer.com. The website won a Webby award, and documents her pessimism and optimism while undergoing chemotherapy.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.