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

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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

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