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Topics of interest to Clerks of Session, Session Moderators and others who are interested in Presbyterian local-church governance.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Presbytery Meeting Materials for September 25, 2012

Materials for the upcoming meeting of the Presbytery of Monmouth, slated for Tuesday, September 25 at 7:00 pm at the Presbyterian Church at Shrewsbury, may be downloaded from the Presbytery website.

The Rev. David McKirachan is the church's pastor. He writes a wonderful blog.

The church at Shrewsbury is the oldest church in Monmouth Presbytery. Here's a slightly adapted, brief history of the congregation, from their website:

Scottish Presbyterians began settling in Shrewsbury in 1685 and for a number of years held services in private homes.  John Boyd, the first Presbyterian minister to be ordained in this country, held services in Shrewsbury as early as 1705.

Our first church building was constructed in 1735, on land deeded to the Presbyterians by Nicholas Brown for the purpose of a church and burial ground. This is the same Nicholas Brown who donated land to Christ Church (Episcopal) twenty years earlier.  This building served the congregation until 1800.

The church was active in the War of Independence, preaching resistance to the crown and holding meetings to support the cause.  One of our pastors, The Rev. Charles McKnight, was arrested for preaching sedition and revolution and was imprisoned for two years, eventually dying from injury and sickness sustained during his imprisonment.

Our church building burned in 1800 and for the next twenty years Presbyterians held services in Christ Church, next door.  During this time we developed a close association with our Episcopal neighbors.  So much so that we began reciting the Lord’s Prayer, using “trespasses” instead of “debts” as is the Presbyterian custom.

The corner stone for the present building was laid in 1821 and the building was completed the following year.  The bell tower was added in the 1840s, the social room in 1895, and the steeple in 1964.

It is important to note that in the resolution for the construction of our present building there is a stipulation as follows:  “It will be understood that the Doors of this House shall be opened, when not immediately occupied by the Presbyterians, to all denominations who make Jesus Christ the foundation of their immortal hopes.”  Our church has followed this stipulation and in more recent years, has opened its doors to the local “Society of Friends” when their meeting house was under repair.  Our friends at Christ Church, Monmouth Reform Temple, and Principe de Paz Presbyterian Church have all shared the shelter of our sanctuary and buildings.

The corporate seal of our church’s charter, proclaiming “Religious Liberty” is the oldest of any American Presbyterian Church.  This was a time when Charters were only granted to groups associated with the Church of England.  John Little, a Ruling Elder in our church, along with two other members of the Monmouth Presbytery, managed to secure the Monmouth County Royal Charter in 1750.  This charter recognizes the right of the Presbyterian Church to exist and hold property in Monmouth County.  It was granted by Governor Jonathan Belcher in the name of King George II of England.

Our seal depicts a circle containing a burning bush, a symbol of God’s revelation and eternal presence, the circle eternity.  It is inscribed with the words, “Religious Liberty” with an eight-pointed star.

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