Bovina United Presbyterian Church bicentennial celebration Oct. 10 and 11
The Bovina United Presbyterian Church will celebrate its bicentennial over the weekend of October 10 and 11 with a series of events open to the public.
The festivities will begin on Saturday at 11 a.m. with the unveiling of an historic marker on the front lawn of the church followed by a brief service at noon and then a picnic lunch at the site of the original church. A hike will follow the picnic.
At 7 p.m. at the church on Main Street there will be a dessert reception where Ray LaFever will present a history of the church and a DVD slide show by Colleen Heavey.
On Sunday at 10 a.m. there will be a worship service at the church followed by a luncheon.
The Bovina United Presbyterian Church started its days as the Associate Presbyterian Church of Delhi. The congregation started from an 1807 request by a number of mostly Scottish settlers in present day Bovina to the Associate Presbyterian Presbytery of Cambridge for ‘supply of sermon.’ In October of that year, they got their answer in the form of Alexander Bullions, who preached sermons at the end of October and early November at Thomas Landon’s hotel, near Lake Delaware, and the John Thomson farm, just up on what is now Reinertsen Hill Road. Dr. Bullions came back to preach during the latter half of October 1809. During this visit, he organized the congregation with the following original members: Mr. and Mrs. Isaac (Janet) Atkin, Mr. and Mrs. Walter (Elizabeth) Doig, Mr. and Mrs. John (Christina) Elliott, Thomas Hamilton, David Henderson, Mr. and Mrs. William McGibbon, James Russel, James Rutherford and James Stoddard. This congregation saw several name changes, becoming the Associate Presbyterian Church of the Little Delaware in 1815 and then the Associate Presbyterian Church of Bovina in 1820 when the town was formally created. In 1859 it became the United Presbyterian Church of Bovina.
The congregation, over its 200 years, has had over 2,000 members, 21 pastors, over 100 elders and two church buildings. The congregation built its first church in 1815 at the foot of Reinertsen Hill Road. The church was used for 34 years until the present building was erected in the hamlet in 1849. The frame of the original church was given to the Hamden Presbyterian Church for its original building.
The early services in the church were very Scottish in nature, with two services on the Sabbath. The morning service was usually around two hours, with the sermon taking up one hour of that. The afternoon service was somewhat briefer, taking only an hour-and-a-half. In between the two services, the congregation would eat a picnic lunch around the church. Music was restricted to the Psalms, and with the scarcity of hymn books, were led by a preceptor, who would read two lines, the congregation would sing them, then would read the next lines and so forth. As time progressed, the services became more varied. A choir was established in the 1870s and early in the 20th century, the choir was allowed the use of an instrument to accompany them. In more recent years, other instruments such as guitars, have joined the use of the piano and organ for the choir and for congregational hymns, which now go beyond the use of Psalms.
The Bovina UP Congregation saw other changes over time. The role of women in the church grew as the 20th century progressed. Its first women elders were ordained in 1961 and its first female pastor was installed in 1985.
The service on Sunday will include representatives from the Presbytery. Past Bovina pastors will be invited to participate and current and past members of the congregation are most welcome to attend.