History of Ebenezer–A Conflict in the Sanctuary

Not a day seems to pass by without hearing of another anger-crazed individual starting a fight, torching a building, or killing another person.  What is behind all of this insanity?  I was horrified to read of the recent torching of the Islamic mosque in Joplin.  Who would do such a thing to a house of worship?  My earnest prayer is that it wasn’t someone claiming it was in the name of God, most especially the “God of the Christians.”

So many shootings and riots and acts of rage—Pray with me, please, for these people who are so overrun with anger and hatred, and some who are just mentally ill, that somehow we can, as a nation, find a way to protect ourselves.  Pray with me that God will give us wisdom and open eyes to see these threats and reach out to those who are suffering under the weight of such anger and/or delusionary thoughts.  We need to be proactive and do what we can, even if only praying, to make a difference in our world.

Christians, if you are laboring under a deep spirit of resentment and anger, please turn it over to God.  That condition is not God’s will for you.  The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control—not anger and hatred toward those who are different.  Let us all pray for those who lost their place of worship in Joplin.  We may not believe as they do, but as the song, (and the Bible) tells us, “They will know we are Christians by our love.”

The original church building at Ebenezer, built in 1854, was the only church building in the young city.  And since the congregation was unable to use it full-time, they invited other congregations in the area to join in with them, using the facility for their own worship services when the Presbyterians weren’t there.  It was a busy place!  In fact, it was used so freely that it came to be seen as a “union church,” one that was built by various groups rather than just the Presbyterians, and therefore, governed by those groups.

This went along well until, in 1868, a conflict arose.  The history written by Stringfield states that one group began preaching against the Westminster Confession of Faith, a foundational confession of the Presbyterian Church, even to reject it.  However, another history states that one of the groups desired to bring a program into the facility that was not consistent with the purpose of the building, that is, worship.  The argument was carried on in the Vedette until, finally, the trustees of the church published the following report of the contributions to the building:

“The house was built in the years A.D. 1854 and 1855, and the first cost of the building and furniture, with all subsequent repairs, amounts to the sum of $2,175; and the money which footed the bills came from the following sources, as appears from the original subscription lists still on hands, viz:”

The reports showed that a total of $1,652 was paid by the congregation and various Presbyterian organizations, $383 dollars from “liberal men of the world” (probably non-church men), $70.50 Cumberland Presbyterians, $47 Methodists, and $22.50 from the Baptists.

Having made this report, demonstrating that the church was indeed built as a Presbyterian Church, the trustees continued, “This House has been solemnly dedicated, by faith and prayer, to the worship of the living God; and hereafter, we will not permit our pulpit to be prostituted from that high and sacred object.”

Very few churches were able to have a full-time pastor in those days, Ebenezer included; therefore, the trustees determined that the church would be used on the second and fourth Sundays each month, reserving the right to use it every Sunday when they were able to have a pastor every week.  But then they did something I found surprising, they re-invited the other churches to the use of the building.

There is an old saying, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”  One would assume, whether the conflict was about conflicting doctrine or “improper use,” that the “scorned” congregation would choose to count all as loss and keep the facility to themselves.  However, the trustees, in the same article, re-invited “our Methodist, Cumberland and Baptist brethren” to use the “house” at other times when not so occupied, stating that each groups is invited to “preach the word” as they understand it and to interpret their “own confessions of faith as they interpret them.”  They continued, “this has always been the practice of the Presbyterian Church here and everywhere.”

Looking back, I am proud to be serving a congregations whose forefathers were so in tune with God’s Word and Spirit that they recognized there are different interpretations, but the same God, and they chose to promote “those things that make for peace” (Romans 14:19), forgiving the conflict and attempting to restore the fellowship we share in Christ.  May God give us the strength and wisdom to do so today, so the world will know we are Christians because of the love we have for one another!

Blessings,

Mary Kay Glunt, Pastor
P.O. Box393
Greenfield, MO  65661
revmkg@sbcglobal.net

 

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