Monday, November 29, 2010
The Pastor’s Perspective
“Presbyterianism in Mississippi”
First Published: October 9, 2007
As we approach our dedication services on Sunday, and remember the Lord’s kind providence over us these past 170 years, it is appropriate for us to recount some history here. Presbyterianism came to Mississippi long before Mississippi became a State (on December 10, 1817). One immediately thinks of, for instance, the old Salem [now Pine Ridge (PCA)] Church in Natchez that dates from 1807 - the oldest extant Presbyterian congregation in the State. Within twenty years of the first Presbyterian missionaries in the territory, the Synod of Kentucky constituted the original Presbytery of Mississippi on March 6, 1816.
But there were Presbyterians and Presbyterian churches here even earlier. For instance, the Presbyterians of the New York Missionary Society (of the Presbyterian Synod of New York) had sent missionaries to work among the Choctaw Indians while Mississippi was just barely a territory (established April 7, 1798), in 1799. In 1801, the Synod of North Carolina sent three missionaries who came by way of Nashville, and down the Old Natchez Trace. They established Presbyterianism in the Natchez area (the Bethel , Salem and First Natchez  churches all resulted from their ministry).
In general, Presbyterianism in Mississippi has spread eastward and north out of the southwestern corner of the old territory, from what is now Adams County. Meanwhile, back in the east-central region of the State, the early influence of Presbyterians from North and South Carolina can be seen in the name of the Carolina Presbyterian Church (1841) in Neshoba County.
Presbyterian churches existed in Edwards and Clinton before Jackson. In 1826, the Bethesda Presbyterian Church was founded in Edwards, and the old Mount Salus Church was established in Clinton, prior to the organization of First Church in Jackson. The Bethesda Church is the oldest church in the Mississippi Valley Presbytery (PCA).
The congregation of First Presbyterian Church, Jackson began its history on a Saturday afternoon, April 8, 1837, by the Rev. Peter Donan and four persons: Mrs. Margaret E. Mayson, Mrs. Susan Patton, and John Robb and his wife, Marion. The organizational meeting was held in “the Old State House,” Mississippi's first capitol, a small two-story structure on the northeast corner of East Capitol and North President Streets.
The organizing pastor (what today we would call a “church planter”) was Peter Donan. Donan studied at Princeton Seminary under Charles Hodge and Samuel Miller, continued as the church’s pastor for four years. There were no elders for two years, no deacons for six years, and no meeting house for nearly nine years. In the first two years of its existence, the church had but three new members.
We’ll continue to tell the story of the history of Presbyterianism in Mississippi, and the history of our congregation, in this column in weeks to come. Meanwhile, I am looking forward to worship services with you here on Sunday morning and evening with R.C. Sproul and Jim Baird preaching. And don’t forget, Jimmy Turner will preach the following Wednesday night (Oct 17). See you here!
Posted by Ligon Duncan at 4:24 PM