Senatobia Presbyterian Church in Senatobia, Mississippi is celebrating its 175th anniversary in 2023.
This spring, the congregation held a special Sunday worship service marking its demisemiseptcentennial.
The May 7 service opened with the ringing of the bell by John Swayne Perkins and his granddaughter, Liv Lane Perkins, descendants of Andrew Harper Caldwell, founder of the church. The bell, in place since 1952, was given in memory of the Rev. Andrew Harper Caldwell by his daughter, Annie Caldwell Bernard. Special music was provided during the service by bagpiper J. Steven Sanders, the Northwest Students Trumpet Quintet, and Margaret Rogers, church organist.
The Rev. Frank Beck led the worship service along with former ministers, the Rev. Bill Williamson and the Rev. Andy Gay. Knox Walkup, great-great grandson of the church’s founder, also participated in the service. Each leader presented a short message and personal reflection on the church’s lasting presence in Senatobia’s faith community. A luncheon followed the worship service for special guests, visitors and members.
“Our congregation’s 175th celebration was truly a generational event,” said Beck. “In some families there were three generations present for the worship service, and in at least one family there were four generations!
“As the pastor of this wonderful, faithful and loving congregation, it was a privilege for me that I happened to be here when the 175th anniversary celebration rolled around. In nearly 40 years of ministry, this moment was one of the most important, significant and moving I’ve ever been a part of, both for a congregation and for me personally.”
The original church was organized in 1848 by the Rev. Andrew Harper Caldwell as the Bethesda Presbyterian Church, on the site of the local cemetery which still bears its name. The present sanctuary was dedicated in 1927.
In August 2022, the St. Andrew Presbytery congregation began a fundraising campaign to repair and restore its original stained glass windows. The manse, similar in structure and presently the church office, was built next door in 1949. The Christian Education building was built in 1952; the present Fellowship Hall was acquired in 1978.
“The entire weekend provided several opportunities for some of us, ministers and laypeople, who were raised in the United Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.), to share profound, cherished and moving memories about the times, eras and events that we have lived in and that formed and still form us into who we are today,” said Beck about the celebration. “We shared in our conversations a common language about the best and the worst in our experiences growing up and serving in the Presbyterian church and in the history and events in the South during our lifetimes. For me, the times we got to spend together sharing these conversations and memories were sacred moments that I will always hold onto.
“The music and singing from the Call to Worship and Processional all the way through the Postlude were magnificent!” Beck added.
The church will host other celebratory events throughout this anniversary year, including a concert by the Baddour Memorial Center’s Miracles Choir in the fall.
Senatobia Presbyterian Church actively supports H.O.P.E Ministries, and its members carry out year-round outreach programs.