The New Store Presbyterian Church in Dillwyn is celebrating its 175th anniversary this year. On September 29, the Sunday service at 11:00 a.m. will be followed by a lunch at noon, which organizers hope will be attended by former pastors and congregation members who will join the festivities.
“We are currently in the process if reaching out to these people,” Terry Harris, Clerk of the church said. “We are also an aging church, so the reality is that many former members have passed away.”
Currently, the congregation at New Store Presbyterian church is twelve members strong.
Long before it became a chartered chapter of the Presbyterian Church in 1844, the building on New Store Road in Dillwyn was a stage coach stop between Lynchburg and Richmond. It was a meeting place for locals and folks passing through. It was also frequently visited by Hampden-Sydney College Seminary students, who would lead a worship service or bible study class. It is likely that Thomas Jefferson visited the stop on his travels between Monticello and Poplar Forest.
By 1844, there were enough local practicing Presbyterians to make New Store Presbyterian Church a reality. Since its conception, the church has been closely connected with Maysville Presbyterian Church, which is also in Buckingham County, with one pastor presiding over both congregations.
“I’ve been a faithful member of the church since 1956,” Becky Bowling, of Dillwyn, said. “In those days there were quite a lot more members than we have today. It’s safe to say our numbers have declined,” she said.
Bowling and Harris are both part of the committee in charge of preparing the festivities celebrating the anniversary. Both of them hope to reach out to many formers members and pastors, in order to make the celebration a success.
Harris, who has been Clerk of the Session for the past eight years, said the preparations for the church’s 175th birthday are similar to those for its 150th birthday 25 years ago.
Current pastor Kim Steinhorst presides over the small congregation in Dillwyn.
“This area, including the Charlottesville area, has a long and rich history with Presbyterianism, going back to the 1700s”, he said. “The congregation at New Store remains a very faithful one.”
Steinhorst is what’s called an intentional interim pastor, who takes the place of a pastor who retired, or answered another call someplace else.
“I’ve been here since January and on average, I stay in place between one and two years, until a replacement, or settled pastor, has been found,” he said. “But I’ll absolutely be here for the 175th anniversary.”
Steinhorst is well aware that the congregation is declining.
“Buckingham County is the most rural community in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” he said. “And often you see that children move away and find a church somewhere else. And with today’s transportation, it’s also easy for folks to find a church in Appomatox or Farmville. What the future looks like for New Store Presbyterian Church is something that the congregation will have to address. But as long as there are faithful members, there will be a church.”
If you are a (former) member of the congregation, or a former pastor of the church and would like to participate in the celebration of the anniversary, please reach out to Terry Harris: 434-392-9969.