263 years and counting

Reunion services planned at Old Bluff Church

By LAURA PATTERSON
Assistant managing editor
Posted 9/24/21

It’s been 263 years since the founding of Old Bluff Presbyterian Church, one of the oldest churches in the Upper Cape Fear River Valley. A reunion service marking the anniversary is set for …

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263 years and counting

Reunion services planned at Old Bluff Church

Posted

It’s been 263 years since the founding of Old Bluff Presbyterian Church, one of the oldest churches in the Upper Cape Fear River Valley. A reunion service marking the anniversary is set for Sunday, Sept. 26, at 11 a.m.

Old Bluff, founded in 1758, was entered on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. Although no longer open for regular services, a reunion is held each year on the fourth Sunday in September.

On Sunday, plans are to be inside the old Godwin church for the worship time followed by the traditional covered-dish picnic on the grounds, said the Rev. Meg Lindsay Dudley, pastor of nearby Bluff Presbyterian Church in Wade.

Guest speaker will be Dudley’s husband, the Rev. Howard Dudley, pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Dunn.

The Dudleys will lead worship services and also preside over the table during the Lord’s Supper. The service will include the traditional memorials to those who have died from Bluff, Godwin and McMillan Presbyterian churches. One of those remembered will be a man who was instrumental in keeping up with the history of the church and also of the local area.

“We will also have annual memorials, with a special memorial gift in memory of James McNeill Williams (Mac), who was a lifelong member of Bluff and historian of Old Bluff,” said Rev. Meg Lindsay Dudley.

Mac Williams died Dec. 16, 2020, and was laid to rest in the Old Bluff Presbyterian Church Cemetery.

The McNeill paraments — cloths on the pulpit and communion table — will be presented during the memorials. They were made by Linda McLaurin and modeled after the banner in Old Bluff made by Irene Hall for the 2008 sestercentennial with a Scottish tartan fittingly called “MacNeil of Barra.”

According to a historical narrative written by Mac Williams, “In 1780 the congregation of Rogers Meeting House decided to build on the east side of the Cape Fear River. A site on the bluff of the river was chosen and the name of the church was changed to Bluff Presbyterian Church. The building called Old Bluff today was built in 1858 and is the site of the third building on the bluff site.”

On Oct. 16, 1908, the Bluff congregation moved to Wade Station into a new facility, exactly 150 years to the day since the church was established at Rogers Meeting House. The church in Wade is called Bluff Presbyterian Church.

Old Bluff Church is located on Old Bluff Road, outside Godwin. Few alterations have been made to the original wooden structure. The building is two stories with the second story being a balcony extending from the pulpit end down both sides and across the back. According to Williams’ narrative, slaves were listed as members of the church and seated in the balcony but eligible to receive baptism and communion.

The windows have always been painted and etched with designs on the outer edges, but few original panes survive today.

As a remembrance to the descendants of the Scottish Highlanders who organized the historic Godwin church, attendees on Sunday will hear melodies played by bagpiper Doug Elwell. Pam Kelly will play the violin and Bonnie McIntyre will play the piano.

“We will not have a full choir,” said the Rev. Meg Lindsay Dudley. “We will have a special group of singers.”

Due to the recent increase in COVID cases, masks are recommended and Dudley said the services will be broadcast from the church if anyone wants to stay in their car and listen. Services also can be seen later in the day on YouTube.

Visit bluffpc.org for a complete history of Old Bluff Church. DVDs of Mac Williams telling the history of the church and a PDF of the written history with images is also available on the site.

Laura Patterson can be reached at lpatterson@mydailyrecord.com or at 910-230-2029.

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