Presbyterian Church in Denison celebrates 150 years
Stories shared at the 150th anniversary service at United Presbyterian Church in Denison on Sunday gave testimony that church forges common bonds that stretch across generations. Even though we might think we are all that different from generation to generation, all share common lessons that are learned in church.
In a comment given during the service, Robert Lyons, age 27, a 2013 graduate of Denison High School, told how the congregation of the United Presbyterian Church in Denison is like a family. The church gave him his love of public speaking; gave him his first experiences on a stage during the Christmas pageant, although he was never to play the part of a wise man but was always a shepherd; and gave him his love of music and singing.
Donald Lyon (no relation), recalled some of the same experiences in that his love for singing was given life by the Presbyterian Church in Denison.
He was baptized at and attended the previous site of the church, at 14th Avenue South and 1st Avenue South.
Lyon is 89, a 1950 Denison High School graduate and a 1956 graduate from Iowa State University Veterinary School. He still practices veterinary medicine in Lime Springs, located in northeast Iowa.
He recalled that he would sit in church with his grandmother, who was born in Scotland and came to the United States when she was 12.
“I knew all the hymns by the time I was six or seven years old. I would stand on the pew and sing because I couldn’t see over the top of the pew,” he said.
He is also the great-grandson of one of the church’s charter members, Thomas Luney.
Other charter members were Samuel Luney, William Luney, James Luney, James Smyth and Samuel Smyth.
On March 14, 1871, they conducted a meeting to organize the First Presbyterian Church in Denison. The first services were conducted at the courthouse.
The first church building was constructed one to two years after the congregation was organized. It was at the corner of South Main and Vine Street.
During the seven years that Rev. A. G. Martyn served the congregation, beginning in 1896, the original church building and property was sold and a new church building was constructed at the corner of 14th Street and 1st Avenue South (which were called Sweet and Chestnut streets, according to an 1897 newspaper account). That building served the congregation until the present church building on North 24th Street was dedicated on July 14, 1963.
In her sermon on Sunday, Rev. Jennifer Olson, the Presbyterian Church’s current pastor, commented that something that has lasted for 150 years in this transitory world can be considered a miracle, and miracles are from God.
She added that the world has changed over the past 150 years with scientific discoveries and learnings and the advancement of technology, and pointed out that the church has also changed. She noted that Presbyterians hold to the tenet that they are reformed, which also means always re-forming and growing and changing and letting God’s spirit work in them.
“Many of you remember the church of the 1950s and 1960s when everyone went to Sunday school and when the pews were filled with children and youth groups and families,” Olson said. “And as we look around today, we see that it’s no longer like that and possibly never will be.
“But don’t let that get you down. Don’t let that take away your hope because God is always doing something new. God is always working through people who are willing and able and interested.”
Olson went on to say, “Jesus didn’t require a big congregation to do His work. He didn’t require His followers to be rich and powerful to join Him. He had a small group of dedicated people, and He started with 12.
“So I believe that we are enough. And of course we want to welcome new folks to walk along side of us but we can follow God and God’s will right here in Denison with exactly who we are and what we have, because the most important factor is that we are willing and open to follow, and to listen for God’s call, and God will do the rest.”