The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
A large crowd gathered at the Raritan Baptist Church last Sunday to join the church family in celebrating the 150th anniversary of the founding of the church.
The twelve Baptists who originally gathered to organize the church would certainly have been delighted with the events of the day that showcased the growth and the strength of the congregation over the years.
The festivities of Sunday included a morning worship hour, a catered luncheon, an afternoon concert, and an afternoon worship service.
The official date of the founding was December 24, 1858. Event organizers this year moved the celebration up about five weeks because of holiday and winter weather concerns.
Interim pastor Dan Ashton began the 9:30 a.m. morning worship welcoming a church full of guests to the day's program.
Former pastor Rev. Ralph Deming presented the message of the morning.
Other highlights of the morning service were the reading of the Church Covenant led by Cecil Brown, Chairman of the Deacon Board, and a performance by the Raritan Baptist Church choir being directed by Jim Blender and accompanied by Ruth Olsen on the organ and Paula Stull on piano.
Their anthem "Little White Church on the Hill" included some special verses adapted for the Raritan church by Nedra Stewart who was in attendance to hear the work performed.
After the morning service guests could peruse the large quantity of historical artifacts on display in the vestibule. Among the items on display was a selection of wedding photos taken of couples who were married in the church, many historical brochures from past meetings, various histories of the church published over the years, and photographs that visually documented many of the church projects and social events.
A catered lunch was held in the basement over the noon hour with a casual time of social conversation allowing visitors to catch up with each other.
Several ministers who served the congregation in the past were able to attend for the day including Rev. Ralph Deming, Pastor Dan Vititoe, and Rev. Dean Baldwin's son David. Several other former pastors sent written or mailed greetings for this special occasion.
As guests finished their lunch and talked over memories of church events, they were invited to the sanctuary for a piano concert by Christopher Geiser prior to the afternoon service. Chris is a graduate of Henderson County schools and is on the music staff of Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin.
Christmas hymns highlighted the 2:00 p.m. afternoon worship service.
During the service, greetings to the Raritan congregation were brought by Mary Margaret Day from St. Patrick's Catholic Church, Rev. Jim Olsen from the Raritan Reformed Church, Elma Hobby from the Old Bedford Christian Church, President Jim Richardson of the Salem Association, and the Area III Baptist Churches represented by Rev. Richard Ricks.
During the afternoon service the visiting former pastors had the opportunity to reflect on their memories of serving the Raritan congregation.
Current pastor Dan Ashton concluded the service with a meditation on the faithfulness of the congregation over the years. Church Moderator Sammy Blender welcomed guests, Megan Barber presented a special reading, the choir performed, and the duo of Paula Stull and Ruth Olsen presented special music.
The day came to an end in the late afternoon with a social time of cookies and refreshments served in the church basement.
Most participants marveled at all the changes that have taken place in the world and in Raritan over the last 150 years. Yet, for members of this congregation their faith and commitment has remained constant all this time.
One can only imagine, but yet earnestly hope, that the mission of the church is upheld for yet another 150 years.