Donnellson Presbyterian Church

"I call you by your name...though you do not know me." Is. 45:4

Our Mission

Our purposes include:

• Expressing the “Good News” of God’s Love
• Encouraging spiritual growth
• Providing a welcoming, friendly home church environment
• Offering Sunday School and Worship Services every Sunday morning

Donnellson Presbyterian is a member of the Parish of the Open Door, consisting of Butler Union Church, Donnellson Presbyterian Church, Reno-Bethel Presbyterian Church, Sorento Presbyterian Church, Waveland Presbyterian Church, and Witt Presbyterian Church. 

Our History

History of Donnellson Presbyterian. Compiled by rainofhearts.

A church is its people. And so it is with Donnellson Presbyterian. From the article Pioneer Days by G.W. Paisley: “The earliest church organization in the county which is still in existence is the Presbyterian church at Donnellson. This organization has remained intact without a break from its inception to the present time. Originally organized and named, 'The Bear Creek Cumberland Presbyterian church of Montgomery county, Illinois,' it has maintained a separated continuous, unbroken corporate life, from the early days of the republic down to a time well past the middle of the second decade of the new century.”

In 2019, Donnellson Presbyterian celebrated its 200th birthday with a Homecoming and History program!!

“The men and women who organized it, and made it a power for religion and good morals, have long since passed away, but their work was taken up by worthy successors who gave to the old church a new lease of influence and usefulness.”

From Pioneer Days: "Session book containing the records of Bear Creek Society formed in Montgomery county, in the state of Illinois, first constituted and organized by the Rev. Green P. Rice the 6th day of May, in the year 1818. The first camp meeting was held in the upper end of Bond county, in the year 1819. The second camp meeting was held near the same place in 1820. The ordinances were administered by the Rev. Green P. Rice and Rev. R. Morrow.”

The current church building in the 600 block of Adams Street in Donnellson, Illinois is the fourth church building, and the second structure in this current location. From camp meetings, to a small log cabin; to a weather-boarded country church with a chimney and small stove; to a brick building with shuttered windows, steeple and bell; to a modern, spacious structure with stained glass windows, electricity, plumbing, public address system and a basement, the Bear Creek Society and Donnellson Presbyterian churches have evolved with their congregation's shifting needs.

From the publication “One Hundred Twenty Years of Donnellson Presbyterian Church History 1819-1939” Compiled by Olive F. Kaune: “Today the work of the growth and development of the church has passed in review. We learn what a blessing it has been through the... years since it was organized by those faithful pioneers.”

The Donnellson Presbyterian Church is no longer simply an organized individual congregation. In the fall of 1946, the Donnellson church joined with the Presbyterian churches of Butler, Coffeen, Nokomis, Reno-Bethel, Sorento, Waveland, Witt, Staunton, and Raymond to form the Larger Parish of the Open Door. This association of churches has cooperated financially, supporting and sharing ministers and engaging in special meetings for fellowship, with inspirational and informative programs. There are also Parish organizations of men, women, and youth, which engage in Parish-wide programs and projects. Today, there are six remaining member churches in the Parish of the Open Door.

Worship has always been an important part of the life of the Donnellson Presbyterian Church. Sunday morning services are held regularly, and Sunday evening Bible studies and prayer meetings have been held on various schedules through the years. Special services are held and Christmas and Easter, and on World Day of Prayer. Since 1952, the church has been host to many student ministers, some here one or two Sundays, others for a summer or an academic year. Other qualified persons in the Donnellson and Greenville areas have also filled the pulpit on various occasions. [from One Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of Donnellson United Presbyterian Church of the U.S.A., Church History 1819-1969. Compiled by a committee including Jane Hopkins. Page 6.]

The last official pastor, Rev. James Howie, retired in 2012, having served the Donnellson congregation and the Parish of the Open Door for 58years. He began preaching here, as well as at the other churches of the Parish, when he was a student at Millikin University. Rev. Howie became the first and only minister to be ordained in our church. This service was held on June 28, 1959.

The congregation has been glad to have music as part of its worship services during all of these years. A choir was formed in 1956, which continued to 1964. Since then many special numbers have been presented by individuals and groups. Several organists have provided sanctuary music over the years and currently Mrs. Eleanor Gregory and Ms. Jane Hopkins split piano responsibilities for Sunday services. [from One Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary... Church History 1819-1969. Page 6-9.]

Harvest Home

“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” --Malachi 3:10.

“In 1898, Mr and Mrs William Bigham visited relatives in Texas. While there they attended a harvest home gathering. On their return home, Mr Bigham suggested to a group of the young people that Donnellson should have a harvest home and several of them went to work. The manse was empty at that time, so it was selected as the place in which to serve the dinner. It proved to be such a grand event that it was voted to hold a harvest home each year. In 1899 the church as an entire group planned to serve both dinner and supper. The organization of harvest home was forty years old last August. It has become a homecoming for all who have ever lived here. They look back to that one day as the best day of the year. Many are the humorous incidents connected with experiences of those who went to solicit for miles around. Some wonderful programs have been proved for guests, who have come from distant points to enjoy the day. For a few years the dinner was dispensed with and a free will offering was taken, but those who had a yearning for the old time gatherings, which brought so many happy memories, insisted it be as of yore—so harvest home still goes on.” [from One Hundred Twenty Years... Church History 1819-1939. Page 27-28.]

The annual Harvest Home celebration described in the earlier History is still regularly held. The day includes a special Worship service, receiving of a special offering, a pot-luck dinner, and an afternoon program. These afternoons have seen musical programs, missions trips talks, skits and poetry readings, and reminiscences. The highlight of the day is always the fellowship with former members and friends of the Donnellson congregation.

Sunday School today has two departments, a Primary Department and an Adult Department. In 1969 there were four Primary classes which met in the church basement. There were six Adult classes, composed of Junior High, High School, College, Co-Workers (married couples), Men's Bible and Comrades (meeting in devotional and social contexts). In 2016 there was one Adult Sunday School class and two classes for Children (ages 3-10). In 2019, the Children's class no longer meets. Each Sunday, people having birthdays make contributions to the Birthday Box. This money has been used for various projects, such as the purchase of sixteen small chairs for the children and of Christian and American flags. [from One Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary... Church History 1819-1969. Page 9-10 and 12-13.]

A Parishwide Family Conference, begun in 1973, has replaced Vacation Bible School and continues through the years, with our church taking an active part each year, providing teachers, worship leaders, coordinating special speakers, and helping with refreshments. [from Donnellson Presbyterian Church 1969-1985. Page 2.]

Women's Organizations

From Donnellson's early existence, the Ladies' Aid remained the organization responsible for many minor church and manse repairs and the Missionary Society continued to study and support our missionaries, through the Alton Presbyterial. In 1960, however, the United Presbyterian Church had re-organized its structure and urged the women to follow its example. After inviting several visitors to explain the new structure and a lengthy discussion and vote, the Ladies' Aid and the Missionary Society merged into the United Presbyterian Women's Association. In 1961 there were two Bible study circles of six to eight members each. The ladies involved met in the homes of members and training sessions were offered by Rev. Howie to guide the lessons. These Circles met monthly and the Association met bi-monthly. Today, the Presbyterian Women holds one meeting a year and also takes part in the larger Presbytery women's gatherings throughout Southeastern Illinois.

Youth Activities

The young people of the church have often been involved in other activities besides Sunday School and Church. They have organized a Junior Christian Endeavor Society, Summer Junior Choirs, Bible study groups, Christian living learning discussions, and having fun together. Some of the young people have appreciated the experience of a week at a church camp, most notably the camps at Pere Marquette State Park, Blackburn College, and Little Grassy Lake.

A favorite activity of all the young at heart is the Christmas Carol sing. In past years carolers formed a group at the church and sang at the homes of shut-ins and other friends. Then they returned to the church for a warming-up party, which in recent years has evolved into a church Christmas party sans the freezing cold outdoors caroling. [from One Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary... Church History 1819-1969. Page 9-10 and 21.]