Faith lives on in Franklinville, Maryland

March 5, 2018 by Lee Hinson-Hasty

It is the great joy of my work to visit congregations, and those who love the church, keeping in conversation about how we can ensure we have enough ministers for the future needs of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). These conversations with the faithful remind me once again of the importance of the work we’re doing here at the Theological Education Fund, and reinforce our desire to spread the news of our work.

Franklinville Presbyterian Church’s interior is a beautiful, historic space that’s provided a place for the faithful to gather for more than 150 years.

Last month’s travels took me to NEXT Church in Baltimore, so I took a day to stop by Franklinville Presbyterian Church, which is in an unincorporated area of Baltimore county. It’s a small spot with a lot of history and even more heart. A historic marker that tells the story of the town indicates it was a mill town, home to grist mills, cotton mills and other manufacturing, a place that employed many hard-working folks during the past two centuries. I visited one of those mills, now a museum and headquarters for the largest state park in Maryland. Franklinville Presbyterian Church was officially organized in 1839 by the Baltimore Presbytery upon the request of residents of the town. They thought they needed a church then and, according to their Stated Clerk, the members there now still agree! The land for the church building was donated by the owner of the nearby mill.

What is truly astounding about this small congregation of less than 100 members is the depth of their faith. The church hasn’t been served by a full-time minister for many years, and right now shares two different pulpit supply ministers who are mostly retired. Barbara Laukaitis preaches on the first, third, and fifth Sundays of the month and Jim Riddell on the other two Sundays.

You might think that such a church would be ready to say that their days as a congregation are complete. But they do not believe that.

In fact, this is a church that is still looking into the future, and is giving to just a handful of special offerings, and their collection for Theological Education Sunday is one they give to every year, for over twenty-five straight years! Their spirits have not waivered.

I took a quick selfie with the one of the two ministers serving Franklinville Presbyterian, Barbara Laukaitis, right, as well as the Clerk of Session, Edward Stuebing, center.

This is a church that knows they may not ever have a full-time minister. But they believe that every church deserves to have one – and thus, they support the Theological Education Fund. Our purpose is to keep the cost of theological education low, so that those who want to go to seminary will be able to afford to do so without worrying about creating crushing debt. Our hope is that by removing this barrier to theological education, more people will pursue a seminary education and go on to fill pulpits.

To support a cause that may not ever personally benefit you is the very definition of faith. We, too, believe that every church deserves a full-time minister, and we, too, hope and pray with Franklinville Presbyterian that every church that wants a minister will have one. In addition to financial support for our seminaries, this will take mentoring today’s high school and college students and encouraging those who may hear the call of God to say yes, knowing that the saints of Franklinville, the saints here at the Presbyterian Foundation, and the saints in the pews all around us each Sunday are saying “Amen!”

I wonder what course you and your congregation will charter into God’s promised future alongside our sisters and brothers in the Franklinville Church?  What legacy like the land the mill owner gave freely in the 1830’s will we give that will last for centuries to come?