|Beloit College's special bond with Delavan church|
|Written by Todd Mishler/Walworth County Sunday|
|Monday, 03 October 2011 13:27|
Delavan’s United Church of Christ Congregational will host Beloit College President Scott Bierman at 2 p.m. Oct. 9.
(Read the story in the e-edition HERE.)
“We live in a different world from that which lay about this church at its origin. Look at the problems of national existence and of social life. See the ever-increasing millions of heathendom. Consider the forward march of commerce and the methods by which men become millionaires in a day and by which the spirit of degrading worldliness is fostered.
Yesterday we celebrated a beginning. Today we make a beginning. We write the first chapter of our history for another half century. Does someone say this is not a beginning, but a second stage in the development begun 50 years ago? But we shall be faithless to the occasion and to our master and to ourselves, if we do not, make a beginning as real and distinct as that which took place in the old log house with the puncheon floor in 1841.”
The Rev. Laura McLeod finds those words from 1891 still poignant and relevant today. After all, she is one of the pastors who have followed in those mighty footsteps left by the Rev. Joseph Collie, who served the United Church of Christ Congregational in Delavan for 41 years starting in 1854.
“I was doing some research for our recent 170th anniversary celebration,” said McLeod, who has been associate or senior pastor of the downtown congregation the past 11 years. “I found great comfort and encouragement in the words of the Reverend Collie from his sermon to this church on the 50th anniversary. I shared some of these in my message Sept. 18, and I believe they bear repeating.”
No church or denomination can claim a more storied history. And another bond that has separated the Delavan congregation — and other nearby Congregational-UCC churches — from everybody else is the connection to Beloit College.
Delavan Congregational Church was co-founded July 31, 1841, by Stephen Peet. That October, the Rev. Amnon Gaston became its first pastor. Two years later, these two men joined Milwaukee minister Aaron Lucius Chapin in conceiving plans for Beloit College. Chapin became the institution’s first president as it opened its doors in 1847.
Joseph Collie became the college’s first student and graduate, and served the Delavan church for 41 years starting in 1854. Beloit College graduates the Rev. Charles W. and Irmgard Heth Boardman served the church in the 1920s and early ’30s. In the 1950s, the Rev. and Mrs. Joseph Steen sent daughter Ruth Ann to the college, and that trend has continued, although not as directly tied to the pulpit as decades before.
Still, current Beloit College President Scott Bierman will be the guest speaker at an Oct. 9 open house, which is planned for 2 p.m. Bierman has 27 years of teaching and leadership experience in liberal arts education and became the college’s 11th president in July 2009.
His talk is titled “The Best Investment You Will Ever Make: The American Liberal Arts College in the 21st Century,” but he’ll also reflect on the East Washington Street church’s rather unique relationship with the college.
One of those parishioners who’s felt and carried on that tradition is Frank McClellan. The Delavan native and current rural Darien resident was baptized at the church in 1939, and he met his wife Susan, a New Orleans native, at Beloit College, where they both graduated from in 1962.
“I wasn’t active all of those years, but my family has a long history with this church,” said McClellan, who has served on the college’s alumni board the past six years. “And we’ve maintained strong ties to Beloit College, and that’s the way it’s been for many congregational churches and families from this area.
“As religion on campuses has become so diverse over the years, they’ve shied away from making any official connections to one denomination,” McClellan added. “So, it’s a lot different than it was when the founders pulled up with their wagons and ponies. But our Delavan church remembers those past shared contributions and connections. Our congregation today provides for a small scholarship for students who attend Beloit College.”
McLeod said she hopes the local congregation, which still worships in the 1856 sanctuary, hangs onto these strong traditions as it embraces new technologies and ideas in the future.
“Most of the UCC churches are related to Beloit College in some way because they were started in the mid-1850s when pastors were sent over from Beloit to found them,” said McLeod, whose husband, Scott, is pastor at First Congregational UCC in Elkhorn. “It’s sort of an anomaly with this little pocket of churches because of the connection to Beloit. But that’s why the words of Reverend Collie stood out. You can look back, but you also have to look forward. I’m haunted by how applicable his words have been.”
|Last Updated on Monday, 03 October 2011 13:38|