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Starting with a “Society of Covenanters”

09. February 2009

Columns, Congregation of the Month,

  

Coldenham-Newburgh RPC

Location: Walden, N.Y.

Presbytery: Atlantic

Organized: 1798

Membership: 34 communicant; 10 baptized

Pastor: Charles Leach

T he Coldenham-Newburgh RPC got its start in the mid-1700s when a “Society of Covenanters” began meeting in New York’s Hudson Valley in a community called Coldenham. A visiting preacher periodically traveled there on horseback. The congregation was officially organized in 1798, a simple building was erected in 1799, and Alexander McLeod became the first pastor in 1801. Coldenham was also the site of the first RP seminary, presided over by Professor J. R. Willson.

The church gets its unwieldy hyphenated name from a merger that took place in 1975 with the nearby Newburgh RPC. The building and property have seen many changes over the past 210 years, and many pastors have served there.

During its long history (long by American standards), the church has often taken a biblical stand on social and political issues. From its inception, the church opposed slavery. An anti-slavery sermon by Pastor McLeod was published and distributed widely along the eastern seaboard of the new nation. Later, the congregation participated in the work of the Underground Railroad. In the early 1800s, Pastor James Renwick Willson, known for his powerful preaching style, served as chaplain of the New York state legislature ...

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