On Sunday, May 18, the White Plains Presbyterian Church will celebrate the 300th anniversary of its founding in 1714 with a 10:00am service of worship followed by the ground-breaking of its new community garden, Groundswell, and a reception. Under the banner “Faith in the City,” the church will not only mark its storied history but confirm and deepen its work for the common good of all White Plains.
“In this time of dramatic climate change, persistent poverty, and global connection, Founding Day cannot, must not be only about the past,” insists Senior Pastor Jeffrey A. Geary. “Remembrance prompts us to pledge ourselves to our community and to future generations thirty and three hundred years out, that starting right now we will live responsibly on God’s earth, that we will dedicate our lives to correcting those natural, corporate and human systems that have placed our planet and its people in such precarity, and that we will raise the youngest generation of Christians to do likewise.”
The worship will feature a sermon by Rev. Geary, “Founding the Church and Founding the Future,” special music from the choir and musicians, and include presentations by elected officials from the city, county, state and federal government. The worship will highlight how the church seeks the common good in partnership with local organizations such as My Sister’s Place, the White Plains Youth Bureau, Hudson Valley Community Coalition, Lineage Farm, and the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women.
The church traces its founding to a gift of property from John Frost of Rye to the Rev. Christopher Bridges of White Plains, which is one of the earliest documents indicating that people were living in White Plains according to Rob Hoch, President of the White Plains Historical Society. Familiar names such as Purdy, Hatfield, Budd, and Hart were among the first congregants. Within the church’s cemetery visitors will find the gravestones of Jacob and Abigail Purdy, who gave their home to George Washington to use as his White Plains headquarters during the revolutionary War as well as the graves of many revolutionary soldiers.
White Plains Presbyterian Church was also where Daniel D. Tompkins, the sixth Vice President of the United States grew up and where his family is buried. Mr. Tompkins served under President James Monroe and prior to that was the Governor of New York. While he was governor, Tompkins set the date when slaves in New York State should be freed (July 4, 1827).
Fans of the new AMC show, TURN, which chronicles the adventures of spies during the revolutionary war, will enjoy learning that the mother of Col. Benjamin Talmadge who headed General Washington’s spy network, was none other than Susannah Smith, the daughter of the Rev. John Smith who served White Plains Presbyterian Church from 1742-1771.
“To worship in this church, to walk its grounds, is to walk in the steps of the founding of our nation and our city,” reflected Rev. Geary, “it is a stirring and humbling experience. And to our generation also has been given the opportunity to contribute to the well-being of humanity and the earth itself. The next three hundred years begin now. May we rise to its summons.”
Who: Ministers and members of White Plains Presbyterian Church, Elected Officials, Community Leaders and the wider city
What: Service of Worship, Groundbreaking of Community Garden and Reception
Where: White Plains Presbyterian Church, 39 North Broadway, White Plains, NY
When: Sunday, May 18, 10:00am