By Melissa Rollins, Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org
First Presbyterian Church of Hartsville has a legacy of strong faith. On May 6 and 7, the church celebrated its 150th anniversary.
Dr. Dan Sansbury, the church’s senior pastor, said that the church has a long history in Hartsville and he hopes to see their footprint increase. Sansbury said that he grew up in the Darlington Presbyterian Church, giving him a lifelong connection to the Hartsville church.
“(First Presbyterian) is the fifth church in the family tree,” Sansbury said. “The Williamsburg Presbyterian Church in Kingstree is the oldest church in our part of South Carolina. It is called the Mother of Churches because it started other churches. It started in 1736; it starts the Indiantown church in about 1750. In turn, they start the Hopewell church on River Road south of Florence in 1770. They started the Darlington Church in 1827. They tried to get this church underway in 1857 or 1858.”
Before the church could get started, however, something changed the history of the United States.
“The Pee Dee Presbytery tried to get this church underway and the Civil War interrupted that,” Sansbury said. “I think it is a great moment in the life of this church that the church started in 1867 right after all of the devastation of the Civil War. In the midst of all of that, they went ahead and started the church.”
Plans for a celebration to mark the momentous occasion caused the church staff and members to reflect on where they have been and where they want to go.
“We are more aware through the anniversary of being founded by others; someone who came and shared and taught the Gospel here,” Sansbury said. “That becomes our legacy: fulfilling the Great Commission; that way of passing on the baton of faith to the next generation. We are at that hinge.”
A roll with several hundred members means that generations of families have attended First Presbyterian Hartsville.
“We have a lot of senior folks but we also have a lot of children,” Sansbury said. “We have done a lot of baptisms and six weddings are planned for the rest of the year. We have nursery all the way up to 95-years-old. The baton of faith really is a great picture of us passing on our faith.”
Sansbury said that he and his church understand that a diverse world means that people have different pasts and experiences.
“The church needs to remember who it was but also think about who it will be: that past, present and future,” Sansbury said. “Blessed to be a blessing is trite but it is really becoming truer here. This is a strong church with a great history but how can we make more of a positive difference in Hartsville? Hartsville continues to be a small town but one with a strong economic piece and it has all of these progressive things that are happening with race relations, community relations and trying to improve schools. We have some wonderful leaders, local college, business, but how can we make Hartsville a better place for everyone who lives here? How can we be part of the community in a very loving, supportive way? That means taking the Gospel outside the church.”
Sansbury said that his church has been involved in conversations about what it means to be the church and what that looks like.
“We want to share the Gospel and be faithful and be about more than just what is inside the church walls,” Sansbury said. “This church, I think, has a really health sense that what happens here doesn’t stay here; whatever we have learned or experienced in our sanctuary needs to go out. We are trying to do that.”