In his epistle to the Colossians in the New Testament of the Bible, the apostle Paul penned a missive about the clothing of a Christian. He was not referring to clothing in a physical sense, but in a spiritual sense — the clothing of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
The threads of Christian clothing that bind the descendant congregation of Long Street Presbyterian Church were woven June 30, as the community, members of the Fort Bragg Chaplain’s Office and the Fort Bragg Cultural Resources Management Program gathered for its annual reunion.
Long Street Presbyterian Church is one of two antebellum churches on Fort Bragg and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Immigrants from the Scottish Highlands established the church in the historic Argyle community in the mid-eighteenth century. Patrons worshipped there until the Army purchased the land in 1921. Now, the Fort Bragg CRMP manages and preserves the structure and its cemetery. The Long Street Presbyterian Church reunion is held annually on the last Sunday in June.
The Reverend Clark Remsburg of Canton, Miss. and the Reverend Edward McLeod of First Presbyterian Church in Raleigh, N.C. officiated the service.
McLeod is the great grandson of Long Street Presbyterian Church’s last active minister, Reverend R.A. McLeod, who resigned his post in 1923.
The service began with patrons offering announcements and welcoming new visitors. Several members of the congregation could trace their ancestry to elders and original members of the church. Others had no familial ties to the church but were drawn to the service for its historical significance and valuable sermon.
“It is an honor to be a part of this great tradition,” McLeod said.
McLeod preached from Deuteronomy and Colossians, and he discussed the Christian clothing. “And above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony,” he read.
McLeod recounted a tale of a Greek festival that he attended in South Carolina. When the congregation of the local Greek Orthodox Church danced, McLeod was surprised to see that the revelers were not the older worshippers, but the young children who were learning of their heritage, embracing the traditions of their ancient culture and sharing them with the world. He urged the Long Street Presbyterian Church congregation to “dance the dance” of the historic community that had worshipped at the church for generations and to proudly wear the metaphorical clothing that define Christians.
“Unless we continue to dance the dance, we will fail to preserve the legacy of this community,” he noted. “This reunion is a wonderful way to honor our ancestors, but they want more from us. They want us to dance the dance of the faithful that began here long ago. The story of this church is still being written by those who trace their ancestral lineages through this place. The imprint of this place, the lessons learned and the devotions we cherish … these are passed along to our children, just as the Greeks passed along the tradition of dance to their children. By dancing the dance, we are continuing this church’s heritage. We honor that heritage. Though the doors of Long Street Church have been closed, we are its witnesses and the good we do in Christ’s name will continue to radiate across eternity.”
McLeod ended the service with a quote from his great grandfather, from the latter’s Historical Sketch of Long Street Presbyterian Church (1923): “No one will ever be able to measure the influence of this altar for good.”
Maxine McFadyen attended the service with her husband, who is a direct descendant of members of the early presbytery. “The gathering of the Families, the songs, the service … I have chills,” she said.
Dr. Jamie MacDonald, a scholar of Scottish studies and professor of the Gaelic language and song, said he too was impressed with the event. His relatives were involved in the church when the congregation was active. He said that he was pleased to be a part of their legacy and that by attending the service and mingling with other descendants, he had expanded his knowledge about their history.
Chaplain (Maj.) Randall Curry said that he was also blessed to witness the reunion and that his favorite aspects of the event were the stories of the people who were connected to the church. According to Curry, the Long Street Church reunion also provided a unique opportunity for the chaplain’s office. “One of the Chaplain Corp’s core competencies is to nurture the living,” he said. “Daily we do that with Soldiers and Family members. It is a rare occasion that we can do that with descendants of a church. This is a unique situation because the land Fort Bragg uses to train Soldiers’ skills is the land surrounding the historic church. We are able to complete the mission today partly because of the past members of this congregation. This event allows the chaplain’s office to again say ‘thank you’ to a congregation of people who made a sacrifice years ago in order to serve our country and support our troops.”
The event provides another means for the CRMP to preserve Fort Bragg’s oldest and most precious historical artifacts, too. “The Cultural Resources Management Program at Fort Bragg is always enthusiastic about providing access and support for the annual congregation reunions at Long Street Presbyterian Church,” said Dr. Linda Carnes-McNaughton, archaeologist. “We are deeply impressed by the longevity and dedication of the congregation descendants and their desire to continue services in the church of their ancestors. We share a mutual respect for those early settlers of the Fort Bragg landscape and learn more about their history through these shared events. As anyone who has ever attended this reunion event in the graceful grandeur of Long Street Church can tell you, it is truly a spiritual experience recommended by a ‘higher authority’.”
For more information, call the Fort Bragg Cultural Resources Management Program at 396-6680. Or, go to http://sustainablefortbragg.com and visit the Cultural Resources page for details.