By Emily Sussman
Just off Longstreet Road, tucked behind long leaf pines, is Long Street Presbyterian Church, one of the oldest standing buildings on Fort Bragg.
According to historical records, the church was built between 1845 and 1847. Once the modern hum of generators and industrial strength fans had been tuned out, the sounds of long-separated Family greeting one another could be heard. Descendants of the founding members of Long Street church met and reunited in worship, Sunday. Attendees were happy to share stories of the church’s origins.
“(The government) decided … to take land (that) was part of three counties, Hoke, Cumberland and Moore, and to take that area would mean taking this (church). My grandfather agreed to that on the condition that the Army maintain the Family church and make it accessible to the McFadyen clan together in fellowship and worship once a year, and the Army has stayed true to that and it’s fantastic,” said Mary Shapiro.
Shapiro’s mother was a McFadyen and her grandfather assisted in the government’s original land survey.
A collaborative effort, the annual event was funded by the Religious Support Office, tasked to Chaplain Kenneth M. Godwin Jr., 44th Medical Brigade, staffed by the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division and coordinated by Dr. Linda F. Carnes-McNaughton, Register of Professional Archaeologists, Department of Public Works, Environmental Division.
“We start at least six months out … we start contacting all the players … the congregation descendants, DPW (Fort Bragg Directorate of Public Works), because we are responsible for … all of the maintenance ... we do all these facility management things, and then we work with the chaplain’s office and they help us identify the Soldiers unit, and you can see everything they do, parking, opening and closing grounds, set up,” explained Carnes-McNaughton.
Upon entering the antebellum-era church, visitors found a display, courtesy of DPW. It included items of relevance to the descendent community’s Scottish heritage, such as a donated 1826 Gaelic Bible, and a small metal tam o’shanter badge, which was excavated on Fort Bragg. The badge features an image of “Monarch of the Glen.”
Attendees could also view a variety of posters detailing local history, including the maps, house and schools of Old Argyle, the Long Street Church history, and the impacts of war on the area.
The Rev. Clark Remsburg, Jr., descendent of the Clark Family, led the service. Remsburg opened with announcements that included the retirement of his mother Joyce Remsburg as pianist for the reunion events, announcements of deceased congregation members and introductions of newcomers, including the youngest congregation member — Chaplain Godwin’s five-and-a-half-month-old son Asa.
Godwin’s wife Sarah played the keyboard in Joyce’s stead and her eldest daughter Deborah turned the pages of the music for her. Godwin read the opening prayer and Sandy McKethan, commissioned lay minister from Dunn, North Carolina, read from the scripture and delivered the sermon.
The baptism of Lauchlin James McDiarmid followed the sermon. Remsburg carried the one year old around the church as the congregation sang “Jesus Loves Me.”
Many in attendance described the significance of this event to them and their Families.
“(I) can’t even express how important it is. The Family comes from all over,” said Shapiro, who was accompanied by her husband and both of her daughters and their Families, all of whom traveled from California for this year’s reunion.
“It’s special for the children … to see people, our relatives, and also … to give some roots to the children,” explained Joyce Remsburg.
Even those affiliated with Fort Bragg were moved by the event.
“I was told there could be 100 people, but just to see these folks come together once a year, and they are … descendants of the original founders of this church, it’s just history, living history, and it’s just cool, and to have a baptism — wow. That was great. That was neat,” said Godwin.
Carnes-McNaughton agreed.
“I think it’s a reassurance of the importance of this landscape to not just Fort Bragg and the military community, but all those people who came before and whose ancestors worshiped here and are buried over there (in the cemetery) and who lived here,” she said.
As has been tradition in the past, the service culminates with a potluck picnic.
Remsburg’s eldest daughter, Shiloh Qasserras, claimed, “You kinda find your core again for the year … as children we used to run under the stairs here and catch lizards and play in the rafters and I hope … she (her daughter Nisreen, two and a half) can do the same … our favorite part was being able to eat afterwards, and we called this ‘hot church.’ We don’t call it Long Street we called it ‘hot church.’”
Despite the lack of air-conditioning in the space, it was clear everyone felt as Carnes-McNaughton explained: “It’s just so joyful when we all get here.”