Archived Story

Old Rugged Cross centennial celebrated Sunday

Published 10:00am Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Old Rugged Cross Foundation is celebrating the 100th year since “The Old Rugged Cross” hymn was first introduced in January 1913.

The celebration will be Sunday, Sept. 15, at 3 p.m. at the Old Rugged Cross Church and Museum in Pokagon.

The celebration will be in the form of a re-enactment of the revival at which the Rev. George Bennard first introduced the final version of his hymn to the public.

Bennard will be portrayed by the Rev. Jeff Whittaker, pastor of the Michiana Christian Embassy Assembly of God Church in Niles.

The part of the Rev. Leroy O. Bostwick, who was pastor of the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Pokagan in 1913, will be played by the Rev. Sean Kidd, current pastor of Pokagon United Methodist Church.

The hymn was first presented by the Rev. Bennard, accompanying himself on the guitar, and then by a choir of four, an organist and a violinist in the same building that is now named The Old Rugged Cross Church and Museum.

This year’s reproduction of the event will have a choir reminiscent of the original four, and Sharon McKnight will accompany them on the original pump organ that first played the hymn in its entirety.

Congregational singing and a free-will offering will complete the planned service.

Those participating in the re-enactment will be dressed as closely as possible like the original participants might have been.

For added fun and a greater sense of authenticity, the public is also encouraged to dress in period costume.

Light refreshments will be served in the museum following the 3 p.m. celebration, then a hymn sing begins at 6 p.m.

There is no charge for any event held at the ORC Church, although free-will offerings are received and used for the continuing restoration.

A new cedar shingle roof was just installed, bringing the restoration within 10 percent of being completed.

However, funds for the roof were borrowed from the church’s window fund and must be repaid before the balance of the windows can be reproduced.

The church does not hold regular weekly services, but is open to the public, serving as a museum and is a venue for weddings, funerals and can be used by other churches for special services.

Hymn sings take place at 6 p.m. on the first and third Sundays, beginning in May and ending after the first Sunday in December.

Concerts are held on the third Sunday at 3 p.m. from May through November, and feature local individuals or groups willing to share their talent to help raise funds for the ORC Church restoration and maintenance.

The church is located at 61041 Vermont St. in the Village of Pokagon, half way between Niles and Dowagiac; a quarter mile east of M-51 and a half block south of Pokagon Highway.

For more information, or to arrange a personal tour, call the ORC Foundation at (269) 683-4540 or email them at


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