Recycle items help Old Rugged Cross Church

Published 6:31 am Saturday, August 1, 2009

Five southern Michigan churches have “recycled” usable items they no longer need to benefit The Original Old Rugged Cross (ORC) Church in Pokagon. Two of the churches have links to the ORC Church’s history.

Albion First United Methodist Church donated 68 folding metal chairs and a wheeled chair storage rack. The church replaced the folding chairs with stackable chairs. Albion UMC’s gift to the church where the hymn “The Old Rugged Cross” was sung publicly in its entirety for the first time in 1913 is particularly ironic, according to Old Rugged Cross Foundation (ORCF) President Bob Shaffer.

“The Albion First UMC is on the same street, about five blocks from where the hymn’s composer, Rev. George Bennard, rented a home while he lived in Albion,” Shaffer said. “That home is said to be where Rev. Bennard began composing ‘The Old Rugged Cross.’ During that time he came to the then First Methodist Episcopal Church of Pokagon to assist with several weeks of revival meetings. He brought the partially written hymn with him. While in Pokagon, he completed the soon to be internationally beloved hymn, after working on it for a lengthy time.”

The Albion home where the Rev. Bennard lived no longer exists. However, a Michigan Historical Marker notes the location’s significance.

Breedsville UMC donated 25 folding metal chairs to the ORC church.

“We are pleased to help such a wonderful organization,” said Pastor David Haase. Their church no longer used the folding chairs after purchasing padded ones.

Pokagon UMC donated 60 Crowning Glory hymnals and 37 New Tabernacle hymnals to the ORC church. The Pokagon UMC has used hymnals that are more current for some time.

“The Pokagon UMC is, in a sense, the ‘descendent’ of the historic church,” Shaffer explained. It is across the street from the famous hymn’s 1913 debut site.

The First Methodist Episcopal Church of Pokagon congregation in 1915 moved into the building that is now the Pokagon UMC. They sold their previous church. It was used as a barn for more than 80 years. The building was purchased for restoration in 1998.

Portage First United Methodist Church donated 70 folding chairs for the historic Pokagon church’s visitors.

And shortly before a large crowd was anticipated for the July Hymn Sing in the old church, Zion Evangelical United Church of Christ in St. Joseph donated 300 “Hymns for the Family of God” hymnals.

“We replaced them with new hymnals, and were going to do something with them, so this was a perfect solution,” said Zion’s pastor, the Rev. Dan Smith. “We were looking for a place where people would get use out of them.”

The donated hymnals prepare the church for visits by any size group, Shaffer said.
“We can provide hymnals to smaller, intimate groups and for groups of hundreds of people.” The hymnals’ publication dates vary, but include many hymns from the 1800s and earlier. The early hymns take singers back in time whenever they use the hymnals.
The chairs and hymnals are used during the ORCF’s monthly Community Hymn Sings and other events at the ORC Church, Shaffer added. Community Hymn Sings are at 6 p.m. on the first Sunday of each month, through October.

“We are extremely grateful to these churches’ pastors, trustees and members for their gifts,” he said. “It’s another perfect example of the vital role individuals and small groups play in supporting our continued restoration work. Such gifts help us stretch donation dollars as far as possible.”

The ORCF welcomes financial donations toward current roof and interior work. The ORCF leads the restoration of the historic church to its 1913 appearance. Once restored, the building will be a museum and location for special services, weddings and funerals.
The Old Rugged Cross Historic Site is in Pokagon. The site also includes the half-acre Old Rugged Cross Memorial Garden.

The Original Old Rugged Cross Church is a Registered Michigan Historic Site. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places at the national level of historic significance.
For more information or to schedule a tour, contact the ORCF at (269) 683-4540, or P.O. Box 41, Niles, MI 49120. E-mail: Web site: