9:00 AM - Sanctuary Service (Including Children’s Sermon)
10:00 AM - Sunday School (Adult Class)
Pulpit Supply of preachers is currently supplied by the parish.
James D. Howie, Honorably Retired (1934—2024)
Presbyterian Women (PW) offers women in the church meaningful ways to live out their faith in the midst of a caring community of women. For more than 200 years Presbyterian women’s groups have strengthened the Presbyterian Church and played a major role in sharing the good news of Jesus Christ and witnessing to the promise of God’s kingdom.
The 5 member churches of The Parish Of The Open Door are: Butler-Union, Donnellson, Reno-Bethel, Sorento, and Waveland
Our purposes include:
Donnellson Presbyterian is a member of The Parish of the Open Door, consisting of Butler Union Church, Donnellson Presbyterian Church, Reno-Bethel Presbyterian Church, Sorento Presbyterian Church, and Waveland Presbyterian Church.
Swipe left/right to browse images.
A church is its people. And so it is with Donnellson Presbyterian. From the article “Pioneer Days” by G.W. Paisley: “The earliest church organization in the county which is still in existence is the Presbyterian church at Donnellson. This organization has remained intact without a break from its inception to the present time. Originally organized and named, ‘The Bear Creek Cumberland Presbyterian church of Montgomery county, Illinois,’ it has maintained a separated continuous, unbroken corporate life, from the early days of the republic down to a time well past the middle of the second decade of the new century.” In 2019, Donnellson Presbyterian celebrated its 200th birthday with a Homecoming and History program!! “The men and women who organized it, and made it a power for religion and good morals, have long since passed away, but their work was taken up by worthy successors who gave to the old church a new lease of influence and usefulness.”
From Pioneer Days: “Session book containing the records of Bear Creek Society formed in Montgomery county, in the state of Illinois, first constituted and organized by the Rev. Green P. Rice the 6th day of May, in the year 1818. The first camp meeting was held in the upper end of Bond county, in the year 1819. The second camp meeting was held near the same place in 1820. The ordinances were administered by the Rev. Green P. Rice and Rev. R. Morrow.”
The current church building in the 600 block of Adams Street in Donnellson, Illinois is the fourth church building, and the second structure in this current location. From camp meetings, to a small log cabin; to a weather-boarded country church with a chimney and small stove; to a brick building with shuttered windows, steeple and bell; to a modern, spacious structure with stained glass windows, electricity, plumbing, public address system and a basement, the Bear Creek Society and Donnellson Presbyterian churches have evolved with their congregation’s shifting needs. From the publication One Hundred Twenty Years of Donnellson Presbyterian Church History 1819-1939 Compiled by Olive F. Kaune: “Today the work of the growth and development of the church has passed in review. We learn what a blessing it has been through the... years since it was organized by those faithful pioneers.”
The Donnellson Presbyterian Church is no longer simply an organized individual congregation. In the fall of 1946, the Donnellson church joined with the Presbyterian churches of Butler, Coffeen, Nokomis, Reno-Bethel, Sorento, Waveland, Witt, Staunton, and Raymond to form the Larger Parish of the Open Door. This association of churches has cooperated financially, supporting and sharing ministers and engaging in special meetings for fellowship, with inspirational and informative programs. There are also Parish organizations of men, women, and youth, which engage in Parish-wide programs and projects. Today, there are five remaining member churches in the Parish of the Open Door.
Worship has always been an important part of the life of the Donnellson Presbyterian Church. Sunday morning services are held regularly, and Sunday evening Bible studies and prayer meetings have been held on various schedules through the years. Special services are held and Christmas and Easter, and on World Day of Prayer. Since 1952, the church has been host to many student ministers, some here one or two Sundays, others for a summer or an academic year. Other qualified persons in the Donnellson and Greenville areas have also filled the pulpit on various occasions. [from “One Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of Donnellson United Presbyterian Church of the U.S.A., Church History 1819-1969”. Compiled by a committee including Jane Hopkins. Page 6.]
The last official pastor, Rev. James Howie, retired in 2012, having served the Donnellson congregation and the Parish of the Open Door for 60 years. He began preaching here, as well as at the other churches of the Parish, when he was a student at Millikin University. Rev. Howie became the first and only minister to be ordained in our church. This service was held on June 28, 1959.
The congregation has been glad to have music as part of its worship services during all of these years. A choir was formed in 1956, which continued to 1964. Since then many special numbers have been presented by individuals and groups. Several organists have provided sanctuary music over the years and currently Mrs. Eleanor Gregory and Ms. Jane Hopkins split piano responsibilities for Sunday services. [from “One Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary... Church History 1819-1969”. Page 6-9.]
Sunday School today has one department for adults. In 1969 there were four Primary classes which met in the church basement. There were six Adult classes, composed of Junior High, High School, College, Co-Workers (married couples), Men’s Bible and Comrades (meeting in devotional and social contexts). In 2016 there was one Adult Sunday School class and two classes for Children (ages 3-10). As of 2019, the Children’s class no longer meets, but a Children’s Sermon is provided as needed. Each Sunday, people having birthdays made contributions to the Birthday Box. This money has been used for various projects, such as the purchase of sixteen small chairs for the children and of Christian and American flags. [from “One Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary... Church History 1819-1969”. Page 9-10 and 12-13.]
“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” —Malachi 3:10.
“In 1898, Mr. and Mrs. William Bigham visited relatives in Texas. While there they attended a harvest home gathering. On their return home, Mr. Bigham suggested to a group of the young people that Donnellson should have a harvest home and several of them went to work. The manse was empty at that time, so it was selected as the place in which to serve the dinner. It proved to be such a grand event that it was voted to hold a harvest home each year. In 1899 the church as an entire group planned to serve both dinner and supper. The organization of harvest home was forty years old last August. It has become a homecoming for all who have ever lived here. They look back to that one day as the best day of the year. Many are the humorous incidents connected with experiences of those who went to solicit for miles around. Some wonderful programs have been provided for guests, who have come from distant points to enjoy the day. For a few years the dinner was dispensed with and a free will offering was taken, but those who had a yearning for the old time gatherings, which brought so many happy memories, insisted it be as of yore—so harvest home still goes on.” [from “One Hundred Twenty Years... Church History 1819-1939”. Page 27-28.]
The annual Harvest Home celebration described in the earlier History was still regularly held through 2019—the 200th anniversary of the congregation. The days would include a special Worship service, receiving of a special offering, a pot-luck dinner, and an afternoon program. These afternoons have seen musical programs, missions trips talks, skits and poetry readings, and reminiscences. The highlight of the day is always the fellowship with former members and friends of the Donnellson congregation.
A Parishwide Family Conference, begun in 1973, replaced Vacation Bible School and continued through the years until Covid-19 placed it on pause. Our church took an active part each year, providing teachers, worship leaders, organizing games and sports, coordinating special speakers, and helping with refreshments. [from Donnellson Presbyterian Church 1969-1985. Page 2.]
From Donnellson’s early existence, the Ladies’ Aid remained the organization responsible for many minor church and manse repairs and the Missionary Society continued to study and support our missionaries, through the Alton Presbyterial. In 1960, however, the United Presbyterian Church had re-organized its structure and urged the women to follow its example. After inviting several visitors to explain the new structure and a lengthy discussion and vote, the Ladies’ Aid and the Missionary Society merged into the United Presbyterian Women’s Association. In 1961 there were two Bible study circles of six to eight members each. The ladies involved met in the homes of members and training sessions were offered by Rev. Howie to guide the lessons. These Circles met monthly and the Association met bi-monthly. Today, the Presbyterian Women holds one meeting a year and also takes part in the larger Presbytery women’s gatherings throughout Southeastern Illinois. Follow the Presbyterian Women of Southeastern Illinois Presbytery on Facebook.
The young people of the church have often been involved in other activities besides Sunday School and Church. They have organized a Junior Christian Endeavor Society, Summer Junior Choirs, Bible study groups, Christian living learning discussions, and having fun together. Some of the young people have appreciated the experience of a week at a church camp, most notably the camps at Pere Marquette State Park, Blackburn College, and Little Grassy Lake.
A favorite activity of all the young at heart is the Christmas Carol sing. In past years carolers formed a group at the church and sang at the homes of shut-ins and other friends. Then they returned to the church for a warming-up party, which in recent years has evolved into a church Christmas party sans the freezing cold outdoors caroling. [from “One Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary... Church History 1819-1969”. Page 9-10 and 21.]
The Rev. James D. Howie (BD ‘59) was born in Randolph County, Ill., to a family rich with Scotch-Irish Presbyterian heritage dating from the Second Reformation in Scotland. From his birth, Howie was called to serve the Presbyterian Church.
As a student at Millikin University, where he majored in history and political science, Howie was assistant to the head of the history department and taught beginning Greek class his senior year. During this time, he also served as pulpit supply in churches of the Larger Parish of the Open Door in the Illinois Alton Presbytery.
Following college graduation in 1956, Howie enrolled at Louisville Seminary. He continued to supply the same churches in the Parish, driving 321 miles each way, each week. He never missed a Sunday service, and he missed classes only once to return for a funeral. Upon his graduation in 1959, he was recognized with a field-work award and scholarship.
Howie was ordained by Alton Presbytery and installed as pastor of the yoked Butler, Donnellson, Reno-Bethel, Sorento, and Waveland Churches, a pastoral relationship beginning in 1959 and continuing even after his 2012 retirement as he continues to live in the Donnellson manse.
Throughout his ministry he has served the Presbyterian Church on many committees at the presbytery and synod levels, working with mission, youth, and in continuing education. He served as moderator of the Presbytery of Southern Illinois and helped to prepare by-laws for the new presbytery in 1972. In 2006, he was moderator of the Permanent Judicial Commission, member of the Committee on Ministry, Presbytery historian, and mentor for two commissioned lay pastors and one temporary supply pastor.
Rev. Howie’s lifelong ministry has extended into the community through adjunct teaching in field education for Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and supervising students preparing for ordination and ministry.
“Pastor Jim” is also concerned with preserving folk songs and folk traditions in their true form. With more than 1,000 folk songs nestled away in the back of his mind, Howie has become an unofficial expert on American folk songs and is featured on three record albums performing a portion of his collection. Not only can Howie remember all the words and tunes to the songs, he also accompanies himself on occasion with a variety of instruments: autoharp, hammered dulcimer, and both the three-string and four-string dulcimer.
In 2006, Louisville Seminary honored The Rev. James D. Howie, along with 6 more graduates, with the Distinguished Alum Award for their vision, accomplishments and leadership in their respective callings.
January 12, 2013 at the Butler Illinois Community Center, the churches of the Parish of the Open Door (including Donnellson Presbyterian Church) celebrated the 60 years which Reverend Howie has served them. Rev Howie retired from preaching at the end of 2012. The public was invited to attend the party and it was packed all afternoon with people of all ages visiting with Rev Howie and amongst the other celebration attendees.
This history of Donnellson Presbyterian was compiled by rainofhearts.