Posts Tagged ‘ Allison Creek Presbyterian Church ’

Allison Creek Presbyterian Church – Visited on 8/28/11

An old white-washed church sits upon a hill overlooking the broad margins of the new highway between Lake Wylie and Rock Hill, SC.  As one approaches from the road, to the left hand sit the timeworn stones of its traditional cemetery, fringed with outbuildings and halls.  Those constructions are the products of a long, slow, continual expansion of the church’s facilities: founded in 1854, Allison Creek Presbyterian Church expanded organically with the decades and adds new wings as time and funds permit.  Its original wooden sanctuary is now but one of many structures that comprise the church.

Allison Creek retains the trappings of its antebellum heritage.  A balcony still hangs above its small sanctuary where slaves once worshipped above and behind their masters.  Up there the original pews remain, carved by slave labor a century and a half ago and built at a slant to ensure that anyone falling asleep during the service would be unceremoniously dumped from their seat.

Come the last few minutes before 10 o’clock the congregation files into the old sanctuary, greeted by its Spartan white walls and the chatter of their fellow worshippers.  There is a convivial atmosphere in an Allison Creek service born of long familiarity, yet even strangers can expect a warm welcome.  Included in the service is a practice called “the passing of the peace,” during which the congregation takes time to welcome visitors and express their appreciation for their shared devotion.

Beyond twin rows of pews the floor rises to lift the church’s altar above the congregation, yet even it is plain: an unadorned cross of precious metal, with the ceremonial plate and goblet set before it.  Behind the altar a few simple glass windows gleam from an alcove, while to either side rest the chairs of the church choir, a half-dozen strong, the organ, and an assembly of other instruments from bass guitars to bongos that were left untouched during my visit.

The congregation that morning was a relatively mixed crowd dominated by families of the working middle class, all dressed in their Sunday best.  There are many couples with children at Allison Creek, and they join their parents in the opening hymns of the service before departing for Sunday school or the nursery.

That morning was a special one for Allison Creek Presbyterian.  Each prayer was recited by a member of the church youth group; what is more, each prayer was an original work, composed by the teenagers in question and their families.  There is a strong current of communal involvement at Allison Creek, where each service is complemented by post-worship Bible study for both adults and children, and though the congregation is not large it boasts a sizable cohort of deacons to greet congregants at the door and see to its temporal needs.

It is only after the congregation has spent some time at song and prayer that the pastor of Allison Creek Presbyterian, Sam McGregor Jr., makes his presence felt.  Rev. McGregor is a tall, thin, middle-aged man.  By looks he seems a fusion of Mr. Rogers and Dana Carvey, of Wayne’s World and Saturday Night Live.  He has a high pitched, soft voice, and though he puts on his pastor’s robes for formal occasions for most services he wears only a collared shirt and slacks, with a stole draped across his neck emblazoned with the symbols of his office and religion.  When not speaking or taking some active role in the service Rev. McGregor takes a seat with the congregation in the foremost pew.

That morning Rev. McGregor’s sermon centered on a piece of scripture that, by his own admission, is often simply passed over by readers of the Old Testament.  It told of how, upon seeing a Hebrew laborer being beaten by an Egyptian, the prophet Moses killed the Egyptian and hid the body.  When he heard his crime whispered of by other Hebrews nonetheless, he skipped town and went into hiding.

While in hiding he chanced upon a well, where he saw a group of women attempt to draw water for their flock of goats.  When a group of male shepherds drove the women away to use the well themselves, Moses took it upon himself to draw the water and provide it to the women and their flocks.  McGregor used this passage to illustrate how Moses acted whenever he saw injustice done, impressed upon his congregation that like him they should never tolerate injustice where they encounter it.

After the service, and some time spent sitting in on one of the church’s bible study groups, I conducted a brief interview with Rev. McGregor.  He is a native of Columbia, South Carolina, a little over an hour’s drive from his current church, who abandoned an early interest in dairy farming to study divinity and earn his credentials as a Presbyterian minister.

From him I learned that beyond its robust internal community Allison Creek operates several charitable works in the community: an annual donation of supplies to local schools; a free music fest; the church parking lot is set up as a campground with electricity and water for Habitat for Humanity caravans; and, recently, a project that deserves special recognition.

Not long ago members of Allison Creek Presbyterian rediscovered a forgotten cemetery in the woods behind the church.  This was identified as a slave cemetery, a counterpart to the plot where their owners were interred beside the church.  Volunteers from Allison Creek refurbished the slave cemetery, to the point that it is now a state historical site.  Just before my visit Allison Creek conducted a joint worship service in the cemetery with two other local churches descended from the men and women buried within.

Finally, I asked Rev. McGregor about the proper relationship between Church & State.  His response was that the government should protect all citizens’ right to gather and worship.