The First Presbyterian Church of Aberdeen will celebrate its 135th year of service on Sunday with a potluck after Pastor Chuck Guth delivers his sermon.
According to the church’s website, the potluck should start at about 11:15 a.m., on Sunday.
The church’s congregation has been around since 1888, two years before the city of Aberdeen was incorporated. The building where the church is now — 420 N. Broadway St. — has been in operation since 1952. The brown building is the fifth one in the church’s history.
The Daily World spoke to Chuck Guth, the church’s pastor, as well as Steve and Sue Cavin about the significance of the church. The Cavins have attended church since 1971 after they moved to Aberdeen in 1970. Guth spoke in a glowing way about the church and its community.
“Of all the churches I have been associated with in my life, I think this church has a deeper sense of appreciation for one another, and community, than any other church I’ve ever been in,” said Guth, who’s worked in other churches throughout the country.
Guth said once the service ends, he’ll see people standing around and talking to each other for 45 minutes or an hour afterward. Then he’ll see them walk outside and talk some more to each other while they stand around their cars. He said it’s fun to see.
“That communication and that caring that takes place in that environment as well just is such a powerful representation of this church’s sense of community and family. And so those words, family and community, I think are extremely important to this church and how we think of who we are,” Guth said.
Sue was delighted to hear her pastor say that.
“That’s so nice to hear you say that, because it’s just the way things are with us after so many years,” she said.
While the church, and its congregation, has changed over the years for a variety of reasons, it sounds as though the support and familial feel are constant.
“The people are changing all the time, and we’re working now on building our congregation back up,” Sue said. “Of course the pandemic wiped everybody, bad news as far as attendance and everything, but the people are consistent.”
Guth, who’s been part of the church since April 2022, said the in-person attendance is about 45 each Sunday morning. But fortunately for the church, you can teach an old dog new tricks.
“We have people who actually watch the services from Canada, and a lot here in the Aberdeen area, but also all the way over from Michigan,” Guth said. “So we have quite the number of people who are watching online. So that makes it interesting.”
Guth explained the church uses a camera that is placed on a tripod. The technology has enabled the church to zoom in on different things within the congregation during the Sunday service. He said some people go back and if they missed Sunday’s service, they’ll watch the service online on Tuesday.
Sue explained why she loves her church.
“I love this building, always have,” Sue said. “And the people of course are what make it what it is. But I got involved early on with women’s groups within the church. And then as a result of connections through that, about 40 years ago, I got started on the Tuesday Crew, which is a group who meets every Tuesday to do maintenance around the church — fix things, clean things, organize things. That’s been my main connection with the church. But we had women’s associations, which I was involved with, the nursery, lots of Sunday school activities and all of those kinds of things. That make you part of it. It’s a family.”
And then there’s seeing the extended Cavin family, which is Sue’s favorite thing.
Steve said he loves how the church here is similar to a church they attended in Florida for a number of years, because it is warm and caring.
“And it’s a family atmosphere,” Steve said. “It’s just comfortable to be around and I get involved in the music system of the choir here, as I did down there. So that’s one of my main focuses. We have a wonderful choir, even if it’s not large, but it’s a good choir. Great choir director. And it’s fun.”
The church has a variety of instruments, including a couple pianos and an organ. But that organ hasn’t been used for a while. The Cavins and Guth would love to hear the organ played again.
In addition to the familial support, Guth pointed out the denomination itself makes the church unique.
“There are distinctions between various denominations, but Presbyterianism brings with it a certain theology and it also brings a certain style to worship,” Guth said. “Those issues of theology and style become a part of how we do things, how we think about things, how we understand the way God works. And that becomes a part of who we are as well, even in the way we do things, so that’s a significant dimension as well.”
That said, Guth made it clear the denominations don’t segregate the churches.
“Back 40 or 50 years ago, if you were brought up Lutheran, you would go to a Lutheran church,” Guth said. “If you were brought up Baptist, you would go to a Baptist church. If you were brought up Presbyterian, you would go to a Presbyterian church. But now, denominationalism is much less significant. It still has a residual background that affects the way things are done, the way we think and approach certain sorts of things.”
Guth explained what being Presbyterian is. The denomination’s roots go back to Scotland in the 1560s.
“Presbyterianism speaks to the way we think about God and our understanding of God as sovereign, as a God who is good, gracious and holy, but a God who is in control. And acts toward us as human beings with grace and love, and invites us into a relationship with Christ,” Guth said.
Guth said Presbyterian worship has a “certain formality,” and “rhythm,” that gives the service movement.
“There’s a rhythm and a balance to trying to have music and prayer — praise God but also hear from God — from scripture, from the Bible,” Guth said.
Steve said his favorite memory centers around the music.
“I love to sing and in the past we’ve done some things where we’ve had some community events where we got four to five churches come together to put on a musical evening, complete with a meal and I thoroughly enjoyed that to be able to meet with the people of the Lutheran churches, the Methodist church and the Episcopal church,” Steve said.
Guth said something that convinced him to move to Aberdeen and become part of the church was a point during the interview process. The Cavins said the church interviewed about 12 candidates before hiring Guth. It’s clearly a good match for Guth, who worked at his last church for 15 years.
“I was kind of thinking about working at one more church before I retired and I started looking around,” Guth said. “This church just struck me in a couple of ways. They had a real clear sense of what they were looking for and that’s a good thing because there’s a sense of direction. There was also a history of being engaged in the community and I appreciated that. It was the things they do in the community.”
Guth explained the church’s Feast for All event.
“We’re actually going to be doing that next Saturday,” Guth said. “So the Feast for All is something where we’ll be setting up tables out there and inviting people from the whole community into the church, but with a real focus on homeless and those who are having trouble with food. So even low-income. We’ll be reaching out.”
The next such event is scheduled for Saturday, March 25, at 5 p.m.
In addition to events like Feast For All, the church supports a large number of programs and reaches out for many events and other organizations. The list of programs can be found on the church’s website’s Outreach section: https://www.aberdeenpres.org/outreach.
The sense of community sold Guth.
“The members of the church love each other, they care for one another,” Guth said. “There’s a remarkable sense of friendship and being one group together. And so they enjoy being together and enjoy eating together and having fun together, but also enjoy serving God together. That sense of community was really important to me as I thought about a church that I wanted to work with and be a part of. So I see myself as both a pastor and a participant of the church.”
As for Guth’s fit in the past 11 months, the Cavins are happy they met Guth and that the pastor chose Aberdeen.
“We interviewed a dozen people,” Steve said. “Then we interviewed Chuck. We deemed this is the man we need to come here. He has a wealth of knowledge. He’s the reason we’re seeing new faces come to the congregation. We’re blessed to have him.”
If you want to livestream the Sunday service:
The live streams of the service, which starts at 10 a.m., can be viewed on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/@aberdeenpres/streams and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aberdeenpres.org/
Contact Reporter Matthew N. Wells at email@example.com.