Since 1781, the Severns Valley Baptist Church in Elizabethtown has been an institution of Christian spirituality in the region. Founded when the first settlers arrived in the area and before Elizabethtown was officially established, the church congregation originally worshiped under a sugar maple.
Now located at 1100 Ring Road, the church has operated in its seventh place of worship since its inception. It is the oldest Baptist Church in Kentucky and the oldest Evangelical Church west of the Allegheny Mountains.
To mark Severns Valley’s 240th anniversary, a program detailing the church’s deep history is scheduled to take place at 11 a.m. on Tuesday in the building’s multipurpose room. Presented by church member Don Patterson, the program will chronicle the lives of Jacob Van Meter, the church unifier, and John Gerard Jr., the church’s first pastor.
The story begins in 1778 in the Ten Mile Country of Pennsylvania and will continue until Van Meter’s death in 1798. Patterson will tell the story in the third person as the narrator and also speak in the first person as the Van Meter during the program.
Patterson said he and his wife, Glenda, had presented similar programs in other venues under the title “West of the Alleghenies”. He said there had been discussions about bringing the program to Severns Valley last year, but the idea was temporarily suppressed due to COVID-19.
Senior Pastor Emory Riley brought up the idea of offering the program this year as a way to celebrate Severns Valley’s 240th anniversary, Patterson said.
“We were interested in recognizing the years of the church’s existence and noting its importance in the community, its continued missions through the years, and its membership in its foundations,” said Patterson.
In anticipation of the program presentation, Patterson and his wife undertook extensive research, using libraries in West Virginia, N. Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky, as well as research sites such as the Filson Club in Louisville. , Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Library of Congress, University of Virginia, and Harvard University.
“We were able to access applicable church stories; local historical archives of areas occupied by the figures, ”Patterson said.
Patterson also made contact with many descendants of the pioneers mentioned in the story, some of whom hold regular meetings and offer newsletters. Work on the history of specific local areas has also been used, such as “Chronicles of Old Berkeley” by Mabel Gardiner and “A History of Kentucky Baptist” by JH Spencer.
Tuesday’s program will also include period music, which will be played as a prelude and during the program itself.
Glenda Patterson, Debby Couch and Sheila Whitten will play a variety of instruments throughout the program, such as the harp, native flute, hammered dulcimer and bowed psaltery. Some of the program’s compositions have been arranged by Glenda Patterson.
“The music is meant to advance the story, deepen the storyline, or improve a particular point in the story as the story unfolds,” Don Patterson said.
Including the prelude, the program is expected to run for around an hour, Patterson said. It is free and open to the public.
“We hope that the public and in particular the members of the church will have a better appreciation of the longevity of the church and the efforts of the founders – especially Jacob Van Meter and John Gerard Jr. – by knowing a little about their character and their contributions to this region and to an emerging nation, to include some of their challenges, sacrifices, hardships, achievements, as well as falls and redemptions, ”said Patterson.