Building Communities of Faith Page 1 | Presbyterian Historical Society

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Sacred Spaces

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”
—Matthew 18:20

Reverend Herbert M. Peters rests his Bible on a tree stump while holding an open-air service for a group of lumberjacks in the north woods of Minnesota, ca. 1951. [Image no. 4098]

We often associate worship spaces with gothic cathedrals, steeples, bell towers, and stained glass windows. But throughout history, the need for traditional worship spaces has been challenged—both out of necessity and in an effort to seek a more intimate connection with God. Many church communities began in temporary, makeshift dwellings, private homes, or in “the open air."

On the Trail of the Sunday School Missionary. (Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. Board of National Missions, Department of Sunday School Missions promotional publication, undated.) Click for full image. [Image no. 4292]

The erection of churches has been linked to the missionary enterprise since the founding of Presbyterianism in America. While the national church could offer few financial resources to help small communities build new church structures, it extended its reach by enlisting Sunday school ministers and mobile ministers, who traveled the country to find communities in need. Mobile ministers have found success among diverse communities across the country—lumberjacks in the Pacific Northwest and cowboys and ranchers in the Southwest are just two of many examples. The ministry of mobile missionaries often led to the erection of the first Presbyterian church building in a community, which the minister built alongside residents.

All images appearing in this exhibit are sourced from the society's collections.