Generations of families and a strong commitment to tradition have sustained Hopewell Presbyterian Church for 250 years, church parishioners and its pastor say.
This month, Hopewell began its yearlong celebration of its 250th anniversary. Throughout the year, the church will commemorate a century of Hopewell's history with re-enactments, new mission initiatives and more.
At the end of the year, the church will perform a time capsule burial, to remind future parishioners from where they came.
That commitment to history is exactly what has helped the church survive since 1762, said parishioner Tina Brown.
"Hopewell is an old church of old families. And new families are treated like family," she said. "We're very traditional."
And as some churches have shifted toward more contemporary services with rock bands and laid-back dress codes, Hopewell has remained a reliable source of traditional worship service, said parishioner Tiffany Barnette.
The church, for example, has used the same liturgy and order of service for many years, parishioners say.
"If you want to learn and study and know and have an intimate relationship with God, you need to hear what's been told to us," she said. "We're the kind of congregation and service that you're going to get it from. We remain a very God-centered, Bible-centered, scripture-centered church."
The church has often been wary of major changes, said Barnette.
For instance, a lot of tension arose when the church discussed updating the hymn books because many congregants feared the traditional hymns would be cut out.
And when their former pastor Jeff Lowrance died, parishioners took their time finding a new leader who would carry on their traditions, said Brown.
"There's still a lot of reverence and awe for the Lord and worshipping the Lord," said Barnette. "I think Hopewell really reflects that."
Still, the Rev. Allan Purtill, who has led the church for the last two years, dismissed the idea that mega-churches are in direct competition with traditional churches like his.
Instead, Purtill said, he saw the two types of churches working in harmony with each other because they attract different groups.
"I think the reason we continue in this worship format is because people like it. There's a role for it. There's a niche," he said.
Purtill said that Hopewell's commitment to a variety of service projects has also helped keep the church relevant in today's times.
"Our church has always been engaged in its community," he said. "One minister wrote once that, 'All that Hopewell needs is to cultivate its mission mindset,' and that really stuck with me."
Hopewell plans to use the anniversary to reignite the congregation's passion and energy for the church and the surrounding community, said Purtill.
"Our theme is remember, renew and rededicate," he said. "That says a lot about the people and their devotion. We're going to use this season to renew our calls to service and rededicate our lives to Christ."