Moving Forward: Go With the Flow

by Rev. Chris Torrey, HR

On the Sunday after Easter in 2024, with the nearby Ohio River cresting just above “minor flood stage” at 52 feet, 15 new members joined Cranston Memorial Presbyterian Church. Pastor David Annett and Session received these new members, including eight from Calvin Presbyterian Church. The others have been worshiping at Cranston for some time, including two families with young children. David Annett serves part time at Cranston, leading a team of three preachers who fill the pulpit on a rotating basis, and a worshiping community made up of long-time members and relative newcomers, many of whom are new to Presbyterian faith.

It was on March 11, 1821 that about 15 charter members petitioned Presbytery to form the Presbyterian Church of New Richmond. Three years ago we celebrated our congregation’s Bicentennial. Church historian Aileen Whitt mentions that “Early Session Minutes of 1821 to 1823 make no mention whatsoever of the land or the building. They seemed too busy trying to rectify the misdeeds of some of their recalcitrant members and obtain public confessions and apologies from them.” In early days pastors and members of this congregation were fervent Abolitionists, active in the Underground Railroad, and staunch members of the New School movement among Presbyterians.

The church got its current name after the flood of 1937 when the river crested at 80 feet. The water was nearly 20 feet deep in the sanctuary in which we worship today, built in 1856. The nearby Methodist church building was destroyed. Retired Methodist Bishop Earl Cranston had, before the flood, urged the union of local Protestant Churches. Named in his honor, Cranston Memorial Presbyterian Church was the union of former churches surviving the flood and moving forward together.

The congregation at Cranston Memorial Presbyterian Church recognizes the gift of these newcomers as a sign of what God has in mind for the future of this congregation and our community. Heraclitus of Ephesus is credited with first noting that no one ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and she or he is not the same person. Psalm 46:4 in The New International Reader’s Version reads, “God’s blessings are like a river. They fill the city of God with joy. That city is the holy place where the Most High God lives.” We appreciate the support of the whole Presbytery as we go with the flow of God’s future at Cranston to Move Forward!