Galesburg churches joined to perform a service for Knox’s 175th anniversary Sunday, Feb. 19 in Kresge Recital Hall.
Central Congregationalist Church (which grew out of the First Congregational Church) and First Presbyterian Church (FPC) organized the service that highlighted the faith of the settlers who founded Galesburg and Knox College.
Reverend Jim Ecklund, who works part time as the pastor of Central Congregational Church, thought the ceremony was “a good reminder of where we come from, and a good reminder that we can’t stop here.”
Ecklund thinks of the churches, Knox and Galesburg as a “three-legged stool.” All three were founded at the same time and grew up together.
The service was much more history-focused than a regular service. The message, titled “Galesburg, Faith, and the Underground Railroad,” addressed the founding fathers’ and mothers’ belief in equality and faith-based devotion to the abolition movement.
The sermon began with a short documentary video about George Washington Gale’s life and Galesburg’s connections to the Underground Railroad.
First Presbyterian’s Reverend David Parker tied this message back to Micah 6, where Micah declares that God requires his peoples “to act justly and love mercy and walk humbly with your God,” and the passage in Matthew 25 where Jesus preaches that “whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me.”
A radical belief in equality drove the founders of Knox College, Parker explained. Their faith convinced them that all humans are equal, regardless of their race, gender, or socioeconomic background. They put Jesus’ words into action by serving the “least of these,” slaves escaping across the Missouri border.
Parker challenged the audience to continue this tradition of service and devotion.
“We have a model for how we should continue living for the next 175 years,” Parker said. “If we are to continue for the next 175 years, faith has to be key.”
The service also featured songs by the Community Choir (directed by Knox alumnus Pier Debes ‘10), including a rendition of “Woke Up This Mornin’” arranged by Debes. The service was in the traditional style, so instead of contemporary praise songs, the makeshift congregation sang hymns, like “Stand Up For Jesus,” whose lyrics were written by Galesburg resident and First Presbyterian Church attendee George Duffield in 1858.
Stephanie Kennedy enjoyed the service’s historical connection. Kennedy is a regular attendee of FPC and the assistant director of Knox’s TRIO Achievement Program, so she enjoyed seeing two parts of her life combined.
Although she is no stranger to Galesburg’s history, she said it was “nice to hear the history of Knox, the church and Galesburg all tied together.”
She also enjoyed the exploration of the founder’s religious drive.
“It was great to hear how truly it was faith based,” she said.
The service took a collection for Galesburg’s FISH food pantry.
This was the third of three joint worship ceremonies this year as part of the 175th anniversary celebrations for the involved organizations.