Oldest Presbyterian Church in Madison County celebrates 200 years
By Devese “Dee” Ursery
The month of May is very significant to a Madison County church, as it begins to celebrate 200 years of service to the community.
First United Presbyterian Church in Collinsville is one of the oldest active churches in the state of Illinois. Zachery Lysdahl, pastor of FUPC explained the longevity of the church and its connection to the community.
“It’s not just a single individual or even a group of church members, but the entire community of Collinsville is connected with the church and so it’s just a moment to celebrate together,” Lysdahl said.
Lysdahl said the purpose or mission of the church is “to grow in faith and increase in love.” He explained that it means the congregation is dedicated to learning more about their savior and serving the community through tangible initiatives to positively impact the area.
“We want to continue to grow in our faith and learn more about who Jesus is and then walk more closely in Christ’s footsteps,” Lysdahl said. “That means engaging the community, supporting the community, in all the ways that are needed within the community of Collinsville.”
The church began as the “Meeting House in the Grove” and was built just south of the current church in the year 1818. The building was built by the Collins brothers, after whom Collinsville is named.
On May 3, 1823, FUPC was organized and is established as the oldest Presbyterian Church in continuous existence in Madison County and the sixth oldest in Illinois. Reverend Salmon Giddings was the organizing minister and was married to Almira, sister of the Collins brothers.
In 1843, a framed structure was constructed at the present location of 201 East Church Street. A brick building was built in 1884, after the steeple and a large portion of the church was destroyed by lightning during a severe storm in 1879.
Additions to the church were constructed in 1914 because of the growth in membership. The new building included a gymnasium, church parlor and Sunday school rooms. Renovations to the church were completed in the 1920s
There have been numerous renovations and additions built on the church from the 1920s on through to the mid-1970s. In 1967, a planning committee began studying building a new sanctuary and started the accumulation of land for what is now the current structure.
This was the last major construction done on the church and it was dedicated on May 16, 1976. The church also had a thrift shop and food pantry to help those in need. FUPC was also the first location of the Collinsville Food Pantry before it moved to 2009 Mall Street, near Collinsville Crossings.
Lysdahl is 41-years-old and was born and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He and his wife Alex, who is also a pastor moved to the region when she was offered the position of pastor at First United Presbyterian Church in Belleville. “Two different churches with the same first name,” Lysdahl continued.
He explained that he became pastor of FUPC about a year after his wife received her clerical duties at her congregation in Belleville. Lysdahl said that he received a call from the Giddings-Lovejoy Presbytery, governing body of presbyterian churches and offered him the Collinsville job. He was hired in the midst of COVID
Lysdahl said the church being able to maintain its membership during the global pandemic is an accomplishment that he is most proud of in his three years as pastor. He said that the church was able to show its relevancy and adaptability by starting an online worship service.
Lysdahl said that he believes it is a couple of factors that contributed to the longevity of the church. He said that it begins with the help and support of the Presbyterian Church USA. He also said that it is about the people in the community.
“It is about the people that show up on Sundays and Wednesdays and everyday in between,” Lysdahl said. “The commitment of local people to the local church is how First United Presbyterian Church has been around for 200 years.”
The church kicked off this month with three celebrations to commemorate its history. Those events planned were a story/trivia night, a block party and a worship service and luncheon for the community.
The church held its story/trivia night on May 3, at Old Herald Brewery and Distillery. Members and people in the community shared their favorite stories about the church. It was time to know only share stories but also show your knowledge of the church’s history.
The third and final planned event was the worship service luncheon held on the Sunday of
May 7 and its members and old friends a chance to reconnect.
Lysdahl said that the church recently put on a block party, which was an open invitation for the community of Collinsville to come out and enjoy a fun time with face painting, hot dogs, snacks and that kind of stuff. They also had a bounce house and music as well.
“It was just an opportunity to celebrate the church and share with the community,” Lysdahl said.