Another Hidden Jewel

Blog post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy
Transitional Leader
choward@glpby.org


The first indicator that I’m visiting a rural church is when the pastor says not to trust my GPS but follow his instructions instead! After exiting I-44 I turn, weave, go up and down hills, and after a few more hair pin turns, I’m on a black top. The church suddenly appears on my right. I know I’m visiting a rural church when the only sound I hear are the cows singing a melody of moos! I’m met at the front door by a little dog, which I find out later doesn’t belong to anyone but refuses to leave. This is Old Argo. This is a shining jewel of a congregation located in Bourbon, Missouri off the Sullivan exit.

As worship begins, about 35 people fill the sanctuary. The age range is a perfect bell curve from babies in arm to seniors on canes. There is energy, excitement, and a bit of exhaustion. The night before is the annual Fall Festival which the church hosts. They cook up two pigs (donated by a church member), add in tons of homemade goodies, a musical group, a silent auction, games and fun. This congregation of less than 40 serves 335 dinners and raises over $5,200! The festival is a total volunteer effort. As I hear the stories of the night before, I long for a jar of homemade apple butter!

Old Argo is led by pastor Rob Caldwell, a commissioned pastor (CP). Giddings Lovejoy has a robust CP program. We take ruling elders who feel God’s call to a pastoral ministry and put them through a three-year program. A new cohort is already underway with 11 elders in training. These leaders often end up in small congregations.

Rural and small church ministry in a reality in our presbytery. Out of 79 congregations, we currently have 27 with 50 members or less. In Giddings Lovejoy, once a congregation has 40 members or less, they can no longer afford a traditional called and installed pastor. Our challenge is to prepare people like Rob, who have a genuine love for small church ministry, and support them in their call. With the right pastoral leadership, even small congregations can thrive and be vibrant where they are.

Rev. Craig M. Howard

4 Responses to “Another Hidden Jewel”

  1. Steve Collier on

    Craig, my first attempt to visit Old Argo was unsuccessful! Sandy and I were going to surprise a member of DPC who was in the CP program and was preaching there. Since it was a surprise, I had no directions…”don’t worry, Bourbon MO isn’t very big, I’m sure we can find it” I told Sandy as we ventured off. None of the folks in Bourbon we sought directions from knew of Old Argo (we were invited to join a pitch-in lunch at the Baptist church, and they helped look up what we thought was the right church in the telephone directory (remember those things?). However, it was not the right church and we ended up at the PCUSA church in Gerald, MO. We received a welcoming reception from those folks, where we stayed for the service…after all, they held up the service until we got there). It wasn’t until the next week that we learned you have to go to Japan in order to get to Old Argo. There are two lessons here: 1) Don’t rely on your instincts to find an “out of the way” church, and 2) Small country churches have a heart warming, welcoming atmosphere that is endearing to folks who just “drop in” to worship with them. Both congregations made us feel most at home!

    Reply
    • Craig Howard on

      As a matter of fact, Marilyn just brought me home a homemade jar of apple butter from Karen Whitlock of the Pacific church! It is delicious!! I am a happy man!

      Reply

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