After the British left Mackinaw City in 1781, the area was virtually uninhabited until 1870 when the first settlers came.
In 1870 the first worship service was held at the home of George Stimpson, the only dwelling at the time in the village. The Ames Memorial Church (on the left) was established in January 1893.
The First Presbyterian service was held in May 1881 at the Stimpson Hotel and in July 1882, the first hymn was sung at the First Presbyterian Church (on the right). Together, these two churches represented the first formal Protestant witness in this area, serving the lumbermen, sailors, railroad workers, farmers and others who pioneered here.
Following much prayer and study by a joint committee of the two judicatories, the two churches took formal steps to become one congregation. On July 1, 1962, we became federated.
The present church building (in the center) was completed in 1967, and built on the site of Ames Memorial Methodist Church. A year later the Pastor's residence was finished and was built on the site of First Presbyterian Church.
We are a federated congregation. Denominationally, we are both United Methodist and ECO Presbyterian. Since 1962, when the federation took place, we have been one congregation. Our bylaws reflect a 'melding together' of both denominational polities.
One of the most frequent questions asked of us is, How is it determined which denomination will provide the pastoral leadership? Given the fact that a United Methodist pastor is appointed by a bishop, and a Presbyterian pastor is called by the congregation, the solution is actually quite simple: each time there is a change in pastoral leadership, the other denomination provides the next pastor. In essence, we go back-and-forth. Although not mandatory per our By Laws, it is a practice that has worked.
On Being 'Methyterian' or 'Presbodist' Another question often asked is, How do you make it work? Put simply, by meeting in the middle! Theologically, the Methodists and the Presbyterians are similar enough that this is not a sticking point. Our biggest differences lie in our governing polities. Through various revisions to our bylaws, we have tried to find a comfortable and workable middle. One clause in our church bylaws helps us in this matter, which we call the "shall-may clause." Basically, where one denomination says we "shall" do it a particular way while the other says we "may" do it a particular way, we go with the "shall."
Generally, this has worked well, as both judicatories have given their approvals to our bylaws through the years.
When it comes to financially supporting the work and ministries of both denominations, this is where it gets split right down the middle. Half goes to cover our United Methodist apportionment, and half goes to ECO Presbyterian funding and mission work.
A third question we often hear is What do you do about church membership? Up until a few years ago, we kept two separate rolls. As people joined the church, they had a choice as to which denomination they wanted their name added to. Where they had no preference, their name was added to the roll that had the fewer members at that time. However, in recent years we decided to keep only one membership roll, which was membership in The Church of the Straits. Doing so gave us much more flexibility when it came to filling committee vacancies, as well as solving other issues. Again, this has proved to be a viable solution to bringing two churches together while maintaining a dual-denominational standing.
Just Like Everyone Else
All being said and done – and there is a lot that goes into making a federation work well – our church is just like any other. We share the same struggles and joys as any other Christian church. Though we are uniquely organized, we have the same purpose as any other church, Presbyterian, United Methodist, or otherwise. All we do is to glorify God and make disciples of Jesus Christ. So whether you are simply visiting or permanently live in the area, we invite you to help us fulfill our purpose!
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