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2019-10-19 23:04

History of our church

A quiet place to worship and feel God's presence is the Albany Hungarian Presbyterian Church, located off LA Hwy 43 approximately one mile south of the Albany/Springfield exit of Interstate 12. The small white church has a unique steeple topped with a Hungarian star and a bell tower that tolls during happy and sad occasions. The cemetery adjacent to the church is immaculately cared for, and has 18 marble row-markers that bear the names of the original chartered church families. The cemetery is one of four in which the graves lie north and south instead of east and west. The church building is registered as an American Presbyterian and Reformed Site No. 315 by the Presbyterian Historical Association in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Rev. James Anderson was instrumental in achieving this recognition for the church.


The rural church was built in 1907 on twenty acres of land donated by Charles Brakenridge Lumber Company as a Hungarian Reformed Church, The cost of the church was about $1500.00. The church was damaged by storms in 1909 and 1912. Steel braces still visible inside the church, were used to reinforce the building when it was put back on its foundation.


 Rev. John Kovacs served as the first pastor. The church, with fifty-four members, was dedicated on March 15, 1908. Rev. Kovacs left in 1909, and Rev Andrew Csontas served the church until 1920. The most influential pastor was Rev Alexander Bartus, serving from 1921 until his retirement in 1969. He continued to be active in the church until his death in 1977.


 Church services were presented in the Hungarian language until 1968. Because many families began to adopt English as their language, Albany Presbyterian Church in the nearby village of Albany was established. When participation at the Hungarian church declined, the church closed its doors in 1963, though Christmas Day services were held there every year.


 On December 25, 1972 a Christmas Day service, as in the past, was held in the old church prior to its re-chartering on February 7, 1974. However, this was the first sermon at the church preached in the English language. Thus, the historical structure was brought back to life; restored and preserved for the future. In 1972, before the church was re-chartered, Rev Jay Raybuck of New Orleans began serving as pastor to both the Hungarian Church and the Albany Church. Some other ministers who filled the pulpit were Rev. Bob Turner, Rev. Bob Kilgore, Rev Bob Horne, Rev. Michael Cramer, and Rev. Vernis Wolfe. Rev. Wolfe has greatly contributed to the growth and well-being of the church even when not in the pulpit. In 1996, the first full-time ordained pastor called after the re-chartering was Rev. Louise Selzer Randall. However, she was called away after only a short time with the Hungarian Church, after which several pastors volunteered to minister to the congregation until a new full-time pastor was found in 2001. Rev. Stephen Sanders ministered to both the Hungarian Church and the Albany Church until Christmas Day, 2002.


 On Christmas Day 2002, the Albany Presbyterian Church closed it doors and joined the Hungarian Presbyterian Church forming the Albany Hungarian Presbyterian Church which has reunited the Hungarians and their neighbors in their faith at the old church building. The members are celebrating their faith in old traditions – Christmas Day Services, singing “Silent Night” in Hungarian, the annual Bacon Fry, Candle-lighting on All Saints' Day, and the Easter Sunday church photograph. The church is also engaging in new ones as the church grows in today's community, “Challenging the mind, nourishing the Soul”