Feast of Francis Makemie (May 14)   1 comment

Father of American Presbyterianism; died in 1708

Francis Makemie was born in Ireland in 1658.  He commenced his studies at the University of Glasgow in 1676, received ordination in Northern Ireland (by the Presbytery of Laggan) in 1682, and came almost immediately to the British colonies on the eastern seaboard of North America.  He began his ministry at Westover, Maryland, in 1683, and built the Rehoboth Presbyterian Church there in 1706.

Below: Rehoboth Presbyterian Church, Westover, Maryland

Makemie founded the oldest Presbyterian congregation in the United States (at Snow Hill, Maryland), in 1683.  Today this is the Makemie Memorial Presbyterian Church.

Since the congregations Francis Makemie served could not support him financially he earned his keep in trading and shipping.  William Anderson, a successful businessman, helped Makemie become established in this endeavor.  The pastor fell in love with and married Anderson’s daughter Naomi, who became the mother of his two daughters (Anne, who died before her father, and Elizabeth, who survived her father).

In 1706 Francis Makemie helped to establish the Presbytery of Philadelphia, the forerunner of most U.S. Presbyterian denominations extant today.  To be precise, the Presbytery reorganized as a synod about ten years later.  Then the Synod of Philadelphia divided in 1741 (during the Great Awakening) , when the Synod of New York organized.  The two synods reunited in 1758 and reorganized thirty years later, meeting in 1789 for the first General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (1789-1838), forerunner to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and bodies that broke off along the way to the 1983 reunion that created the PC(USA).

In January 1707 Lord Cornbury, the Royal Governor of New York, ordered the arrest of Makemie on the charge of preaching without a license.  The Presbyterian pioneer served six months before his acquittal, yet had to pay the cost of his prosecution.  The outcry over this incident, a pioneering case in religious freedom in North America, led to Cornbury’s recall in 1708.

Francis Makemie died in the Summer of 1708.

Today two yoked Presbyterian congregations in Virginia honor the two Makemies, Francis and Naomi.  These are the Makemie Presbyterian Church, Accomac,  and the Naomi Makemie Presbyterian Church, Orancock.

Below:  Makemie Presbyterian Church: Accomac, Virginia:

Below: Naomi Makemie Presbyterian Church, Orancock, Virginia


DECEMBER 8, 2009

God of grace and glory, we praise you for your servant Francis Makemie, who made the good news known in North America.  Raise up, we pray, in every country, heralds of the gospel, so that the world may know the immeasurable riches of your love, and be drawn to worship you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Isaiah 62:1-7

Psalm 48

Romans 10:11-17

Luke 24:44-53


One response to “Feast of Francis Makemie (May 14)

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  1. Pingback: Feast of Paul Cuffee (March 4) « SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

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