New Covenant Presbyterian Church, led by Pastor Nick Batzig, reconnected with its roots by having a service at the historical Midway Congregational Church on Oct. 19.
New Covenant Presbyterian normally has Sunday services at the City Center at J.F. Gregory Park. Last weekend, however, the Great Ogeechee Seafood Festival prevented the church from using its usual location. Batzig viewed the situation as a great opportunity to explore the church’s history.
Midway Congregational Church, also known as Midway Meeting House, was built in 1752 and later destroyed during the Revolutionary War; the present building was constructed in 1792.
The church has been home to some of Georgia’s most-famous historic figures, such as two signers of the Declaration of Independence, Lyman Hall and Button Gwinnett; Revolutionary War Gens. Daniel Stewart and James Screven; scientist brothers John and Joseph Leconte; and church pastor the Rev. Abiel Holmes, father of poet Oliver Wendell Holmes. The Flemmings, Martins, Winns, Stewarts, Screvens, Bakers and Joneses, whose names can be found on many landmarks in Liberty County and its surrounding counties, were church members.
Independent Presbyterian Church in downtown Savannah has direct ties to Midway Congregational. The Rev. John Zulby, who started IPC, filled in as pastor while church members searched for a new congregation leader. Through the recommendation of the Rev. John Witherspoon — president of then-College of New Jersey, now Princeton University — they settled on the Rev. Moses Allen. Zulby and the Rev. William Tennent, founder of Princeton Seminary, came to Midway Congregational to conduct the ordination service.
“This building has so much history,” Batzig said. “George Whitfield was here and Charles Colcock Jones, one of the well-known Southern Presbyterians. He wrote a book called ‘Georgians during the War Between the States,’ and he became a member of this church in 1780. He’s buried in the Midway Cemetery. I mean, these are amazing figures in our history.”
The Savannah River Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in America called on Batzig in 2009 to found New Covenant Presbyterian in Richmond Hill. Batzig realized some similarities between Midway Congregational and his church.
“The IPC is our mother church. Midway Congregational is also a daughter church of IPC. So we’re kind of a new plant the way this was under IPC. There’s a very close relationship, just 300 years apart,” Batzig said. “What is unique about this church and our church is that we are carrying on the theological heritage of this church. So what they were preaching in the 1750s, even early 1800s, we believe the same doctrine.”
It was a historically special event for the New Covenant Presbyterian congregation, formed over 200 years after the original Midway church was built.
For more information, visit the Midway Museum off North Coastal Highway 17.