Meet “Bedford Presbyterian Church”

Step back into 1749 and you are probably an immigrant, Scotch-Irish if you live in Bedford — emigrating from what is now Northern Ireland. You attend the Bedford Presbyterian Church, the only church in town.

The town of Bedford is proud of its beautiful historic church built in 1832, the oldest Presbyterian building in New Hampshire and in northern New England. Go sit in one of the box pews and experience a traditional worship service. You will receive a bulletin with an easy-to-follow Order of Worship. You will sing historic hymns from the hymnal at your pew, the music will be led by the organ and choir. You may even enjoy the bell choir at some services!

The Scotch Irish, called Dissenters, came to America seeking religious freedom from both Anglican and Roman Catholic monarchs. Presbyterianism began with John Knox in Scotland, who had studied under John Calvin, a Reformer in Geneva Switzerland. A group of these Scotch Irish Presbyterians came to Londonderry and spread to surrounding towns including Bedford.

A Presbyterian church is representational in governance, similar to Congress. The people elect the Elders and Deacons, the Elders being the decision-making body, subject to the Book of Order. There are steps for Presbyterians: baptism, usually as an infant with parents who are church members, confirmation when the child has come of age to make an informed decision, and membership, when a person joins the church, and is then eligible to become a church leader. Each step requires approval by the elders who meet in what is called Session.

Bedford Presbyterian Church is welcoming and open to people of all differences, provided they “trust in God’s grace in Jesus Christ. No person is denied membership for any reason not related to profession of faith. The Gospel leads members to extend the fellowship of Christ to all persons.” (Book of Order G-1.0302)

There are different denominations of Presbyterians. The Bedford church belongs to the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) and the Presbytery of Northern New England (PNNE). The PNNE office is at the Bedford Church.

“Bedford Pres” is most proud of its social services to the community. The building is used for many functions, the Bedford Food Pantry, the Clothes Closet, CareGivers, Scouts, and many other services are housed or supported by it. It is in essence the “town church”, most famous for its Walk to Bethlehem at Christmas, and its Patriotic Services.

Rev. Karen Hagy has served the church for over 20 years. Co-pastor Rev. John Sawyer was installed in 2013.

Everyone should explore your roots by attending this beautiful, historic church with a heart for the Bedford community.

Submitted by Rev. Dr. Lori Wiley, retired pastor