For 200 years, Dardenne Presbyterian Church has witnessed change, growth and challenges within its own congregation and the surrounding community. Now, they’re ready to celebrate.
On Saturday, Sept. 14, from 10 a.m.-3 p.m., the church is throwing a party – and the community is invited.
“We’ll have games and activities for young and old alike,” said church historian Michael Fridley. “I’ll give you some examples: hay rides, bounce houses and a couple of old time games such as sack races and three-legged races that they would have done 150 or 200 years ago at a picnic.”
In a nod to modern times, Fridley said the celebration also will feature food trucks.
“For entertainment, we have a couple of men’s and women’s ensembles in our 1868 Rock Church and we also have a bluegrass band that is going to perform gospel and bluegrass music.”
The reason for the celebration began on Sept. 18, 1819, when a small group of Christians assembled “for the purpose of forming, by divine permission, a church established on the Presbyterian Discipline and based on the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as illustrated by the American Confession of Faith.” In 1823, that band of faithful followers built a church on eight acres located high on a bluff overlooking Dardenne Creek inside what is now the August A. Busch Memorial Conservation Area.
Fridley explained the fate of that building and the one that came after it, a “commodious brick church built in 1845.”
“Both of those buildings were burnt to the ground during the Civil War,” he said. “Union soldiers from Cottleville and Camden came to our church in April of 1862 and asked if they could attend services. Our pastor, Rev. Thomas Watson, said, ‘Yes. Stack your arms outside and you’re welcome to come in.’ So that happened.
“Two days later, on a Tuesday, the log church was burnt to the ground and the brick church was burnt to the ground. Even the wooden fence that surrounded our original cemetery was burnt. No one knows who did it. There were a lot of atrocities in those days, churches burnt, courthouses, and so forth.”
But the church and its congregants were undeterred.
“Our members continued to meet in people’s homes and they also built an arbor out at the original church site. They met under that arbor in good weather until 1868 when the Rock Church was built here, along Hwy. N, actually in those days it was known as Booneslick Road.
That church is still standing, just adjacent to the current Dardenne Presbyterian Church, located at 7400 South Outer 364, three miles from where the original church stood.
“We still own those eight acres inside Busch’s Conservation Area,” Fridley said.
“The congregation worshiped inside the Rock Church until 1985 when its modern church building was dedicated.
“We’ve expanded a couple times, including the addition of what we call the Christian Life Center,” Fridley said. The center boasts “a huge auditorium with a large stage” and is the home to the church’s modern, 11 a.m. service.
New churches and expanded spaces aren’t the only changes Dardenne Presbyterian Church has seen over the last two centuries. It also has witnessed the growth and change of St. Charles County and its own community.
In the early 1960s, its membership had dwindled to just nine people. But according to the church’s history: “Those nine continued to believe that Dardenne must be preserved to continue as a power for Christ in the community in which it stands. Times changed and once again Dardenne Presbyterian Church began to grow.”
Today, it’s congregants number more than 900 and its community outreach ministries are many.
Each week, Dardenne Presbyterian Church, partnering with Operation Food Search, works to decrease the burden of childhood hunger by collecting food items to feed 60 local elementary children who live below the federal poverty level. Also in conjunction with Operation Food Search, the church collects food year-round for The HOPE Ministries Food Pantry, which is located at 206 Elm Street in O’Fallon and open on Wednesdays from 8-10 a.m.
Through the generosity of its members, the church offers a Helping Hands ministry that assists both church members and people in the local community that are experiencing short term financial need. The Mary Martha Thrift Store in Wentzville is operated by seven local churches including Dardenne Presbyterian. Volunteers from the church run its operations once every seven weeks.
Dardenne Yarn Angels, as they are called, knit or crochet shawls while praying for the recipient. The shawls, in turn, are given to anyone in need of comfort regardless of church affiliation. Through Restore St. Charles, congregants who are handy with hammers, nails, saws and such, help to restore lives, hope and faith by restoring homes and properties in St. Charles County. Some missions extend even beyond St. Charles County. Dardenne Presbyterian also participates in Strategic Water Teams, a faith-based organization that seeks to address a global health issue – clean drinking water.
“We also sponsor seven missionaries all over the world,” said Fridley, who invites community members to join in the celebration or stop by on any Sunday to learn more. All are welcome.