Rev. John Elam: A legacy of heroes and characters

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 17, 2015

Franklin Presbyterian Church Celebrates its Heritage

The following words appear in a book entitled The History of Franklin Presbyterian Church:

“Dear Chairman of the Pastoral Relations Committee: This chain letter is meant to bring relief and happiness to you. Unlike most chain letters, it does not cost money. Simply send a copy of this letter to six other churches who are tired of their ministers. Then bundle up your pastor and send him to the church at the top of the list. Add your name to the bottom of the list. In one week you will receive 16,436 ministers, and one of them should be a real dandy. Have faith in this letter. One man broke the chain and got his old minister back.”

I don’t know why this letter appears in the book, perhaps as a warning to future ministers, but it illustrates that a church’s heritage needn’t be confined to the heroic and courageous. Rascals, as well as heroes, constitute a legacy.

And it’s good… it adds life to institutions!

On Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015, at 10:30 a.m., our church will celebrate Heritage/Homecoming Sunday at 280 Franklin Church Drive in Salisbury. Bagpipes, drums, and Scottish liturgy will be a part of the service, followed by lunch on the lawn.

We do this annually to remind ourselves, and the community, from whence we came. The Presbyterian Church is rich in history.

Around 1540, John Knox, fed up with corruption in the Catholic Church, converted to Protestantism. Influenced by the work of John Calvin, Knox spread the Protestant message of salvation through Christ alone far and wide.

For this, he was rewarded with persecution. He faced arrest. He served time as a galley slave in French ships. He was exiled in England.

He persevered, not wavering in his devotion to Christ. His theology, sermons, and writings led to the birth of the Presbyterian Church. Thereafter our ancestors, seeking freedom to worship, brought the church to America.

Franklin Presbyterian shares in this legacy, and has its portion of heroes and characters.

Take, for example, Miles Henderson, born in 1844 in Gaston County. Reverend Henderson was ordained at a young age. Then came Civil War.

Henderson, a devout and pious Christian, struggled mightily with an untenable choice: continue to preach, or fight for his beloved South. Like so many ministers, he had to be conflicted over the issue of slavery… humans don’t belong to humans, they belong to God!

Nevertheless, 19, he enlisted in the army and fought valiantly. After the war, he preached the gospel and served the Lord until he died. It was said that one could not know him unless they knew him as a man of God. With his long gray beard and dark, intense eyes, it was impossible to see him differently; he looked like Moses.

Then there was Reverend Milton Faust. An able preacher born in Pennsylvania in 1914, Faust became Franklin’s minister in 1948. Tall and handsome, Faust possessed great confidence; confidence that caused big trouble in 1950.

A long-time church Elder held three church offices. Faust was livid. Maybe he didn’t care for the Elder. Nevertheless, Faust told the Elder to resign. The Elder was insulted; he’d worked for the church long and hard, without pay.

He refused. So Faust called a congregational meeting, convinced them of his position, counted the ballots, and ousted the Elder. Real drama and excitement. Reality TV before TV was a common reality!

Problem was, Faust had violated the Book of Order.

So the Head of the Presbytery came to handle the problem. The Book of Order must be followed, he declared, else the church be taken over by the Presbytery (an ecclesiastical governmental takeover).

All ended well, however. The Elder graciously resigned, requested an audit, and his honesty was upheld, and Faust left a year later.

Suffice it to say that God has blessed Franklin Presbyterian Church with a wonderfully vibrant history; a history which is a viable chapter in the Presbyterian story.

So, then, join us to celebrate this history on the 18th. You’ll feel welcomed as a part of the family. You’ll be enriched by the worship.

And you’ll be full when you leave…


Rev. John C. Elam is pastor of Franklin Presbyterian Church. After practicing law in Greensboro for 33 years, he was called to the ministry, a call in which he delights. He lives in Salisbury with his wife, Eve.

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