Welcome to Ulster Worldly, a blog about the history of Presbyterianism. Many of these stories come from my own family, many others come from my own denomination.

Tim Hopper
Raleigh, NC

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Apollo 16 Launch with Billy Graham

In April 1972, my dad, a senior at King College, spent a weekend in Montreat, North Carolina. After worshipping at Montreat Presbyterian, Mrs. Ruth Bell Graham–who was a member at MPC–invited dad to Billy and Ruth’s house on Mississippi Road for lunch. In a letter to his parents (who were serving as missionaries in Korea), dad recounts watching the Apollo 16 launch with the Graham’s after lunch:

“Mrs Graham invited (my 2 friends) and me up for lunch. It was the first time I had been up (to the Graham house), and it was quite interesting. Dr. Graham was there and we watched the space shot go off during lunch.

He said that NBC has asked him to narrate the shot with John Chancellor but he had turned them down. It was very interesting talking to him. He really does know the Bible inside out. I got away a little later than planned….

Posted on by Tim Hopper

Oral Histoy of Childhood on the Mission Field in Korea

My dad David Hopper, his brother Barron Hopper, his sisters Alice Dokter and Margaret Faircloth grew up in Jeonju, South Korea where their parents were missionaries with the southern presbyterian church (PCUS). On January 5, 2023, I got them all in a room together to share memories of their childhood.

You can listen to the four parts of the interview below.

You can also search for “Ulster Worldly” in your podcast app of choice or subscribe to the feed directly.

Here are links to some things mentioned in the interview:

Posted on by Tim Hopper

Sunday school class on American Presbyterian History

My friend Matthew Ezzell and I taught a Sunday school class on American Presbyterian History at Shiloh Presbyterian Church.

Here was the overview we wrote for the course:

This class provides an understanding of the historical foundations of modern presbyterianism in America. We cover the breadth of the streams contributing to the presbyterian churches and denominations of our country. In the course, we learn about the controversies and conflicts and also spread of the gospel and the propagation churches throughout the United States. We specially emphasize the origin and development of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and the establishment of presbyterianism in central North Carolina.

Here is the audio of the class:

You can also listen on SermonAudio.com.

Posted on by Tim Hopper

Stained Glass and the Second Commandment

My great great grandfather Archibald Alexander Barron was a ruling elder in First Associate Reformed Presbyterian of Rock Hill, SC. The ARP is historically a conservative denomination with a high regard for their confessional standards.

In reading The Centennial History First Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, Rock Hill, South Carolina, I read a surprising paragraph about my ancestor’s passing.

By the time the 1911 addition was made, the church had become more relaxed in its attitude toward church art, and the memorial windows placed in the church at this time were intended to illustrate stories from the Bible, with human figures and representations of Christ. The “Good Shepherd Shepherd” window, depicting Christ leading a flock of sheep, was a memorial to Archibald Alexander Barron, and was given by his family.

The Westminster Larger Catechism teaches that the Second Commandment forbids “the making any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature whatsoever”. As early as 1911, the ARPs were loosening their commitment to this teaching.

Incidentally, the 1911 renovation also added an organ. While seen as a “traditional” church fixture today, this would have been a shock to the older ARPs who were committed to a capella singing in worship.

Posted on by Tim Hopper

Experimental Worship for the Youth

From Sean Lucas’s For a Continuing Church: The Roots of the Presbyterian Church in America:

The only response that the PCUS leadership could offer was “experimental” worship as a way of connecting with young people. One such 1968 service offered at Montreat received a full review in the pages of Presbyterian Journal: electric guitars and folk music, especially Bob Dylan’s anthem “Blowin’ in the Wind,” a dialogue in place of the sermon that focused on social-gospel causes with no Bible references at all, and a lack of traditional liturgical structures.

The evening service was more of the same: a jazz trio, a movie that focused on race and poverty, a message that called for economic and political justice, a litany that focused on social sins, the Lord’s Supper accompanied by “We Shall Overcome,” and the service’s ending with “sacramental applause.”

Posted on by Tim Hopper

History of the OPC Uganda Mission with David Okken

Karamoja by Rod Waddington (CC BY-SA 2.0 license)

On June 10, 2021, Mr. Matthew Ezzell interviewed my pastor Rev. David Okken about his 17 years on the mission field in Karamoja, Uganda with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. The audio of the interview is available below.

You can also download mp3 file directly or search for “Ulster Worldly” in your podcast app of choice.

Posted on by Tim Hopper

Where the Churches Are Now?

In the late 1970s, the Presbyterian Church in America began the consider what would become an invitation to the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod to be organically joined and received with the PCA. The RPCES would join the PCA in 1982.

A few years ago, I came across a pamphlet from 1979 at pcahistory.org that included the map below of how the PCA, OPC, and RPCES were geographically distributed at the time.

Where the Churches Are Now

This geographically is inextricably linked to the history of these three denominations; it is interesting to consider how this distribution developed, and how it has evolved in the last 40 years.

Posted on by Tim Hopper

Questions I’m Asking

I’ve run the Twitter account @pres_history for the last 5 years. I mostly use it to tweet posts from Today in OPC History and This Day in Presbyterian History, but I occasionally share other things I’m discovering and questions I’m asking.

Since Twitter tends to be ephimeral, I compiled a list of question I’ve asked over the last 3 years; most of them I still don’t have answers for.

  • What are good sources on this history of church music in American presbyterianism?
  • What was the first hymnal to include the Westminster Confession in the back?
  • Who was the first PCUSA General Assembly moderator that wasn’t of Scottish descent?
  • What seminary did the Associated Reformed Church have in 1796? (It was in NYC.)
  • Is there demographic research on the ecclesiastical affiliations of Scots who migrated to Ulster in the 17th century?
  • Does anyone know of a list of RPCES ministers who were received into the PCA?
  • What was the relationship of Francis Makemie and the Church of Scotland?
  • Can anyone recommend sources on the history of Canadian presbyterianism?
  • Does anyone know anything about J. Gresham Machen’s study guide to Galatians?
  • Is there a reliable source for membership numbers of American presbyterianism prior to 1925?
  • What are good sources on the debates over Isaac Watts’ hymnal in presbyterian churches in the American South?
  • Is there a good source on the history of the publication of the red Trinity Hymnal somewhere? .
  • Is anyone aware of any historical research on early American churches meeting in brush arbors?
  • Starting to put together a timeline of the theonomy movement from the 70s to 90s. What are the key events? And what are the best sources on this topic?`
  • Are you aware of other historical (vs polemical) sources on the topic of political dessent in the RPCNA (beyond the RPCNA Synod Minutes)?
  • I’m interested in the history of Presbyterianism in York County, SC. If anyone knows of good resources please pass them along.
  • I’ve been trying to find biographical information on early Free Church of Scotland minister John G. Lorimer with 0 success. If anyone has any tips, please let me know.
  • If anyone has ideas of how to get access to Machen’s articles from the PCUSA “The Presbyterian” magazine, I’m all ears.
  • What is a good source on understanding the 17th century struggles over church government and worship in the Church of England? With answers!
  • What was the relationship between the 17th-century Ulster presbyteries and the Church of Scotland?
  • What are the best sources on they history of the Covenanter and Seceder churches in America?
Posted on by Tim Hopper