In 1919 and 1920, a group of Covenanter families made the move to Orlando, Florida (USA), to form a Reformed Presbyterian Church and to take advantage of the rapidly growing city, citrus industry, and warm climate. They came from established “Covenanter” churches in Michigan, Iowa, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Kansas, and Oklahoma. 

Each family settled in the Orlando area with the purpose of forming a church. Other “snow birds” joined these families each winter to escape the snow and cold of the north. More families came from the Northeast and Midwest, most having grown up in the Covenanter church with a heritage dating back to Scotland and Ireland. 

The elders of the Orlando church (L to R): Joe Worsham, Jonathan Schaefer, Nathan Eshelman, and James Pennington

Installations 100 Years Apart

On March 18, 1921, at 7:00 p.m. the Orlando church installed its first pastor, Wilbur John McBurney. Over the next 100 years, the church flourished and reached many new local families with the gospel. One hundred years later, to the day, on March 18, 2021, 7:00 pm, the Orlando church installed its newest pastor, Dr. Nathan Eshelman!

Dr. Eshelman, his wife Lydia, and five children came from Los Angeles, where Nathan served as Pastor of the RPC of Los Angeles for 12 years.

During her first 100 years, Orlando RPC remained faithful to the preaching of the gospel, reaching and serving the community. With the installation of Dr. Eshelman, we seek to continue, by God’s grace, the same into the next 100 years. 

Dr. Eshelman’s installation service was conducted by the Gulf-Great Lakes Presbytery with the congregation and many guests and visitors attending. Rev. Craig Scott (First RPC of Grand Rapids)  constituted the court and led in worship. The elders of the Orlando church, Jonathan, Schaefer, Jim Pennington, and Joe Worsham; pastors Ray Lanning, Kyle Borg, Shawn Anderson, and Joel Wood; and Elder Emeritus Howard Huizing participated in the service. 

The Eshelman family at the reception following installation

From Every Nation, Tribe, People, and Language

Dr. Eshelman has had multicultural pastoral experience from his work in the Los Angeles area, which will be a great asset to Orlando. The composition of the Orlando church has changed over the past 100 years. There is still a group of Covenanters, who are descendants of the founders and who trace their roots to a Covenanter heritage. But more and more people are coming to the church with varied religious, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds. Some have come from other churches in the RPCNA, but most are new converts, former Catholics, or from Christians with non-reformed worship experiences. At present, countries represented at Orlando RPC include Ireland, Scotland, Columbia, Jamaica, Haiti, and Brazil. 

The Orlando Reformed and Christian community is blessed to have Dr. Eshelman in our midst as he shares God’s message of grace through the Orlando Reformed Presbyterian Church.

Joe Worsham, ruling elder at Orlando RPC.

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