Song’s centennial celebration draws hundreds
Submitted by Betsy Randall
Old Rugged Cross Museum and Historical Society Director
REED CITY — All four segments of The Old Rugged Cross Centennial Celebration were very successful, according to members of the sponsoring organization, ‘The Old Rugged Cross Historical Society.”
The first part of the event was a display featuring the history of the life of the Rev. George Bennard, who lived from 1873 to 1958 as an evangelist, hymn writer, publisher, and poet. He was best known for writing “The Old Rugged Cross,” one of the three most popular hymns in the world. The display has been on view at the ORC Historical Museum all summer and will continue through 2013, commemorating the writing of “The Old Rugged Cross” in 1912 and its publishing in 1913. A special open house was held at the museum on Aug. 10 and 11, with over 100 visitors viewing the special display and the Rev. George Bennard Room. The display was funded by Thrivent Financial for Lutherans.
The second segment was the Saturday night gospel music program with more than 300 people crowding Rambadt Park, the largest musical audience ever in the park. The musical groups, “The Whitfords,” “The Crossroads Harmony Chorus,” and “The Ridgerunners,” delighted the audience. As a special finale, audience members joined in singing “The Old Rugged Cross” led by “The Old Rugged Men.”
The Sunday program at the Reed City United Methodist Church was also a popular part of the event with about 175 people attending. The Hinkins Family provided the major section of the celebration, which was coordinated by Jim Hinkins. The family are the musically-talented great-grand-nephews and nieces of the Rev., the descendants of his sister, Jenny Hinkins. With Carol McClellan hosting the event, highlights were “Variations on the Old Rugged Cross,” a piano solo written and played by Lois Stilber, a trio singing “Love Never Faileth,” along with a recording in Bennard’s own words of how he came to write his famous hymn.
The second part of the program featured the Sisters Harmony Trio of the First Baptist Church of Reed City singing, “The Light on the Cross,” and The Octet of the Methodist Church singing “God Answers Prayer.” One of the highlights was a mash edited by Laurence Kloss, a medley of the first verse of “The Old Rugged Cross” by various professional singers and musical groups ranging from old-time gospel to rock-and-roll. Following a congregational singing of the hymn, the audience was dismissed to the narthex to view the display and to the Fellowship Hall for refreshments.
The final segment of the celebration is an ongoing feature; a map/brochure of a self-guided driving tour of eight local sites that were important in the life of Rev. Bennard. This is available at The Old Rugged Cross Historical Museum and at the Chamber of Commerce office in the Reed City Depot.
The Historical Society would like to thank everyone who made this celebration possible, especially the Reed City Area Chamber of Commerce, the City of Reed City, the Hinkins and Dahlstrom families, The Reed City United Methodist Church, the musical groups, The Old Rugged Cross Historical Society Endowment Fund of the Osceola County Community Foundation which provided funding for publicity and the volunteers who donated more than 500 hours of work to make the celebration a success.