“It was the weirdest experience ever.” Those were the words of a shocked Andrew Flanighan after unexpectedly discovering that a church in America has strong connections to his birth town of Alnwick.
The 20-year-old, from Amble, was helping to lead a trip to Point Pleasant Presbyterian Church, in New Jersey – as part of his time at Camp America – when he learnt of its link with Northumberland.
Amazingly, one of the church’s early pastors, Rev William Luke Cunningham, was born in Alnwick, in 1847. And there is a plaque at the church to commemorate him.
Andrew said: “It is such a small world and it was the weirdest experience ever. What is even stranger is the fact that it is the first time that the church has taken a travelling day camp from the camp I was at.”
Explaining how he made the discovery, he said: “The chaplain was doing an introduction about the church and he got to this plaque on the wall.
“He was talking about this pastor and he mentioned the name Rev William Luke Cunningham and said he was born in Alnwick, England, but he pronounced it Aln-wick.
“I didn’t click at first, because of the way he had said it, but the second time he mentioned it, I clicked.
“The pastor was still speaking and I went down to have a closer look at the plaque – I freaked out about it, I couldn’t believe it.
“I exploded – everyone looked at me and I explained that while I live in Amble, I was born in Alnwick.
“Everyone was laughing and they were amazed and everyone came up to me.
“I told them the correct way to say Alnwick and the chaplain said that, from now on, he will pronounce it Alnwick, instead of Aln-wick.”
A section of the plaque reads: ‘In Memoriam. Rev William Luke Cunningham DD. Born at Alnwick, England, March 4, 1847. Died at Point Pleasant, New Jersey, October 5, 1897.’
According to pointpresby terian.org, The Point Pleasant Presbyterian Church was formally organised on October 22, 1882.
In its earliest years, the church was served by a succession of part-time ministers.
From 1889 to 1897, the church was served by its first full-time minister, the Rev William Luke Cunningham, DD, a native of England. Membership grew, during Dr Cunningham’s tenure, to 103.
Andrew was participating in Camp America at Johnsonburg Camp & Retreat Center, during the summer.
It is the second time he has done Camp America and said: “It is the most amazing thing you can do. It is great.”