By Tim Kowols
When the Sturgeon Bay Friends Church hosted the Reverend George Bennard for evangelistic meetings in 1913, it did not know it would be the site of the first performance of one of the most recognizable hymns in history. “The Old Rugged Cross” was first performed on January 12, 1913 after one of those meetings went well after the midnight hour. To this day, pilgrims come to the now Friends Community Church to see where the famous hymn was first performed. Friends Community Church pastor Nancy Bontempo says while it reached the peak of its popularity as a favorite song of returning World War II soldiers, it still has an impact on Christians all over the world.
While a marker was created in 1947 to commemorate the event, the hymn will be honored with a day of celebration April 29 at Friends Community Church in Sturgeon Bay as a special part of that day’s services.