A Historic Church, Open to the Future
Although we were organized in 1846, our Church is an open, growing Church — open to new people and to diverse viewpoints. We do not claim to answer all the questions which thinking, sensitive Christians ask, but we can offer you the context, the resources and the group processes for working on those answers together. Above all, we can offer you a loving community of Christians who care about one another and support one another’s search for truth.
First Presbyterian Church was organized in 1846 by the Rev. W.K. Marshall with only four members, three came by letters of transfer from older churches and one on profession of faith. The small congregation worshipped in a little frame chapel, called “Union Chapel,” perched on top of a red clay embankment on North Second and “B” Streets, known then as Washington and Mulberry.
In 1850 the Rev. Cephas Washburn became the pastor and served the church until 1857. Rev. Washburn was one of the early missionaries in Little Rock to the Indians. Since that time, fifteen pastors and eight associate pastors have served First Presbyterian.
In 1876, ground was broken on the corner of Eighth and “B” Streets, the church being completed the same year at a cost of just $6,000. The present church was erected and completed in 1900 and worship was soon begun in our beautiful Scotch Gothic sanctuary. The Education Building was added in 1920, the Orr Building (Hobson Preschool) in 1962. The 20,000 square foot Family Center was completed in 1988 after razing two other buildings used for youth activities.
In 2003 a major restoration of the sanctuary and parlor was undertaken. The successful “Preserving the Legacy” Campaign resulted in more usable and beautiful space for worship, fellowship and Christian education. The Fellowship Hall was renovated in 2006 to enhance the congregation’s outreach through hospitality and to provide space for the newly instituted DayOne worship service.
In the summer of 2012 First Presbyterian welcomed the Reverends Phil and Tasha Blackburn as our co-pastors. This has been followed by a new era of enthusiasm and creativity at First Presbyterian Church. This creativity is best seen in our congregation’s education and mission ministries.
In 2013 the King Speaker Series was inaugurated by acclaimed Christian author and speaker Rachel Held Evans. This series has sought to showcase thinkers from around the country who have unique insights and thoughtful perspectives on what it means to be a Christian in America today. Other speakers have included Mike McHargue, Palmer Chinchen, Sarah Thebarge, and Becca Stevens. For a full list of previous speakers, check the King Speaker Series page on our website.
In 2014 Keley Simpson was hired as Missions Facilitator. Keley works exclusively in the Fort Smith community, building bridges between our congregation and our neighbors as well as nonprofits
between one another. Her work has led to several exciting initiatives which are highlighted on the “serve” page on our website.
Currently the congregation is remodeling our parlor to create a true gathering and welcoming space. We anticipate that this work will be completed in December of 2016 and we are excited to unveil it. Further, we are looking forward to the many things God has in store for Fort Smith and we want to play our part in that future.
A Presbyterian U.S.A. Congregation
The word “Presbyterian” comes from the New Testament word “presbuteros” which means “elder,” and refers to the practice of choosing spiritual leaders from among the members of the church. The Presbyterian Church has a representative form of government. Elders are elected from among and by the members of the congregation. With the pastors, these elders constitute the church session. First Presbyterian Church is a congregation of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. and a member of the Presbytery of Arkansas and the Synod of the Sun.