What do you want to know about a church before you visit it? I don’t have any idea, so I am going to tell you a few things that I think you should know about First Presbyterian Church. We were one of the first congregations planted in Fort Smith, established back in the 1840s. All those people are dead now, but other people have managed to keep this thing going for nigh on 175 years. I feel that alone deserves some respect, I mean how many other things in our community have been around that long? You see my point.
We’ve done a lot of different things over the years, and we have lots of folks who have worshipped here for decades, but that just makes us colorful! Today, we have three areas of emphasis. The first is mission. We define this as helping and loving our neighbors in Fort Smith. You can check out our mission page to learn more, but if there is one way I like to describe our philosophy it is this; we seek to empower and encourage people we help, and to foster their sense of dignity and self-worth. Everyone is valuable and we want to help folks transform their lives.
The second area of emphasis is music. I’m not going to lie, some of us don’t love to sing, but we love to listen to other people sing. Our music in our two worship services is eclectic. Day One ranges from praise and worship to bluegrass to covering popular bands like the Avett Brothers. Our traditional worship service is, well, traditional. We have a really great organ, and you may think, “I don’t like the organ, in fact, I don’t even know what it is,” but trust me when I say if you like music you will like the organ. It’s traditional, but it’s still pretty great. We also host a concert series called, “The McDonald Concert Series.” This series features folks on the classical spectrum who are excellent musicians that you can listen to for free in our sanctuary.
The third area of emphasis is education. We are Presbyterians and we really like to think. We like to discuss interesting things about our faith and world, and we like to listen to smart, educated folks tell us what they have learned. My wife, Tasha, and I teach each Sunday during the school year. You can learn more about those classes on the education tab but suffice to say they cover a broad range of topics, issues, ideas, and theology. We also bring people to speak in the “King Speaker Series.” These are folks we believe have something interesting to say, and who we believe might not be invited to speak at most of the churches in our community. We like to hear things that may be outside what we already think.
So this is First Presbyterian in a very small nutshell. All of our areas of emphasis are rooted in what we believe about Jesus, how we experience him, and how we feel he calls us to live. We aren’t perfect, quite the opposite, but we like Jesus and we do our level best to make him the center of things around here. Perhaps that is how we have lasted this long as a church. I have been here for several years now, and I have to say that I love this church, I hope you will love it too.
The Reverend Phillip Blackburn