Presbyterians roots trace back to the Protestant
Reformation led by Martin Luther who influenced a Frenchman named John
Calvin to shape a church in Geneva, Switzerland, that reached out to
French and Scottish Protestants. John Knox took this Protestant church
to Scotland. When John Knox Presbyterians came to America, the Church
grew and became known as The Presbyterian Church in the United States of
America (the PCUSA).
1820, one year after the City of Tuscaloosa had been incorporated and Congress
had admitted the State of Alabama into the Union, Bethel of Tuscaloosa was
organized by eighteen immigrants from upstate South Carolina. Rev. Andrew C. Brown was called to be our
first pastor, followed by Rev. Samuel Hodge and Rev. James H. Hillhouse.
1830 the membership had grown to 100 and a brick building was constructed,
under the direction of Rev. Robert M. Cunningham, on the same site where our
sanctuary stands today. In 1831 the
congregation officially became known as the Presbyterian Church of Tuscaloosa. In
the early years, between 1831 and 1836, when the University of Alabama opened
its doors and the State Capital moved to Tuscaloosa, the church membership
began to increase and diversify. In 1833 the congregation established the
Tuscaloosa Female Academy for the formal education of young white women. When
the State Capital was moved to Montgomery in 1847, the church lost many
members. During the devastating years of
the Civil War, membership was greatly reduced and by 1865 financial security was
non-existent, with church funds reduced to one dollar in gold.
the end of the war, many former slaves sought to form churches of their own,
but there were no trained ministers to serve them. Pastor Dr. Charles Stillman convinced the
Presbytery to establish an Institute for the training of African
American ministers. It was known as Stillman Theological Institute. After his death in
1895, the name was changed to Stillman College.
1918, membership stood at 674. On
December 15th the congregation voted to build a new sanctuary and began a fund-raising
campaign. By April 1922, the building of
a new Sanctuary and Sunday school rooms at an estimated cost of $150,000 was
complete in part by the generous gifts of Mrs. Anna Price Spence. The Sunday
school building was named "Spence Memorial" in honor of Mrs. Spence
and her late husband. From
June 1921 through July 1923 Rev. William B. Patterson served as our first UA
Warner L. Hall served us from 1940 to 1946 during the difficult days of World
War II. He was an excellent speaker and
drew members and UA students back to Sunday morning worship. He resumed the Sunday evening vesper services
with the UA Minister and students conducting the worship. These services drew over 100 students to the
church. Dr. Hall recruited Rev. Malcolm
C. McIver to be our UA Minister in 1944 and he served the students until 1952.
The sanctuary was remodeled and redecorated under
the guidance and generosity of Mrs. Mildred Warner and the Warner
Family. Also in 1952, the Westervelt-Warner Chapel was built in memory
of Mildred Warner’s late mother and father, Mr. and Mrs. H.E.
A new educational building was completed, and the church grew to 1000 members under the leadership of Dr. Simril Bryant. In
1967 Mary Anne Stollberg Findlay and Tillie Walker Nisbet were elected as our
first women Deacons.
Dr. Charles McCain was called to FPC. Under his
leadership, the church’s outreach was greatly expanded by means of radio
and television ministry. A pre-school was established. Our
first two women Elders, Emily Bass Nash and Dovie Bridges Pickens, were elected
Dr. Charles Durham was called to serve this church,
and he served as its pastor until December 2014. Under
his leadership, local, state and international missions were expanded. First Presbyterian with
other churches as partners, worked together to establish the Community
Soup Bowl, Caring Days, Feed My Sheep, Counseling Ministry
Professionals, and many others outreach ministries.
A new educational building, a family life center, and Warner Hall were dedicated.
With the call of Rev. James Goodlet as associate
pastor for college ministry, the church expanded its involvement with
college students through UKirk campus ministry at the University of
The church began an outreach to the German
community in Tuscaloosa with First Pres Deutsch which holds
German-language services, confirmation classes, and other offerings in
German led by Rev. Dr. Thomas Herwig. The congregation also expanded the
emphasis upon mission with the calling of Associate Pastor Lou Ann
Sellers discerning God's mission in partnership and advocacy within
Tuscaloosa, Perry County, Alabama and beyond.
Following the devastating Tuscaloosa tornado in
April of this year, the church became a host site for mission teams from
across the nation who assisted in rebuilding homes.
worship experience was greatly enhanced by the installation of our new
Letourneau organ that had been purchased in 2014. Events to enhance our church fellowship
outside of worship continued regularly.
We were actively involved in our new Presbytery camp, Living River, and
expanded our property with the purchase of the old YMCA.
Rev. Michael Bailey accepted our call and began his ministry with the challenge of overseeing transitions within our church during an era of great social change and political division. He has encouraged our congregation to look to the future while acknowledging God’s faithfulness to our church for 200 years. Our congregation remains faithful to God and our original 1820 tenants; we still gather for worship and fellowship, promote education, and provide service to others.
First Presbyterian Church celebrated its bicentennial. A big celebration was planned but due to a worldwide pandemic, plans were scaled back. We still celebrated but masked and "sacredly distanced." Click here to check out some of the ways we celebrated.
First Presbyterian Church has provided the city and
county of Tuscaloosa a wonderful place of worship, service, and
fellowship for more than 200 years. We are grateful for the legacy of vision and
faithful service that we have inherited from its past and know that it
will continue and grow into the future.