Date:  May 23, 2023


To:      The Congregation of First Presbyterian, Tuscaloosa


From:  Leanne Spencer, Clerk of Session


Re:      Membership Roll of FPC


Dear Church,


At the Session Meeting on November 21, 2022, the Session charged the Clerk with doing a detailed review of the membership roll of FPC, to the best of her ability, and to report back to Session in six months.  You were informed of this in the Session notes and again at our Congregational meeting in February of 2023.  I want to share the results and report with you.


Joining me to conduct this review was Becky Compton, Current Elder on Session, Bess Miller, Elder, Suzanne Cornett and Michelle Etheredge, FPC Staff and Rev. Bailey and Rev. Sellers as pastoral consultants.


It has been approximately 11 years since the last detailed name by name reconciliation of our roll had occurred.  We examined 11 years of Session records looking at births, deaths, confirmations, baptisms, and other membership changes to ensure our records were as complete and accurate as possible.


Not surprisingly, we found some errors.  The largest error occurred in April 2018 when a software update from “Old” Shelby (our membership database software program) to “New” Shelby occurred.  FPC staff (no longer employed by us) made some decisions regarding names and data to be transferred.  There were 166 members that were deemed to be inactive in the church that were not transferred to the New Shelby database.  The intentions were good, but the process was flawed, and the names should have gone before Session to be properly deleted from the active roll.  They have not been in our active database since 2018 but they have been included in the numbers reported by Session to you which most recently was 1,018.  This list has been reviewed by our team and was put before Session to vote remove from the active roll.


Otherwise, most of what we found in our review is that over 11 years members have moved on.  They have moved to different cities, children of the church are grown and gone.  With the growing number of non-denominational churches, church “shopping and hopping” has become more prevalent and accepted in our community.  The tradition of moving one’s “letter” or notifying your church/transferring your letter when you have made a move seems to be a dying art, therefore it is increasingly difficult to keep track of our flock.  All mainline denominations are facing this challenge.


We presented a list of 95 members to Session on Monday, May 15, 2023, that are either no longer living in Tuscaloosa, no longer actively worshipping with us, or perhaps have moved on to a different church.  We did our best to contact members through calls and letters.  There were also errors for example, a former UKirk student who was entered as a member, but never joined our church.  The Session voted to remove these names from the active roll.  We plan to present another list in the Fall. 


What does it really mean to be removed from the roll?  In the recent past, the Book of Order discontinued the “inactive” category.  When we remove a member from active membership, they do not appear in Shelby or the church directory any longer.  But we maintain all their data in our historical database, it is not deleted, and we consider the person a “former member”.  We have more than 10,495 records in our historical database.  We have all the births and baptisms.  We still love everyone who is or has been affiliated with FPC and will warmly welcome any who find their way back to Tuscaloosa and/or back to FPC.  They can still stay in touch and receive our emails of programs and activities, prayer concerns, worship with us via our YouTube broadcast and follow us on Facebook.


When you see our latest membership number, it’s going to look a bit different, currently at 749. It is important that you understand why.   I invite you to read the more detailed report to Session by clicking here.  You may always reach out to me at  Thanks for your continued support of First Presbyterian Church.




Leanne Spencer