FPC turns 150!
2023 marks First Presbyterian Church's sesquicentennial (our 150th anniversary!) as we honor our past, celebrate our present, and look toward our future. We celebrated this milestone on May 21, 2023, with a special worship service and celebration. We will continue to celebrate our 150th anniversary throughout the year.
The history of First Presbyterian Church parallels the development of the City of Fort Worth and Texas Christian University. In October of 1870, the Presbytery of Central Texas of the Presbyterian Church U.S. (Southern) named a committee to look into the formation of a new church in Fort Worth. Five to ten Presbyterians had been gathering regularly in a room over Knight's Livery Stable at 3rd and Calhoun Streets. They were organized as the First Presbyterian Church (FPC) on May 25, 1873. In 1877, the church called its first pastor, the Reverend W.W. Brim, and built a small frame structure on Jones Street, between 1st and 2nd Streets. In the summer of 1878, a young man by the name of Stevens, a recent graduate of Trinity University with plans to attend seminary, came through Fort Worth on horseback selling magazine subscriptions. He stayed at the Daniel Hotel and learned of the hopes for a new Cumberland Church. He was invited to stay in Fort Worth and preach to the small congregation, and on September 15, 1878, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church of Fort Worth was organized. Stevens immediately approached the membership and raised $1,500 for the first building to be built at 5th and Taylor Streets.
When the Cumberland Presbyterian Church moved to its new location, it became known as Taylor Street Presbyterian Church. After just over a year in Fort Worth, Mr. Stevens resigned and entered seminary. Before the turn of the century, these two small Presbyterian congregations were seeking to establish other outposts in the city. In 1883, with less than 175 members of its own, FPC formed the Broadway Presbyterian Church, later renamed St. Stephen Presbyterian Church. Another congregation, Westminster Presbyterian Church, was organized in December 1897 as College Avenue Presbyterian Church, and in 1926 renamed to Westminster Presbyterian Church. The Taylor Street Presbyterian Church organized a new congregation, Hemphill Presbyterian Church, on the south side in 1898. By 1915, FPC (U.S.) and Taylor Street Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) had a combined membership of nearly 1,000. Plans soon got under way for a merger, and on January 30, 1916, the congregations approved the Articles of Federation for a new church, becoming the First Presbyterian Church of Fort Worth. On May 1, 1919, the First Presbyterian Church (Federated) called James K. Thompson as its first pastor. He served for 25 years. During his tenure the congregation grew from 1,100 to 1,500 members.
Dr. Robert F. Jones was called as pastor on Sept. 9, 1944, and served until his retirement in 1979. Membership grew more rapidly in this period than at any other time in the congregation’s history.
A Move to Penn Street
A building committee, under the chairmanship of Dr. C.A. Hickman, found a new site just west of central downtown, and developed plans for a new church facility for this growing congregation. On December 23, 1956, the congregation worshiped for the first time in the new sanctuary at 1000 Penn Street. FPC remained from 1916 until 1961, when the organic union was permitted between churches of the two denominations. FPC of Fort Worth then became the largest Union Church in our Presbyterian family. In 1973, our Centennial Year, the church hosted the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.). In 1983, a reunion of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.) and the United Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) in Atlanta led to the formation of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A). From 1980-1996, Dr. Robert W. Bohl served as pastor. He placed major emphasis on corporate worship, mission giving and service/evangelism. From 1994-1995 he served as Moderator of the General Assembly.
New Leadership & New Connections to the Community
After Dr. Bohl's resignation in 1996, a nomination committee put together an interim team of ministers to provide leadership until a permanent Pastor and a staff of Associate Pastors could be secured. This team was headed by Senior Interim Pastor John Ed Withers, and Associate Interim Pastors John T. Conley and Sandra Kern. Their expertise and guidance during 1997 and 1998 enabled the congregation to move forward during this time of transition.
From 1998-2005, Rev. Dana C. Jones led FPC in a period of membership growth and community outreach, resulting in a New Church Development in Aledo and the revitalization of Hemphill Presbyterian Fellowship. He also led the church in a visioning process that led to a master plan and successful Capital Campaign in 2005. Jones concluded his ministry here on July 31, 2005, to accept a call in Sewickley, Penn. The Rev. Karl Travis was called as Head Pastor in 2007 after serving congregations in New Mexico and Michigan. He served FPC until January 2019. During this time the church completed the addition of a new building at the Penn Street campus, designed and built a Columbarium/Memorial Garden/Labyrinth on the north side of the Penn Street campus, renovated and rededicated the Sanctuary, and expanded the staff and ministry with the addition of a Discipleship Coordinator, Communications Coordinator and Young Adult Director, all the while continuing to expand the scope and reach of Mission and Outreach that includes international partnerships and support of mission co-workers.
FPC Today and Looking to the Future
Our Associate Pastors, the Rev. Dr. Michael Waschevski, the Rev. Robyn Michalove, and the Rev. Dr. Joshua Stewart served the congregation through a time of transition and pandemic, sharing the responsibilities of Pastor/Head of Staff. The Pastor Nominating Committee (PNC) was elected by the congregation in November 2019. The PNC was asked to prayerfully search and then nominate a head of staff for election as the next pastor for our congregation. The Rev. Dr. Brian Coulter was elected by the congregation on February 7, 2021 to serve as the next Pastor/Head of Staff, beginning April 12, 2021. Brian joins our congregation from First Presbyterian Church in Aiken, South Carolina, where he has served as Pastor/Head of Staff since 2014. He also serves as a Congregational Consultant for the Presbyterian Mission Agency, and previously served as Associate Pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Fairhope, Alabama. He and his wife Megan have two daughters, Annabel and Paige.
Several major mission projects and commitments are being realized. Community Crossroads, the church's Mission Center at 1516 Hemphill St., is being expanded as ministry needs have continued to increase in the areas of food distribution, clothing distribution, the Formula and Diapers ministry, the Dental Clinic, ESL classes, WOW (Worship on Wednesdays) along with a variety of other new ministries. Significant gifts from the church are also enabling renovation and expansion at the Presbyterian Night Shelter as well as a new Permanent Supportive Housing Initiative in partnership with the City of Fort Worth.