History of First Presbyterian Church, Tuscaloosa
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).
First Presbyterian Church in Tuscaloosa was organized, one year after Alabama became a state. It was known then as Bethel of Tuscaloosa. It was formed by 16 Presbyterians who left Pendleton, SC, and settled on the banks of the Black Warrior River. The county courthouse was its meeting place.
The congregation erected a new church building on the site of the present sanctuary.
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. In 1895, the name was changed to Stillman College, and Dr. Stillman served as its first superintendent.
A new Sanctuary and Sunday school rooms were completed. Dr. Warner Hall served as pastor during World War II, and he greatly expanded the church’s ongoing ministry to University of Alabama students., The congregation called Dr. Malcolm McIver to serve as student pastor. Dr. Hall and Dr. McIver worked with 125 University of Alabama students who worshiped at First Presbyterian This student center ministry ultimately became University Presbyterian Church where our Student Center is located today.
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. Westervelt.
A new educational building was completed, and the church grew to 1000 members under the leadership of Dr. Simril Bryant.
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 and Presbyterian Apartments were built in Northport as housing for older members of the Tuscaloosa community.
Dr. Charles Durham was called to serve this church, and he served as its pastor until December 2014. Under his leadership, FPC developed mission partners in Brazil, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Madagascar, Kenya, Haiti, and Perry County. 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 Alabama.
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.
Purchased YMCA property across the street from church.
First Presbyterian Church has provided the city and county of Tuscaloosa a wonderful place of worship, service, and fellowship for 195 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.