First Presbyterian Church (Tulsa) facts for kids
Quick facts for kidsFirst Presbyterian Church of Tulsa
First Presbyterian Church, Tulsa in 2007
|Denomination||Presbyterian Church (USA)|
|Founder(s)||James M. Hall|
The First Presbyterian Church of Tulsa was organized in 1885. It originally met in the store owned by James M. Hall and Harry C. Hall. The first permanent minister, Reverend Charles William Kerr and his wife arrived in Tulsa in 1900. Kerr remained at this church for over 40 years. Under his leadership, the church became the second largest in its denomination (the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America). This church is part of the Eastern Oklahoma Presbytery of the United Presbyterian Church in the USA (UPCUSA).
1880s to 1910
In 1882, two brothers, James M. Hall and Harry C. Hall, established a general store at what is now the intersection of First and Main Streets, near the Frisco railroad tracks in the Indian Territory town of Tulsa. James Hall has been credited with organizing First Presbyterian Church (FPC), the first permanent Protestant church in Tulsa, which began meeting at Presbyterian School House in 1885. The first ministers at this church were itinerant Presbyterian missionaries, whose salaries were paid by their denomination, the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America (PCUSA). Rev. Robert McGill Loughridge, preached the first sermon on August 19, 1883 on the porch of the Hall store.
The first installed pastor was Reverend William Penn Haworth. He entreated the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Mission to approved funds to build Tulsa's first school house, which also served as Tulsa's first church. In 1888 Rev. Haworth was assaulted for preaching against vices and sustained injuries that required his early retirement. In 1901, Reverend Charles William Kerr, a missionary from Pennsylvania, answered a call to become the second minister. He proved to be a very dynamic personality and instigated a rapid growth of the congregation. The discovery of oil at nearby Red Fork in 1901 and another at Glenpool in 1905 had initiated a population boom that would radically transform Tulsa over the next half century. FPC soon outgrew the Hall store and moved to a purpose-built clapboard structure at 4th street and Boston Avenue, completed in 1899.
James Hall had also founded the Union Sunday School, an interdenominational organization, with two other people. Later, he became superintendent of the FPC Sunday school, a position he held for twenty years.
1910 to 1926
In 1910, the church moved to a new three-story limestone building at the southeast corner of Seventh Street and Boston Avenue. An impressive building in its day, it had a domed roof and Ionic columns on the porticos.
When the infamous Tulsa Race Riot occurred on June 1, 1921, Rev. Kerr opened the basement of this structure to house refugees, primarily women and children, from the Greenwood district. One book about the riot states that the bodies of four dead black men were left at the church door.
1926 to 2010
The third permanent building was completed in 1926, adjacent to the 1910 structure. This building is shown in the 2007 photo above. Mrs. Kerr dubbed it the "high kirk" of Tulsa.
The General Assembly of the PCUSA held its annual meeting at FPC in 1928. In 1932, Reverend Kerr was elected moderator of the General Assembly.
Rev. Kerr retired as Senior Pastor in 1941, and remained as Pastor Emeritus until his death. By 1941, church membership had grown to more than 3,200. The pace of growth continued under his successor, Dr. Edmund Miller, to more than 5,000. In 1948, the church was officially recognized as the second largest Presbyterian church in the United States of America.
The 1910 building was demolished in the early 1950s and replaced by the current C. W. Kerr Building.
2010 to Present
In 2010, FPC began constructing a new facility expansion between 7th and 8th streets and between Boston ave and Cincinnati ave. This expansion included renovations to the historic sanctuary on the west side (on Boston Ave), offices and classrooms (to the north-east), a courtyard in the shape of a Celtic cross, and a multipurpose space for worship services and community events (South-east). The new complex is said to cost $33 million.
In December 2010, the 1926 church building was named as a supporting building in the Oil Capital Historic District.
- Charles William Kerr 1900 - 1941
- Edmund F. Miller, D. D. 1941 - 1957
- Bryant M. Kirkland, D. D. 1957 - 1962
- William Wiseman 1963 - 1984
- Ernest J. Lewis 1985 - 1990
- James D. Miller, Ph. D. 1992–present
- Rev. James D. Miller, Ph.D.
- Rev. James Estes, M.Div.
- Rev. Wambugu Gachungi, M.Div
- Rev. Dan Hutchinson, M.Div.
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