About

Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. – Ephesians 2:20-22

Vision, Beliefs & Strategic Plan

Because our community of faith is made up of a great tapestry of unique and inevitably flawed humans, we know that we will never quite achieve the vision we’ve been given. But here is the vision First Presbyterian Church strives to be and to become.

  • We are a family of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord, seeking to understand and follow His teachings.
  • We bring our diverse social, political and theological perspectives to be woven together in community.
  • We seek to glorify Christ in the heart of Charlotte through our worship, fellowship, witness and service.
  • We welcome all to join us in our journey of faith, trusting God to change us, our community and our world.

First Presbyterian Church is part of the Presbyterian Church (USA). We believe two historically Presbyterian affirmations, found in our Presbyterian Book of Order:

  • “In the name of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Christian community worships and serves God in shared experiences of life, in personal discipleship, in mutual ministry, and in common ministry in the world,” and
  • “The Church is called to be a sign in and for the world of the new reality which God has made available to people in Jesus Christ.”

You may also want to read our 2017 Strategic Plan, which is available to read online or can be picked up around the church.

History of an Urban Church

Worship bulletins for First Presbyterian Church have carried the language “For Christ in the Heart of Charlotte” since August 7, 1960, when the pastor at that time, Dr. E. Lee Stoffel, originated the language for an issue of the Sunday worship bulletin.

The spirit of that language, however, has been at work at this location in the heart of this ever-changing community since before this church was officially recognized in 1821.

It would be safe to say that First Presbyterian Church has experienced a lot of history during almost 200 years at this corner of Trade and Church streets. Certainly one of the church’s most historic moments came in 1951, when Dr. Charles E.S. Kraemer preached a sermon entitled, “We Do Not Plan to Move.” Dr. Kraemer admitted the location might not be convenient, especially as residents of the city migrated to the suburbs. But he staked First Presbyterian’s claim on its mission field when he said, “The very presence of a church building here in the heart of the central business section of this city is important.”

He then told the story of overhearing two men talking outside the church’s fence one evening. One of them commented that it was a shame to use such valuable business property for a church. The other man, however, said, “Maybe it is more important to have something here to remind people of God than to have more stores where a few more people can sell things and buy things from one another.”

First Presbyterian remained in the heart of Charlotte through a decline in the center city and is still here during this period of growth and evolution from a purely commercial district to once more being a home to residents.

When Charlotte incorporated in 1768, Mecklenburg County was served by a number of Presbyterian churches, as the area had been settled predominately by Ulster-Scot Presbyterians. For about fifty years the little village at the heart of the county had no church. Preaching was held when a minister was available, with services in the courthouse at the crossroads and at this corner we now call home.

A few significant dates associated with the history of First Presbyterian Church are:

  • 1815: The town commissioners set aside a plot of land to be used for a town church. It was to be built by the townspeople and used by all denominations. Construction began about 1818.
  • 1821: The Concord Presbytery, in session at Hopewell Church, officially recognized Presbyterians of Charlotte as a church on September 5, 1821. We view this as the birth of First Presbyterian Church.
  • 1823: The church building was dedicated; townspeople called it the Brick Church or the Town Church. Since the predominant denomination meeting there was Presbyterian, it was most often known as the Presbyterian Church.
  • 1835: John Irwin, a Presbyterian and town commissioner, paid of the debt for the construction of the church. He was deeded the property in trust for the Presbyterians.
  • 1841: John Irwin deeded a clear title to the trustees of the church “…for the members of the Presbyterian Church in the aforesaid Town of Charlotte.”
  • 1857: The congregation outgrew the original building and erected a second building at a cost of about $13,000. Its Gothic Revival style of architecture has been retained through all subsequent additions. The facade, narthex and tower, with the steeple rebuilt in 1883-84, remain as part of the present building.
  • 1876: A manse was built.
  • 1947: The Child Development Center, a pioneer in the field that has served as a model for other churches, was founded.
  • 1984: Session voted to purchase the city block bounded by Trade, Poplar, Fifth and Pine streets, which has been primarily used for parking.

Many people believe the old cemetery off Fifth Street behind First Presbyterian Church belongs to the church, but it is and always has been the property of Charlotte.

Through the years the church has been closely associated with Davidson College and Queens College, Alexander Children’s Center, Barium Springs Home for Children, Union Theological Seminary, Presbyterian Hospital and other institutions.

First Presbyterian has a long history of doing the work of Christ and for Christ in the heart of Charlotte.

The Ben Long Fresco

When international fresco artist Ben Long was commissioned to paint a fresco in the entrance hall of the fellowship building, the parable of the Good Samaritan seemed the perfect subject for a center city church dealing with the fundamental question, “Who is our neighbor?”
Scripture concludes the Good Samaritan parable that Jesus told in this way:

“Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”  He said, “The one who showed him mercy.”  Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” 

The dramatic image of the Samaritan bending over a beaten and bloodied stranger serves as an important reminder of the intimate relationship between the teachings of Christ and the work First Presbyterian is called to do.

The fresco measures 8 feet high and 28 feet long and was painted in the true fresco style of the 15th century masters by renowned fresco artist Ben Long. Session commissioned the fresco in April 2000. The Good Samaritan fresco was painted in October 2001 and dedicated in December of that year.

Ben Long is a native of Statesville, North Carolina, and a graduate of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. He studied figurative drawing in New York at the Art Student’s League. After a tour in Vietnam, Long traveled to Florence, Italy, to apprentice with Maestro Pietro Annigoni in the ancient art of fresco painting. First Presbyterian is one of several locations featuring a Ben Long frescoes in uptown Charlotte, including St. Peter’s Catholic Church, Bank of America Corporate Center, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Law Enforcement Center and Transamerica Square. Among his other works is a fresco of the Return of the Prodigal Son on the Montreat campus.

Fresco painting is an exacting art. The technique involves making a plaster by mixing sand and lime together, placing the mix on a wall and painting it while it is wet. The surface must be just right, neither too wet nor too dry. Pigments and lime crystals are ground finely enough that they are drawn into the porous plaster as it dries. The pigment bonds quickly to the plaster so that great skill and meticulous planning are required of the artist. The resulting expression becomes a part of the wall on which it is painted.

Fresco Visits

Wednesdays, 11 a.m.-Noon

Tour Information

704.332.5123

Contact Us

We welcome your questions about any aspect of our church life. Email us here and we will get back in touch.

In the event of a pastoral emergency, including hospitalization and death notifications, outside of regular business hours, please call 704.927.0256 to leave a message for the Pastor On Call.

General Information

reservations@firstpres-charlotte.org
704.332.5123
704.334.4135 (fax)

Membership Information

Lucy Caldwell, Membership Coordinator
lcaldwell@firstpres-charlotte.org
704.927.0241