FPCS History

Honoring Our Past – Building Our Future

In 1852, a disagreement over the allocation of church funds prompted members of the Union Church of Whitemarsh to leave the Union Church and form the Union Sabbath School and Library Association of Whitemarsh in a barn. They continued to hold Sunday school and meetings at this site until 1855, when 14 members formed an alliance with the Presbytery of Philadelphia and, by public profession of their faith in Christ, were organized into the First Presbyterian Church in Springfield. In 1857 the 2-story church at Mill and Bethlehem Pike was built.

From its beginning, to almost the time of the 50th anniversary, the congregation struggled to survive and prosper. Finally, in 1874, with help from Home Missions to pay a portion of the pastor’s salary, increases in member subscriptions, and a substantial contribution from Presbytery, all outstanding debts on the church property were paid. At a congregational meeting in 1905, Rev Long, commented that members should be encouraged more than ever to make the church “a success and not let it sink for want of money.”

1905 to 1955 was a period of change and growth in both the church and the community. In 1906 Sunday School membership reached 114, the church had 96 members and the services of a full-time minister. The earlier predominance of German families living in the area was changing because of the influx of other ethnic groups moving to the Flourtown area. New residents joining the church expanded and strengthened the connection to this growing community.

To accommodate the continued growth of the church membership,3 building projects were completed; 2 rooms at the rear of the building for primary department use in 1910, the North wing in 1941 and the South wing in 1951. In consideration of membership growth and financial stability, the Flourtown church was officially recognized as self-supporting by Presbytery. Within the context of struggles and hardships of the early years, the building blocks of mission and ministry were laid, which advanced the church and benefited the community.

Between 1955 and 1980, membership had grown to as high as 696 active members, and with that growth came the broader sense of mission, not only to the local community but support to the General Assembly, Synod and Presbytery. In 1962 the session, under the leadership of Rev. James Bell, voted to delay plans for church expansion and support the completion of the Moon Wha Presbyterian High School in Korea. In 1966, the congregation again set aside funds to help build the Church on the Mall in Plymouth Meeting. In most years, anywhere from 10 to 15 local organizations or other recipients were included in the annual mission budgets.

In 1997, construction of a Fellowship Hall and additional classrooms was dedicated to meet the expanding needs of the church family and its programs; community programs like the Northwest Interfaith Hospitality Network, Meals on Wheels, Barrel of Bounty, Prison Ministry. Scout programs, Senior Citizen Breakfast, MLK Day.

First Presbyterian Church in Springfield history is about time – past and future. The past is a story of others before us whose Christian commitments established the foundation for the direction the church now takes as it moves into the future. The story continues to be history in the making. The willingness to find opportunity in challenge and change will guide the present and shape the future. Recognizing that the church’s work serves a greater purpose, renews the spirit and enables First Presbyterian Church to grow in understanding through faith.

Contributed by Church Historian, Beverly Conti