The War Between the States had been over for three years and the small village of Henderson, founded many years after Oxford and Williamsboro were settled communites, began to grow. Between 1860 and 1870 the population increased from 186 to 545 as Henderson became a center for the cotton, tobacco and grain farmers in the area. Though Presbyterians were a minority, they decided it was time to establish a church in Henderson. On Sunday, August 28, 1868 a commission from Orange Presbytery met in Henderson to organize a Presbyterian church.
The first building housing the congregation was a small wooden structure located on William Street near the intersection of Spring Street. In 1878 a second church building was erected on Breckenridge Street between Wyche Street and Chestnut Street. Since there was no courthouse in Henderson at this time, courts were often held in this building. A brick church was built on our present site in 1881 with a Sunday School Assembly Room added in 1900. In 1929 this building was torn down and the present sanctuary with attached Sunday school rooms was constructed. An educational building was added to this structure in 1960.
“Servants in Christ” is a clear statement of First Presbyterian’s purpose and mission. Since its founding in 1868, the church has been a leader in ministering to the people of Henderson and Vance County. In 1982 the church was the driving force behind establishing Area Christians Together in Service (ACTS), a cooperative venture by the church to try and alleviate the suffering of those unable to be helped by the various government agencies or existing private sources. Working with other local churches, we still support ACTS and provide a soup kitchen on Sunday to provide food when ACTS is not able to do so.
In 2003, our youth returned from a mission trip to Washington, D.C. with the desire to host a soup kitchen at our church. “So Others May Eat” (S.O.M.E.) was started and continues to serve hungry people on the second Sunday of every month. Other area churches have joined us to be sure that there is a meal provided on every Sunday.
In 2009, leaders of the church worked closely with the local ministerial community to open an emergency men’s shelter in the basement of the church. That effort has led to the creation of Community Partners of Hope, Inc. which is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping homeless men become self-sufficient by offering them a place of hope, pride and resources.
The addition of the Tiny Free Pantry ministry in 2018 added a new way to serve the community by stocking a pantry box that is available from the street. Church members and others from the community leave food items for those in need who can pick it up at any time. The sign reads “Take what you need, leave what you can.”
Through FPC Shares, the congregation donates food and paper goods to support local charities. The church provides a facility for both Boy and Girl Scouts to meet and provide additional resources to the community. We also provide space for Vance Granville Community College to teach adult basic skills 4 nights per week. These are just a few examples of how our mission is defined by doing Christ’s work right here in our local community.
As has been the case throughout history, First Presbyterian Church seeks to renew the spirit of God’s people whenever and where ever it is able to do so.
On August 26, 2018, we celebrated our sesquicentennial (150 year anniversary) with a special worship service including bagpipes and special music. Information about our history was on display in various rooms within the church which had been thoroughly cleaned for the occasion. As for most special events, we gathered for a meal (this time catered) after the worship service.