First Presbyterian’s history dates back to 1821, when the small town of Charlotte (yes, Charlotte was once considered a small town!) set aside a plot of land for the creation of a town church. The church’s 203 years spanned a number of racial periods: from the Civil War to Reconstruction, from Jim Crow laws to the Civil Rights era.
In 2020, a group from First Presbyterian Church undertook research to better understand the church’s history as it relates to race, with the ultimate goal of making our church more welcoming and equitable today. The Racial Justice Task Force “spent endless hours reading documents stored in our church archives, including many Session minutes,” explained Task Force and Anti-racism Subcommittee member Ross Loeser. The research led to a 27-page report and contributed to the development of FPC’s History Hallway.
When asked about the importance of this work today, Ross replied, “It’s telling the truth about our past. ‘Truth’ is a fundamental value of our faith. There are multiple places in scripture that highlight this. It’s also the starting point of the approach, ‘Truth, Confession, Repentance, Repair,’ which is a very appropriate model for thinking about our role in racial injustices.”
In honor of Black History Month, the Advocacy Committee challenges you to spend some time learning about Black history and understanding the “truth” of our past. Resources are available on the church’s website at firstpres-charlotte.org/anti-racism, or scan the QR code below. Additionally, you can spend some time exploring the History Hallway, which spans the corridor behind the sanctuary. Within the hallway, you’ll find pastor biographies and a piece of art that includes a repentance and reconciliation statement. Rev. Pen Peery explained that the artwork “resulted from a prayerful and thoughtful reflection on our history and our desire to be for Christ in Charlotte.”
Janet Lyman, who also serves on the Anti-racism Subcommittee, said, “We are hoping that people understand we’re all on a journey. One might say we have both individual journeys and a journey as part of a group. There is work to be done, and the first step is to educate oneself.”