A Legacy of Welcome
First Presbyterian Church of Morgantown is first mentioned as a congregation in the minutes of a Redstone Presbytery meeting in 1788 when a minister was sent to organize the church. The first group of Presbyterians met in a courthouse somewhere along High St. in downtown Morgantown.
The congregation's first building was erected in 1822, at a cost for building and land of $1,850.
Interestingly, this first building was also a joint project with the Episcopalian congregation who would become Trinity Episcopal. From the early 1800’s until the 1850’s, our congregation and the Episcopalians worked closely as a sort of joint congregation.
In the 1830s our congregation helped start two new churches; commissioning Sugar Grove Presbyterian Church, which still exists outside of Morgantown today, and a Presbyterian Church in Stewartstown, WV.
The congregation was very involved in sponsoring overseas missionaries. We sent eight missionaries to parts of India, and four to Thailand. One of those missionaries, Louisa Ann Lorie, went to India as a female missionary but unfortunately died of consumption in Calcutta, India - therefore a member of our church has a Presbyterian marker in India.
It is also believed that our church sent the first Western medical missionary to China in the mid 1800’s. A man named Dr. Stephen Alexander Hunter traveled to China and worked closely with the Chinese government to improve medical practices in rural areas.
The congregation also has a history of welcoming and sponsoring refugees who come to settle in the Morgantown area. In 1956 our church sponsored a Greek speaking Albanian family who were displaced after civil unrest in their region - and the church provided an apartment and furnishings for them.
In 1975 and in 1979 our congregation sponsored two Vietnamese families who fled Vietnam during and after the Vietnam War.
Our congregation also has a long history with race relations in Morgantown.
In 1946 our church helped The Shack build an outdoor swimming pool for public use that became the first integrated pool in the state of West Virginia, where everyone was welcome regardless of their race.
In 1948 our congregation welcomed an African American family into the church to sit in the position of honor at front of the church - which was an important symbolic step at the time.
In 1963, the members of the church encouraged Session to develop a statement in support of the Civil Rights Movement just before the Civil Rights Act began to move through Congress. Here is what the proclamation said:
Recognizing the commandment of Jesus to stretch forth our hands to all people, the Session of First Presbyterian Church declares that it’s mind and the doors of the church are open to any person regardless of God-given qualities, worldly state of belief, as much as they declare themselves to be a child of God. Therefore, by the simplest of Christ’s invitations, we say, “Come.”
Our congregation carries on that same legacy today. We have always been quick to welcome and embrace people by the simple invitation of Christ, even when it was not a value shared by a majority of the community around us.
We still strive to extend that simple invitation of Christ to all - to refugees, to all races, to our LGBTQ community, all abilities, all social and economic situations.
We are proud to be a congregation that strives to reflect the grace and love of God for all people by welcoming, including and celebrating the creative diversity of God in the world.