First Presbyterian Church is a growing community of faith that prides itself in its active engagement in the community, its vibrant ministry to its children and youth, its fun loving and laid back spirit, and its dynamic music and worship ministries. We are a member of the Presbytery of Western New York and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Our theology is laid back and focuses on God’s love and forgiveness through Jesus Christ. However, we actively engage the Word of God and try to apply it to the world that we live in today.
Presbyterianism is a branch of Reformed Protestantism – which includes other Reform churches like the Dutch Reformed Church, the Congregationalists, and the United Church of Christ. Presbyterian churches derive their name from the Greek New Testament word for elder. Therefore, Presbyterian churches are governed by representative assemblies of elders who are elected by the congregation at an annual congregational meeting to serve three to six year terms of office. These individuals are responsible for the governance and decision making of the church. Presbyterian theology typically emphasizes the sovereignty of God, the authority of the Scriptures, and the necessity of grace through faith in Christ. Many American Presbyterian churches trace their roots to Scotland, as our churches were founded most by Scots and Scots-Irish immigrants.
Presbyterians are a confessional church meaning that we use the Book of Confessions as a guide for authoritative practice. Our Book of Confession consists of the Apostles Creed, Nicene Creed, the Westminster Standards, as wells as the Scots Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Second Helvetic Confession, the Theological Declaration of Barmen, the Confession of 1967, and a Brief Statement of Faith. While individuals are encouraged to understand Scripture, and may challenge the current institutional understanding, theology is carried out by the community as a whole. It is this community understanding of theology that is expressed in confessions
Presbyterians hold that there are only two sacraments: Baptism and Holy Communion. We generally baptize infants by sprinkling or pouring the water over their heads. However, we do baptize adults as well. Our understanding of the Lord’s Supper is that Christ is present in the bread and wine through the Holy Spirit, as opposed to being locally present.
There is not one fixed “Presbyterian” worship style. Although there are set services for the “Lord’s Day”, one can find a service to be evangelical and even revivalist in tone or strongly liturgical, approximating the practices of Lutheranism and Anglicanism (especially where Scottish tradition is esteemed), or semi-formal, allowing for a balance of hymns, preaching, and congregational participation (favored by probably most American Presbyterians). Most Presbyterian churches follow the traditional liturgical year and observe the traditional holidays, holy seasons, such as Advent, Christmas, Ash Wednesday, Holy Week, Easter, Pentecost, etc. We have both formal, liturgical services and more laid back informal services. We serve communion every Sunday at the 8:15 am service, which is very informal. Our 10:30 service is much more liturgical, but also includes opportunities for children and youth to actively participate.
There are a variety of Presbyterian Churches in the United States, including the Presbyterian Church (USA), which is the denomination to which First Presbyterian Church belongs. Locally there are also Presbyterian churches that belong to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church or EPC, including Knox Presbyterian Church in Kenmore, NY and Lancaster Presbyterian Church in Lancaster, NY. There are also many Presbyterian Churches of America throughout American, but more particularly in the Southern States, particularly in Florida. The largest concentration of Presbyterian Church is in Pittsburgh area and in North Carolina. The Presbyterian Church has had a long association with many prominent colleges and seminaries, including Princeton University, Davidson College, Wooster College, and Grove City College.
There has been many famous Presbyterians, including Presidents like Andrew Jackson, James Buchanan, Rutherford Hayes, Grover Cleveland Benjamin Harrison, Woodrow Wilson, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Ronald Reagan. As well as entertainers, authors and musicians like David Letterman, Amy Grant, John Wayne, Mark Twain, Jimmy Stewart, and J. K. Rowling. In addition, Billy Graham’s wife Ruth Bell Graham was a Presbyterian for her entire life.
Our church is theologically moderate. We strive to accept differences in theological opinion and opinions about politics. Members espouse diverse opinions on issues related to controversial topics like abortion, human sexuality, pre-destination, free-will, marriage and divorce, gun control, inter-faith relations, and politics.
See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presbyterianism (I used this reference for some of the above information).
The present pastor, the Reverend W. James Hardy, became the pastor of the church.
The Reverend Dr. William L. Hathaway was called as the pastor and served until 1999.
The Reverend Dr. W. James Westhafer was called as the pastor. He served the church faithfully until 1984. During his tenure, the church was given the former home of Philanthropist William Rand Kenan, Jr. and the Kenan Center was established. Through Dr. Westhafer’s tireless leadership, the church raised the money to build the Kenan Arena.
Mrs. Ferrin Fraser became he Director of Music and the first bells were purchased shortly thereafter and bell choirs were formed.
A newly re-decorated sanctuary was dedicated as was the new organ, which is the largest in Niagara County. The Great Commission Window, which was given by William Rand Kenan, Jr. in memory of his wife Alice Pomroy Kenan, was dedicated by the church.
Hamilton House was purchased and was opened as a Youth Recreational Center. It now houses the Niagara County Historical Society’s “Discovery Center.”
The Reverend Dr. Stephen A. Palmer became the pastor of the church and served for 26 years as the pastor of the church. During his tenure, the Lockport Presbyterian (L.P.) – the newsletter of the church – was first published.
The Christian Education building was completed.
January 1823: The church worshipped for the first time in a log building that was used as a school house. In attendance were at the worship service were 30 men and women, almost all of whom had moved to Lockport from other parts of New York or from New England.
May 13, 1823: The church was formally established and named “The First Presbyterian Society in the Village of Lockport” and shortly thereafter a house of worship was erected on Hawley Street, where the Niagara County Courthouse now stands.
1825: Reverend Aratus Kent was called as the first pastor of new congregation. He served in this capacity for two years.
1842: Reverend Dr. William D. Wisner was called as the pastor of the church and remained as the pastor for 34 years. He was a formidable preacher and was elected to the highest office in the Presbyterian Church the Moderator of the General Assembly.
1856: The present stone church was completed on Church Street in Lockport.
1882: The Reverend Maltbie Babcock was called to serve as the pastor. He was at that time the youngest pastor to ever serve the church. During his five year tenure as the pastor, he wrote the words to the hymn “This is My Father’s World.”