“I was glad when they said unto me, we will go into the house of the Lord”
— Psalm 122:1
Every church has a history intertwined with and molded by the events that have occurred in the world, the immediate vicinity, and within the congregation itself. First Presbyterian Church has been a witness for Christ in the heart of Knoxville, standing on land donated in 1792 by city founder James White. Samuel Carrick was the first minister and was also the first president of Blount College, which later became the University of Tennessee. Thus began the history of FPC in Knoxville, and to this day, we have not abandoned the downtown area.
The church today occupies an entire city block. The core building, containing the sanctuary, was built in 1903.The wings were added in the 1920s and the chapel in 1962. One important story to note, during the Civil War, the Union Army occupied the city and took control of the church, using it as a hospital, barracks, and a school for freed slaves’ children. When the property was returned to the congregation, the building was in terrible condition. During the restoration, someone wrote “Jehovah Jireh” (God Will Provide). Today, this inscription is above the chancel to remind us that all gifts come from God and that God will provide for our needs.
The 11:00 Sunday services are held in the sanctuary as well as weddings, musical concerts, and the nativity pageant. Each week members of the congregation gather here to join together in song, prayer, and to hear the Word of God proclaimed.
It was renovated in 1997, receiving fresh paint on the walls and columns, new pew pads and chair covers, and the stained-glass windows were restored.
The 8:45 Sunday service is held in the Chapel. This traditional-looking Presbyterian Meeting House is also used for small weddings and funerals and for special musical events. The chapel is used for services of healing and wholeness, and is frequently used for an ecumenical Thanksgiving service for the downtown area churches.
Under the direction and leadership of Senior Pastor, Dr. G. Carswell Hughs and Organist-Choirmaster, J. Ashley Burell, the chapel organ was installed in 2005 as a part of the Trinity Capital Campaign. Built for a room with excellent acoustics, this superb instrument was built by Taylor and Boody Organbuilders (Opus 52). This nine stop mechanical action instrument is built after an 18th c. English Chapel organ design (with an additional pedal) by the legendary, George Frideric Handel.
The parlor is used by the brides for weddings in both the chapel and in the sanctuary. The renovation of this room also took place during the work completed in 1997.
In 1988 a capital campaign added a new Fellowship Hall to the church as well as new church offices and a new session room. The Fellowship Hall is used for congregational meals on Sundays after the 11:00 service and for meals before Wednesday Night Bible Studies. The Youth and children make use of this space for recreation activities during their meetings as well.
The church library houses many religious works, along with works by several First Presbyterian members. A team of faithful members volunteer to keep the library in order, checking in books and keeping all materials cataloged. A bequest was left to the church recently to increase the reference materials of the library.
Across the hall from the library is the children’s area. As part of the renovation of 1997, this section of the church was created to move the children to a more central part of the church building, and thus the church’s life. Classrooms for 3-year-olds to 5th grade are in this space, and the “gathering area” is used for special children’s presentations. On the walls are two murals partially painted by the children. They tell the story of creation and the fruits of the spirit.
The youth division, located on the 4th and 5th floors, contains Sunday School and Presbyterian Youth Connection (PYC) rooms for 6th through 12th grades.
First Presbyterian Church, while we are proud of our history, we also know that the church has an important role in our world today. We are a living congregation, not a museum to simply be visited and admired. We invite you to explore the rest of our website to learn more about the life of our congregation, or better yet, come visit us!