This picture hangs in the Denniston Room and shows the church prior to the sunday school addition.   Note the stables to
This picture hangs in the Denniston Room and shows the church prior to the sunday school addition. Note the stables to the right!

 OUR HISTORY 1841 - PRESENT

The First Presbyterian Church of Washingtonville was founded in 1841 with 22 charter members led by Pastor Henry Belden. Rev. Belden and the church Elders increased membership through an “under-shepherding” ministry allowing the Pastor and Elders to visit all 134 congregants every two months.

Prior to the church building being built in 1847, the parishioners met in what was known as the Academy. Charles Brooks donated the land, James Whit was hired as mason and John MacCrag was the builder. David Moffat’s farm was the source for the heavy oak support beams used in the building. In 1855, the parsonage was purchased along with 7 acres, of which 5 were an all-faith cemetery.

 

The church has seen three divisions of the congregation. In 1846, 30 members left and formed the Free Congregational Church. In 1857, Dr. Halsey formed the Second Presbyterian Church with half the congregation following him. In addition, at this time, the General Assembly was divided into the New School and the Old School.  Today in Washingtonville there are two Presbyterian churches: FPC and Bethany Presbyterian, which has a predominantly African-American congregation.
 
In 1900, Robert Denniston donated the funds to build a chapel onto the church in memory of his wife. Built by Nelson Greene, who also remodeled the narthex, it is currently referred to as the Denniston Room. Mr. and Mrs. Bradner offered the 20 feet of property needed for the addition. Alice Hallock and Elizabeth Hallock purchased all the furnishings for the chapel, and an organ was also purchased at this time. During the early 1940’s, the sanctuary was restored to the true colors of a colonial church with light walls and white pews with mahogany rails. In the fifties, an additional building was constructed including Sunday School classrooms, the Parish Hall, and new kitchens. A small pastor's study was added on later in that decade. In the 1980’s, a ramp was installed on the west side of the sanctuary to provide handicap access. In 2003, the Parish Hall was re-named Hazekamp Hall in honor of that family's contributions to the church. The downstairs Sunday School rooms were also re-named in 2003 in memory of Ruth Overfield. In 2006, new stoves were installed in Chi’s Kitchen, named in memory of Chi Wilson-Miller. This same year, the David Sinclair Memorial Music Library was created.
 
The Washingtonville Cemetery has been owned and maintained by the church since 1855, and all faiths are served by the cemetery. In 2006, the Goshen Avenue entrance was closed in conjunction with a sale of a right-of-way parcel. At that time, the original main entrance on North Street was reopened.
 
In church governance, the first Board of Deacons was formed in 1985, and a unicameral board was adopted with new bylaws in 1986. The Board of Trustees was dissolved in 1986, and the financial responsibilities were placed with Session. There has also been an emphasis on lay leadership going into the new millennium. FPC is now divided into 5 ministries under the leadership of Council: Education, Nurture, Worship, Mission and Stewardship.
 
During its long history, the church has had 23 pastors. In the last 30 years, FPC has had three called full-time pastors and two interim pastors. Rev. Lee Poole served as pastor for almost 20 of these years followed by Rev. Whitworth Ferguson who left in 2006 for another calling. After serving our church for two years as Interim Pastor, Rev. Jean Holmes left in January 2009. In the Fall of 2009 we welcomed the Rev. Amy Loving as our new, called pastor to lead this church and its congregation. After two years of creative service, Pastor Loving chose by mutual agreement to return to her mid-west roots. Rev. Bill Doster served as part-time temporary interim pastor from July 2013 through November 2014. We are currently enjoying a variety of supply pastors while the church seeks to discern what our mission and vision is for the future. In 2016 we agreed to yoke with Bethlehem Presbyterian Church. A joint Pastor Nominating Committee is actively seeking to call a full-time, designated pastor who would serve both churches.