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Church History

The History of the Presbyterian Faith

The Presbyterian Church has a rich and exciting history:

Early Christian Church - The Presbyterian church, like all Christian churches, traces its roots back to the early church in Jerusalem. Many people consider modern Presbyterianism to be a rebirth of the early church of the New Testament.

 

Martin Luther - The Protestant Reformation moved forward in 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany.  Luther fought against pretensions of authority by the Pope and called for direct authority from God.

 

John Calvin - John Calvin, called the father of Presbyterianism, converted to Protestantism in 1533. He interpreted the Bible as the revelation of God, emphasizing theology, worship, education, thrift, ethical behavior, and representative government for his followers.  From his home city, Geneva, Calvin's ideas spread throughout Europe.

 

John Knox - The Scottish Protestant John Knox fled persecution in his homeland and studied with Calvin in Geneva. He returned in 1559 and established Presbyterianism in Scotland.

 

Westminster Assembly - In England, the "Westminster Assembly" of 151 Presbyterians worked steadily between 1643 and 1649 to write the doctrinal guides. Presbyterians now recognize these as some of their basic texts.

 

American Revolution - Presbyterians escaped persecution in Europe and settled in America. There were so many Presbyterians in America that some British people called the American Revolution the "Presbyterian Revolt." At least 14 signers of the Declaration of Independence were Presbyterians (including clergyman John Witherspoon).

 

Presbyterianism in the U.S. - The first presbytery in America was established in Philadelphia in 1706. During the 1800's, disagreement over slavery and evangelism broke the church into northern and southern branches.  The two branches reunited in 1983 to form the Presbyterian Church (USA).

 

The History of First Presbyterian Church of Muncie, IN

 

 

Muncie First was created in 1828 with a membership of nine people.  The city of Muncie was called Munseytown and had a population of 200 at the time.

In the following year after an evangelistic meeting, thirteen new members were received. Among them was a Mrs. Thomas Kirby. Her husband donated three lots for a building site for a church in honor of his wife. The three lots valued at $300 were in the very heart of downtown Muncie.

 

The first building was a 16 X 16 ft. wooden structure. It wasn't long before the congregation outgrew this building and in 1857 a new brick structure was built. This was a building reputed to be one of the largest and finest in the city, with an organ and a growing congregation.                                                                                                                                                                                                       

                       Lewis Weber Gishler

 

 

 

 


                Sanctuary of Downtown Church

 

 

 

 

                 


                  Meeting Room of Downtown Church

 

 

 

 

    
               From The Muncie Star, April 14, 1954  

 

 

 

 

 Hear Sermons from

The Rev. Dr. Lewis Weber Gishler

 

 Sermon 1

 

 Sermon 2

 

 Sermon 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 
The Rev., Dr. Ronald Naylor

                   
                       

 
               

Within another 35 years, the congregation needed more space and a third building, this one of stone was built on site. The congregation remained at this site for 63 years. When expansion of the building and parking space became a necessity, a committee was appointed to find a new location. The committee chose 12 acres at the  edge of town, adjacent to the Ball State College. A number of Pastors served the congregation and community. In 1942, a young Pastor from Canada was chosen to lead the church. Dr. Lewis Weber Gishler served as Pastor from 1942 until his retirement in 1972.

Taking a radical turn from the architectural style of the past, a Georgian style building was built in 1955. Our red brick colonnaded building with its steeple and church bells soon became a landmark in the neighborhood and to the nearby college community.

 

From the Muncie Star

There was standing room only last Sunday at the first worship services conducted in the Presbyterian Church, under construction on Riverside Avenue.  It was an Easter sunrise service at 6 o'clock for men only and more than 400 overflowed 30 rows of two by six inch boards that rested on upended cement blocks.  Each row had seating capacity of 10.  They listened attentively to the Easter message of the Rev. Lewis Weber Gishler, their heads bared to the chilling cold.  There was little if any protection against the weather during the hour-long service in the church nave.  The picture was taken while the congregation remained standing at the minister's request after he had pronounced the benediction and suggested they wear their hats.  It will be sealed in the cornerstone of the church with the scroll that each man signed.  ~Photo by Folger Brown

 

In 1962, thirty families from this church volunteered to help in the formation of St Andrew Presbyterian Church of Muncie.

 

 

In 1985, the congregation elected The Rev. Dr. Ronald Naylor to serve as Head of Staff. He served the congregation as head of staff until his retirement in 2013.  His leadership brought back the enthusiasm and growth that had lagged after Dr. Gishler retired. Rev. Naylor continued to serve this church honorably and well, his dedication to mission led the church to participate in many local, national, and international missions. His tireless efforts for evangelism brought about many community involvements for the church with many ecumenical endeavors throughout his years with First Presbyterian Church.  In 2013, anticipating retirement, a Co-Paster (The Rev. J.D. Georelett) was elected by the congreation.  This new model for change in church leadership served the congreation well as a new paster was welcomed while saying goodbye to Rev. Naylor.

The Rev. J.D. Georlett was elected by the congreation in March, 2013.  He now serves as Pastor, Head of staff.  We look forward to the future with Rev. Georett.

 

A unique part of Muncie First is the Korean Congregation, comprised of Korean and international students. The Rev. Dr. MyungKu Lee has led the congregation since 2000.

 

Muncie First is a living, vibrant church.  Activities for every age fill our schedule each week.  Our sanctuary houses contemporary and traditional services.  All in the community are invited to worship here.

 

 

 


 

Four-Church Mural displayed in Fellowship Hall of First Presbyterian Church

 4 churches mural

 Back in 1838 when our church was founded, Robert Irwin moved from Camden, Ohio to Munseytown, and he came to establish the Presbyterian Church. In this pioneer community beginning with only nine members he overcame difficulties, dreamed dreams, and labored for 12 years. 

In 1907-1920 the Rev. Benjamin Nyce was instrumental in evangelistic efforts that led people to a deeper commitment in mission. 

The ministry of Dr. Lewis Weber Gishler, who served this church over 30 years as its pastor, saw the construction of the facility in which we presently worship on Riverside Avenue.  Lew had a vision, and the congregation along with him, of the growth of Muncie around the university.  Our church today is situated in the premier location for ministering and reaching out to the university community.  During the Gishler years, the church grew in numbers.  It was truly a time of great excitement for the leadership and members of First Presbyterian Church. 

Since the '70s, First Presbyterian Church has deepened its mission commitments to our community and neighbors and redefined First Presbyterian as an outpost of Christian compassion, justice, and tangible assistance.  In recent years, we have expanded our ministry far beyond our own borders to Mexico, Honduras, and now have partnerships as far away as Korea.