History of The First Presbyterian Curch of Palestine, TX

 

Our church was formally organized by Reverand John May Becton and

Reverand Daniel Baker on Saturday, November 3, 1849, with eleven

Presbyterians as its charter members. Seven new members were added

to the roll almost immediately.  The new congregation proceeded to elect

three Elders.  The church formally applied to be received by the Brazos

Presbytery.

 

In 1855 the Palestine Presbyterian Church built its house of worship on a

lot near the town square.  The churches congregation grew slowly but steadily

along with the new town.  By the mid 1880s, the cultural and economic center

of Palestine had shifted from the old town square to the new town around the

railroad depot.  On March 2, 1887, the Palestine Presbyterian Church bought a

building lot on Avenue A.

 

Construction of a new church building began almost immediately after purchasing the lot.  Dedication ceremonies were held in July 1888,though the building was not complete.  The contractor had been unable to build the spire of the steeple on top of the entrance-way.  The steeple would later be added in 1890.

 

By 1901, the church was already in need of expansion.  Clearly the church had already considered some sort of expansion.  In November 1898, the church had purchase more property next to the existing sanctuary.  The Session approved expansion, and the church built a Sunday school and a pastor's study.  The new Sunday School was first used on February 20, 1902.

 

In 1904 the church obtained a pipe organ through the donations of church members and a specific grant from Andrew Canegie.  Church growth continued, and within another decade, the Sunday school again faced serious space problems.  In 1904 construction began on a large new addition and in 1916, the new Sunday school was dedicated.  This two-story building was added to the south of the old Sunday school addition.  The original 1902 addition became a fellowship hall.  A kitchen was added next to the pastor's study.  For many years, the Men's Bible Class met in the basement area, which was once a coal bin.  In 1949 a small auditorium was added on the southeast side of the church to house the Men's Bible Class.

 

In 1971, the church again faced the need for improved Sunday school and administrative facilities.  Using funds left by Elder  William B. Robinson, the Session agreed to the construction of a new Christian Education building.  The two-story addition had a floor space of more than 10,000 feet and included church offices and a pastor's study.  Dedication ceremonies were held on July 17, 1973.  

 

In 1980 the Palestine Herald-Press newspaper office moved from the building next to the church on the west side.  The church purchased this building and began converting it.  The completed building, now named the W. B. Robinson Hall, contains a large fellowship hall, preschool rooms, and a kitchen.  

 

Soon after the renovation of Robinson Hall, the church was offered the opportunity to acquire property formerly used by the Palestine School District.  The church purchased the cafeteria and the land to the east, including an old alleyway that would provide access to the church from the south.  The old cafeteria building was converted to the Presbterian outh Center.  Facilities within the building were made available to The Stockpot of Palestine, an outreach ministry of local churches and organizations to feed the hungry.

 

In 1986, the church began a mjor renovation of the sanctuary.  The old fellowship hall was refurbished to make it part of the santuary.  Pews were added to the new area.  The choir loft was enlarged and redesigned, and the interior of the old sanctuary was completely refurbished.  The restored sanctuary was dedicated on May 3, 1987.

 

Since 1888 the church has grown from a small building on a 60 X 115 lot to a church-complex of tens of thousands of feet.  Generations of church members have given, and continue to give, of their time, toil and substance to insure that the First Presbyterian Church of Palestine has kept pace with the needs of its members and of the community.  It is a legacy we all share.

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