“For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” – Matthew 18:20
The first entry in the records of the First Presbyterian Church of Griffin:
“City of Griffin, Pike County, Georgia – On Saturday before the fourth Sabbath in November, it being the 27th day, 1841, agreeable to an appointment of Flint River Presbytery, the following ministers being present: Rev. Michael L. Dixon, Rev. Henry L. Deane and Rev. L. W. Corbin, the following persons presented themselves: Dr. James S. Long, Mrs. Jane E. Long, Miles Garrison, Mrs. Garrison and Mrs. Bishop, having previously been members of the Presbyterian Church elsewhere, and Mr. Thomas H. Spruce who was examined on experimental religion. All of these had ‘publicly’ declared their approbation of the doctrines, governments and disciple of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, having covenanted to live together in unity as Christians and also to aid as God might enable them in supporting the gospel amongst them. These were constituted a church to be known as the Presbyterian Church in the City of Griffin, and were vested with authority to choose officers and to have the ordinances administered unto them. The Church immediately went into an election for a ruling elder, whereupon Jas. S. Long was unanimously chosen. Rev. Henry L. Deane was then invited to become the stated supply and the invitation was by him accepted.“
The First Presbyterian Church of Griffin started with six members lead by the Rev. Henry L. Deane. They met in an old warehouse located on what is now Broad Street. The members sat on sacks of corn and other goods, which filled the warehouse. In the first five months they grew by 67% to ten members. The first report sent to Presbytery read:
FIRST PRESBYTERY REPORT, APRIL 1842
Organized and constituted on Saturday the 27th day of November, 1841.
6 members present
2 members added on examination
2 members added on certificate
10 Total now in communion, 1842
Of special note from the early minutes: “Sunday morning, March 31, 1844, Wm. Thompson, infant son of Jas. S. and Jane E. Long; Sidney Clopton, infant son of Robt. S. and Mary J. Lanier; Ellen Elizabeth and Samuel Henry, infant children of Henry L. and Catherine T. Deane received the ordinace of infant baptism.” Sidney Clopton Lanier later became poet Laurent of Georgia.
The Rev. Henry L. Deane served for three years, until the end of 1844. Under his ministry membership increased from six to thirty-eight, church services were held only once a month, but there were many prayer meetings. It is stated that two-day meetings were common, beginning on Saturday morning and ending Sunday night.
In 1848, more than six years after the founding, the first church building was built. The church was built on an acre lot received as a grant from Gen Lewis Lawrence Griffin, the founder of the City of Griffin. This lot was located at the corner of North Hill and Chapel streets. The buildingcost $2,000, $150 of which was received from the Church Extension Committee of Presbytery, the rest being raised by the members. On Sunday morning, August 16, 1848, the session adopted the following resolutions: “Whereas the meeting-house now building is expected to be finished shortly; resolved, that it be dedicated to the worship of Almighty God, and that appropriate religious services be held on the first Sabbath in October next, for that purpose, Resolved, second, that as soon as the house is finished and dedicated, that a Sabbath School be opened in it for the instruction of the children and youth of our congregation.” The Griffin Presbyterian Sunday School was organized October 22, 1848 with ten teachers and forty-six pupils.
1848 was also the first year the pastor’s salary is mentioned. The Rev. Wm. L. Keith was chosen to preach two Sundays a month for “at least $200” annually. The annual report for that year shows “For minister’s salary $186.50.” No explanation of the difference is noted. In 1849 Rev. Keith received a raise to $431 per year for preaching three Sundays per month.
On Thursday night, June 14, 1849, the session met for the purpose of adopting rules and regulations for the better government of the church. The following were adopted:
First – There shall be a board of trustees of seven members, to be elected by the church.
Second – It shall be the duty of the trustees as soon as possible to get an act of incorporation from the Legislature, and to have invested in them, the right of the church property for the use and benefit of the Presbyterian Church in Griffin.
Third – They shall annually, on the first of October, rent the pews, and they are hereby requested to collect the same quarterly and to pay it over to the Clerk of Sessions.
Fourth – They are also requested to have direction, and contract for, any repairs, alterations, or additions to the church property that may be deemed necessary.
Fifth – They are also requested to provide for the keeping and lighting of the church, and to recommend the way and means to pay for the same.
Sixth – The session recommends as a standing rule that the first Sabbath in each season, to wit: the first Sabbath in March, June, September and December be the regular Communion for this church, at which time the Sacraments of the Lord’s Supper shall be administered.”
The church elected the trustees in 1849, and an act to incorporate the Presbyterian Church at Griffin, in the County of Pike, was approved by the Legislature February 1, 1850.
In the early days, disciple by the session was very rigid, and members were often cited to appear before them. For example: “The clerk was directed to cite Brother X to meet the session at the church on the second Sabbath in April to show cause why he absented himself from the church, and thereby neglected the means of grace.” Brother X presented himself and answered the charges against him; “I am in such circumstances that I am not able to appear in suitable attire at the church on the Sabbath Day.” The case was continued for further consideration.
Another case happened February 28, 1851: “It being made known to the session by the Moderator that two brothers had attended a ball and dance, a committee was appointed to see the brethren and report at next meeting.” The report read: “Both the brethren confess guilty and manifest no signs of repentance, or desire to remain members of the church; therefore, resolved that they be suspended until they show suitable signs of repentance. Resolved, that the session of this church disapprove of dancing at balls and dancing parties, and of parents sending their children to dancing schools.”
The Civil War
For much of the Civil War the church was without a pastor. The Rev. James C. Patterson served as interim pastor on several occasions, first from January to October of 1863, then from June of 1865 to February of 1866. Rev. James C. Patterson was the President of the Synodical College for Women, of the Presbyterian Church in Griffin. It was located on four acres where Taylor Street Middle School currently stands. It was not uncommon for the church to go several months at a time without holding services during the war. Additionally, there were a number of refugees that became members of the church. One instance from the church records: “Mr. Jas. H. Gordon and Mrs. Caroline M. Gordon, members of the Chickamauga Church, presented themselves for membership in this church, but without regular letters of dismission, having been compelled to flee from the face of the enemy and leave their homes and their sanctuaries in haste, their pastors having been driven from their flocks and the flocks scattered – perhaps never to be gather again on earth. It has been found impractical to obtain letters, the session having received satisfactory evidence of their regular church standing – received them as members in full fellowship in this church.”
Need for Revival
In a narrative to Presbytery October 8, 1885, the session reported regular service twice each Sunday and weekly prayer meetings; that these meetings were very well attended; that their pastor preached with zeal, earnestness and simplicity, greatly to the edification of his hearers; yet with all these means of grace that they were constrained to confess that as a church they were in a cold state; that they had received no member by profession, and but few by letter since their last report.
This brought about much searching of hearts, and this searching began with the session themselves. Shortly after this the session held a meeting the object of which was mutual confession. Every member of the session was present and made feeling and touching confession of his shortcomings. They resolved to have a pastoral letter prepared and read to the congregation. In that letter it was stated that: The spirit of pleasure and worldliness had prevailed among the people; that there had been no anxiety for the salvation of souls; that offerings had been held back; that reproach had been brought upon the name of Jesus Christ by the sinful lives of the people, and that the session trembled at the wrath of God and the judgment denounced against his careless shepards, and so they came with their own humble confessions. These were long and detailed confessions of their sins to Almighty God; to have more reverence for the session, and to submit themselves to the discipline of the church. The next report to Presbytery stated that the spiritual condition of the church was much improved and that peace and harmony prevailed.
The Second Church Building
Having outgrown current facilities, the church began construction of a new church building in the spring of 1888. The corner stone was laid. Engraved on it are these words, “Built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief Corner Stone. – Ephesians 2:20.” The corner stone now sits on the current church grounds. The first service was held in the new church November 4, 1888. The full report of the Treasure of the Building Committee reports that the lot cost $1420; the building $10,016; the furnishing, which was done by the ladies of the church, $450. The Ladies Society also donated $1236.20 to the building fund. The interest on the building fund was $1436.01.
On December 17, 1888, the Building Committee was instructed to move the bell from the old church to the new. The church bell had been purchased in 1871. This bell is currently on the grounds of the present church. The old church and half-acre lot were sold for $1000 and this was added to the building fund. On February 2, 1890, at a session meeting, the Moderator announced that the building was free from debt of any kind. A report from an old newspaper reads: “February 18, 1890 dedicatory services of the new Presbyterian Church were held. The church could not be wholly dedicated to the service of the Lord until it was fully paid for. The church decorations were very beautiful and the singing was good. The learned and eloquent Dr. G. B. Strickler of Atlanta read the lesson of the parable of the sower, Luke 8, and took as his text a part of the 18thverse: “Take heed therefore how ye hear.” The text was appropriate to the occasion since it was here that the Gospel would be preached and here that it should be heard in the right way. He said that as a man hungers for bread and thirsts for water just as much at three score as at three, so should we desire and have keen relish for the truths of the Scripture.”
In 1894 a Pilcher Pipe Organ was purchased at a cost of $1,425. This organ was completely rebuilt in 1978 when it was moved to the current sanctuary. The organ was the 25th organ built by the Henry Pilcher Organs Builders of Louisville KY. It originally had manual bellows. Later a hydraulic pump that operated by city water pressure powered the organ. This was not entirely satisfactory as the pump leaked and flooded the basement on many occasions. At some point an electric blower was added. In 1993, John Farmer of North Carolina reworked the pipes and added another rank for a fuller and richer tone. A new bench was added that allows the organist to adjust the seat height for more comfort while playing. All original parts of the organ, including the bench and the mirror have been preserved.
The Turn of the Century
In July 1902, the Rev. L. G. Henderson, of Americus, was called and began his work in the church. A complete reorganization of the church took place. The envelope system was adopted. The home department of the Sunday School was established. The missionary spirit was awakened and the interest developed in missions was far-reaching. A Mission Sunday School was begun under most favorable auspices. Mrs. C. H. Osborn donated a lot and deeded it to the church for the purpose of building a house of worship to be known as Osborn Presbyterian Chapel. This Chapel was on Tinsley Street and was built during this time.
In 1902, it was the privilege of the church to have with them for a meeting, Dr. Edward O. Guerrant of Kentucky. Under his preaching there was a gracious revival and large numbers were added to the church on profession of their faith in Jesus Christ. Among these were many of the young people of the church. Following the meeting, the session passed a resolution of thanksgiving for these showers of blessing in answer to prayer.
In 1906 the church began to support a missionary to China, Miss Josie Woods.
Women of the Church
The Women of the church have always been very active and have operated under different names. Originally it was “The Ladies Benevolent Society” and “The Mite Society” there was also a “Mission Band.” Later there was the “Ladies Aid Society” the ” Service Circle” and “The Woman’s Missionary Society.” Currently we have the “Presbyterian Women.” In 1925 the women were organized as the “Women’s Auxiliary.” The first year as the Women’s Auxiliary was so successful that a the meeting of the Atlanta Presbyterial in 1925, the President stated that out of fifty-five churches, in the Presbyterial, the Griffin Auxiliary was recognized above all others for work accomplished during the last year.
In 1924 it was decided that a Sunday School annex was needed. It was decided to use the Manse adjoining the church for this purpose, and the necessary changes were made to accommodate the growing Sunday School. A new Manse was built on Mimosa Drive in 1938 on a lot donated by a few members. The old Manse served as the Sunday School building until 1951 when an educational building was built on the site. The building was completed on November 4, 1951.
In April 1941 an outpost Sunday School was organized at Liberty Hill in Lamar County. Sunday School was held each Sunday afternoon, with original membership of forty-seven.
Changes in Church Government
On November 1, 1936 the rotary system of electing deacons was established. Under this plan two new deacons were elected each year and serve for a term of three years. In January 1949, the rotary system for elders was adopted. In 1990 the Deaconate and the Session were combined into one body.
Building the Current Church Building
On Sunday, February 19,1967, the Building Planning Council recommended that consideration be given to moving the church to a new location. On April 23rd, the congregation voted 127 to 81 in favor of the recommendation. On September 24th, they voted to purchase five acres of land at the intersection of Memorial Drive, Futral Road and East College Street for the future location of the church. In 1975 the architect’s plans for the new building were approved, and the Planning Council was directed to develop a plan for financing the new facility. 1977 was the year of decision, after many years of meetings and discussions, planning, and prayers, the decision was made to build the new church building at a total cost of $560,000. The groundbreaking ceremony took place October 2, 1977. Some of the stained class windows from the old church were moved to the new building, and the Pilcher pipe organ (purchased in 1894) was completely rebuilt. The church bell, originally purchased in 1871 that had hung in the original church building was moved to the grounds of the new building. The corner stone was removed from the old church and now sits near the bell on the current grounds.
September 10, 1978 was the last Sunday in the old church, After the worship service that morning, members of the congregation went home, ate lunch, and returned at 2 PM with trucks, station wagons, and other vehicles. In four hours everything movable had been transferred to the new building. The first service in the new building was September 17, 1978. The dedication ceremony was held November 19, 1978.
On August 24, 1980 the congregation voted to build an Activities Building. It was completed in July 1981.
On Thanksgiving Eve, November 27, 1991 the First Presbyterian Church of Griffin celebrated 150 years of serving the Lord. There were three services that were part of this celebration. Thanksgiving Eve there was a community service held at the church. Leading in service were: Dr. Bruce Morgan – First Baptist Church, Dr. Cleopatrick Lacy – Mount Zion Baptist Church, The Reverend Doug Winn – Saint George’s Episcopal Church, The Reverend Monroe Grant – First Christian Church, The Reverend Katherine Pash – Saint John’s Lutheran Church, Captain Ken Nelson – The Salvation Army, The Reverend Hubert Flanagan – First United Methodist Church, and Dr. Spencer Frye – First Presbyterian Church.
On November 29, 1991 (the day after Thanksgiving) there was Celebration In Music at the church, with special music provided by the choir. Then on Sunday December 1, 1991 a special celebration service was given. After the service a Celebration Dinner was held in the Activities Building.