Keeping the Faith -- First Presbyterian Church celebrating 175 years

Photo by Alan Warren, Messenger-Inquirer | awarren@messenger-inquirer.com The Rev. Christine Coy Fohr, left, and Mary Lou Taylor look over a restored stained glass window that is on display inside the santuary that was saved from a former site of the First Presbyterian Church.

When First Presbyterian Church was established in Owensboro in 1844, John Tyler was serving as the 10th president of the United States.

It was also six years before Owensboro would become an incorporated city.

Since then, the church has gone from its first location at 114 W. Third St. to its fourth location where it stands today at 1328 Griffith Ave.

First Presbyterian Church, "the church on the hill," has been at its current site since 1954. Prior to that, it was on Seventh and Frederica streets.

And with its 175 years of history, the church is about to celebrate that milestone with an anniversary service at 10:30 a.m. on Nov. 24, followed by a special luncheon at 11:45 a.m.

"There are a lot of people who have memories of the previous churches and whose families go back really far," said the Rev. Christine Coy Fohr, who pastors the church. "... We have people who just go back generations ... we have members who were baptized as babies and now they're 95 years old. They are part of that history and you don't get that everywhere."

Fohr is one of those generational First Presbyterians who grew up in the church she now leads with a congregation of about 300. And she has the distinction of being the church's first female pastor.

Prior to becoming pastor, she was working for Presbyterian Church World Missions in Louisville.

"It's just a gift," Fohr said about being the church's pastor. "... But this is more about the opportunity for this church to celebrate being this church. And this church is more than whoever the pastor is that leads at any one time. It's the people who sit in the pews and make all of our committees run and do all of our mission efforts. I just feel fortunate that I get to be the pastor here for this time in the church's life."

Mary Lou Taylor is one of First Presbyterian's members spearheading the anniversary efforts.

Taylor said she joined the church eight years ago and views the anniversary as a "big deal."

"It made us think about what the people before us have done, where we are and that we're here because of them and what we want our legacy to be," Taylor said. "So it's made us pause and think about what we want for the next 175 years."

During the past two decades, First Presbyterian Church has also hosted the Multicultural Festival -- a popular event, which is entering its 22nd year, that promotes and celebrates community diversity.

Fohr said the festival has become part of First Presbyterian's identity, and even people who may not know about the church are usually familiar with the annual August event.

"I think that festival really symbolizes a lot about who we are as a church," Fohr said.

As part of the anniversary celebration, a Tiffany stained-glass window from the Seventh and Frederica streets' church building has been restored by the Kirtley family. It's on display in the main sanctuary but will be eventually added to the church's smaller chapel.

"It was in storage in our (former) boiler room and it was a mess," Fohr said. "The Kirtleys found someone to restore it."

Fohr said a capital campaign is also being done in conjunction with the anniversary. It's to fund missions and to maintain financial security.

"Really, the capital campaign is investing in the future of the church," she said. "We always say we stood on the saints who came before us; they gave us this church; they gave us the funds to be able to keep it going if the roof leaks or if the heaters break. And we want to make sure future generations have that as well."

Don Wilkins, dwilkins@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7299

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