Church History

First Presbyterian Church was founded in 1784 when Lexington, Kentucky, was a frontier town composed of thirty cabins and a stockade.  Originally named Mount Zion Church, this congregation has defined its mission as a commitment to worship and serve in faith and love as we celebrate our dedication to God in Jesus Christ.


During the church's first two decades, several famous pastors filled its pulpit.  One of these was Robert J. Breckinridge, known as the Father of Public Schools and a strong anti-slavery advocate.  Mary and Abraham Lincoln were visitors at First Presbyterian in 1849.  Lincoln was impressed by Breckinridge's Thanksgiving sermon, and the two became friends.  In the years that followed, Breckinridge became one of the future president's most stalwart supporters.


Old Church PictureThe Civil War not only divided Lexington but also divided this congregation into Lexington's First and Second Presbyterian churches.  In 1872, the First Presbyterian Church, after four previous moves, settled into its present location, a new Gothic building topped by a 180-foot spire designed by Elder Cincinnatus Shryock and modeled after Trinity Church in New York City.  The church's historic Kimball organ was installed in 1897.


The twentieth century witnessed rapid expansion and increased attendance as two more churches; Maxwell Street Presbyterian and Hunter Presbyterian were formed out of First Church's congregation.  Women became directly involved in church government as officers, and the first integrated daycare in Lexington was started onsite.  Restoration, renovation and construction projects such as Henry Clay's law office (the small building to the left of the front door of the Sanctuary), classrooms and the Chapel are the result of the growing congregation at First Church.  These additional facilities have heralded the congregation's continuing commitment to downtown Lexington as it seeks to be faithful to its mission in the twenty-first century.


In 2000, First Presbyterian Church called its first female pastor, Rev. Dr. Lee W. Bowman. Dr. Bowman ushered new life into this church community with intentionality toward worship and spirituality that has faithfully fed the congregation as it guided us all to a greater understanding and commitment to mission. During her tenure, First Church came together under a $3.2 million renovation of the sanctuary and new Music Center, acquired the neighboring Market Street Apartment building to be renovated as a ministry to provide low cost, high quality urban housing for fixed income families and the Mill Street Parking lot that would assure growth for years to come. In September 2010, First Church welcomed Mark Davis to be its pastor.


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