In the mid to late eighteenth century, the original settlers along Irish Buffalo Creek and Templeton Mill Creek, west of what is now Kannapolis, were primarily Presbyterians. By the end of the century they built a meeting house which became Bethpage Presbyterian Church. Bethpage became the mother church of five other Presbyterian congregations, including First Presbyterian of Kannapolis.
First Presbyterian was born and grew up with the city of Kannapolis. The pastor of Bethpage Church organized a Sunday School for the Presbyterians in and around the new textile town of Kannapolis in 1908. On June 27, 1909, a church was organized with 25 charter members. The church met first in a second floor meeting room over a drug store and then at the YMCA. By January of 1911 the church had built its first house of worship, a frame structure on South Main Street.
By 1917 the membership had grown to 250 and Sunday Schools were being founded in other parts of town. Having outgrown the Main Street structure, First Presbyterian built a new brick sanctuary on the corner of West Avenue and West “C” Street (now Vance Street) in 1924. The membership continued to grow, reaching 530 in 1939. That year First Presbyterian planted its first daughter church, Second Presbyterian, on Centergrove Road. In 1943 members of First Presbyterian planted another church, Royal Oaks Presbyterian Church, on Tennessee Street. First Presbyterian also aided in the formation of what is now Covenant Presbyterian Church in Fishertown in 1949.
In 1962, an Education Building was completed adjoining the church. When the debt was relieved on this building in 1967, a Sanctuary Building Fund was established. Work began on the new Sanctuary building on the site of the old one in 1974, and the first service was held in the new sanctuary on December 7, 1975.
The church has had twelve ministers in its 103-year history. Rev. Darryl Evans was installed as that twelfth pastor on May 20, 2012. At least eleven of the church’s members have answered God’s call to be ministers of the Word, and currently one more is in seminary.
In 2013, the Session initiated the process of seeking dismissal from the Presbyterian Church (USA) to A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians (ECO), a new denomination being formed by like-minded Presbyterians. To learn more about ECO, please visit eco-pres.org. At a historic Congregational Meeting on January 12, 2014, the membership of the church voted and overwhelmingly approved the recommendation (nearly 98% in favor). With this large a percent in favor, the way was clear for the congregation to move to ECO with all property intact. At its stated meeting on February 8, 2014, the Presbytery of Charlotte approved the recommendation of their Administrative Commission on Dismissals to dismiss First Presbyterian of Kannapolis to ECO, pending the completion of some checklist issues. These were completed by the end of February, and at the beginning of March 2014 we were officially a part of ECO. In fact, our Pastor and two elders had the privilege of attending and participating in the inaugural meeting of the new East Central Presbytery of ECO, held at Westminster Church in Charlotte on March 4, 2014.
First Presbyterian is not just a place of worship–it has a history also of ministry in the community and beyond. The church long has been a leading supporter of the Kannapolis Bible Teaching Association, and helped to found the Kannapolis Christian Ministry (now Cooperative Christian Ministry). Following the closing of the mills in 2003, First Presbyterian not only hosted an emergency food pantry for the unemployed workers, but also participated in a Community Recovery Network. This network of churches and agencies provided short-term relief to the former Pillowtex workers, then went on to established new on-going ministries, such as a Kannapolis food pantry and the Samaritan’s Table supper ministry. First Presbyterian also has had a long history of involvement in world missions, both through the direct support of Presbyterian missionaries and mission projects, and through short-term mission trips.
Now, as the North Carolina Research Campus rises on the site of Cannon Mills, First Presbyterian is finding new avenues of ministry, including welcoming some of the international research fellows coming to our community.