First Pres was one of the first churches to begin worship in the city of Dearborn. In the early 1800's, soon after we began worshiping in homes and public buildings, our city and our church were struck by the devistating cholera epidemic that tragically claimed the lives of many. Throughout this time of uncertainty, our newly formed congregation was reminded to seek God first in all things, and allow His sovereignty to reign.
First Pres survived the plague only to be led straight into the trials of unemployment. As jobs from the railroad and brick industry began to dry up, the community struggled to hold on. Once more, our church was reminded that the Lord is sovereign and needed to be first in their lives. As a result, our people sought to live out their faith in the knowledge that truth was in order to goodness by maintaining the standards of faith with grace for all who repented.
During the difficult times, the church stayed alive through meeting in people’s homes until God provided our first building in 1848 at Park and Mason. Our organizing pastor at the time was Rev. Noah Tucker who led the congregation into a new era by selling the church building and constructing a new church in 1908 at Mason and Garrison.
In 1926, we called our first full time minister, but quickly learned that as a body of believers we are called into unity with Christ. Having reestablished our committment to seek God's will in all things, Rev. Dr. John Newell was called as our minister in 1928. Before he retired at the end of World War II, our church would grow within various ministries and begin to see a glimpse of how God has placed us in this community to serve others.
As our church began to grow, once more a new building was needed. Sovereignly, God allowed our new building to be completed just as the Great Depression hit our country. As the congregation sought to put God first despite the difficult financial times, it answered the call to mother a Sunday School and church in Allen Park (Allen Park Presbyterian). First Pres also sought to provide food and coal for those in need.
In 1957, Rev. John K. Mitchell was called to be Pastor, while Rev. Edward DeHaven was called to be the Associate Pastor for Pastoral Care. Once again the church was flourishing, and a new building was built upon our current site. As the two Pastors envisioned the building, "A Statement of Faith" was adopted by the whole church on January 17, 1960.
An expression of the integrity of this congregation is woven from several strong strands of faith"
These strands were identified as the Sovereignty of God, the Lordship of Christ, the Church as the Body of Christ and the Congregation as a Family of Faith.
Throughout the years, this sense of family would continue to grow as many different people from the community wanted to take part in what God was doing in the life of First Pres. Our building's architect was Alden Dow (who had been mentored by Frank Lloyd Wright) and the Lloyd Lawson family donated the Aeolian Skinner pipe organ for the new building. These people and many others are the ones who truly are the church. Echoing this theme, at the building's dedication ceremony, "What Mean These Stones?" was preached to remind our members that the stones that held up everything was actually the people themselves.
Over the years, new staff continued to breathe fresh life into the church. As Dr. Al Turco brought new life to our music ministries, Rev. Donald Wright brought a heart for youth in mission to our Christian education programs. The Treasure Chest (second hand shop) and the rummage sale were started by the women to provide for the ministry of the church. Many more pastors and members helped with the Madrigal Dinners, Presbyterian Men’s Fellowship, Young Adults and much more. Collectively, First Pres was building upon their early foundational roots of serving each other through the love of Christ.
With the passing of Dr. Mitchell in 1978, the church was ushered into a time of transition. As Dr. Carl Howie and Rev. Bill Steele came and went as Pastors. Furthermore, there were staff changes and ultimately the congregation's foundations began to crack. After some divisions, and a period of interim ministers, Dr. Douglas Barranger was called to be pastor.
Dr. Barranger had a heart for Biblical preaching and, during his time, the contemporary worship service was begun along with a number of small groups. Tragically, Dr. Barranger's tenure with First Pres was cut short as he lost a battle with cancer. However providencially, just before he got sick, he had asked Rev. Donald Wright to work with him. After his passing, Rev. Wright was able to provide invaluable interim ministry for the church.
In 2008, Pastor Dave Bleivik was called. He proclaimed that God's vision for this church was to have a people with vision. He immediately had listening meetings with the members and formed the DNA Task Force (Dynamic New Atmosphere). DNA was commissioned to find new ways to serve God and the community, and to reach out to young families and their children. The session (governing body of First Pres) and Pastor Dave are committed to revitalize our Christian education, reaching out to young families, starting a new young adult ministry and serving our community. As Paul Yterock, the CE Director was ordained and went to a church in Flint, the staff was reorganized The new staff and Pastor Dave seek to keep God first as Lord, to continually be transformed by the Word of God, to work toward the new priorities and to live out God’s love in a way that unites us in being a place for people to come home to the love of God.
To read a complete history of First Pres click here!