Church celebrates birthday

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DANVILLE, Ill. (WCIA) — The oldest church in Danville, First Presbyterian Church, is celebrating its 190th birthday on Sunday.

The day will examine the historical significance of the church and look forward to its future.

The event will kick off with an Organ recital presented by Ray Wiggs, former First Presbyterian Church organist.

Wiggs currently serves as organist for First United Methodist Church of Champaign.

Following that will be fellowship, presentation of FPC historical artifacts and a blessing of two refurbished stained glass windows.

There will be a congregation brunch and there will also be a presentation by Susan Biggs Warner, historical interpreter with the Vermilion County Conservation District.

She will bring items from her extensive collection dating from 1890 to 1940. There also will be remarks by State Senator Scott Bennett, State Representative Mike Marron, and Danville Mayor Rickey Williams, Jr.

There will be a Lincoln presentation by Murray Cox of Wabash, Indiana.

Cox has been a Lincoln presenter since 1985, appearing before numerous community groups and education forums. Cox will be focusing on Lincoln’s career as a lawyer riding the 8th Judicial Circuit (which included Danville) from 1841 to 1860.

When Danville was a pioneer village, the First Presbyterian Church was officially organized.

Its origin was recorded by the Session of the Church on March 7, 1829. The Church dates back almost to the beginning of local history.

Illinois became a state in 1818, Vermilion County was organized in 1826, and the village of Danville became the County Seat in 1827.

For the first few years, church members met in a variety of places. In 1834, a building was erected for the double purpose of church meetings and a schoolhouse. The building stood on the same site occupied by the present church building. The building was moved from that site to South Walnut Street in 1858.

A new church building took several years to complete because of scarce funds and other delays. The new church building was finished in December 1865.

As the community and church family continued to grow, it was decided to build a new elegant modern church on the same site. Fundraising began in 1891 and worship was held in the Baptist Church and the Grand Opera House during construction.

The new church was of modern Romanesque architecture, and built of Berea sandstone. The memorial stained glass windows were a marvel of beauty, as they remain today. The new house of worship was dedicated on October 15, 1893.

In the 1920’s the auditorium was extensively redecorated and the tower was changed to accommodate memorial chimes.

In 1936 the community room and kitchen were added, and in 1947 the church launched an extensive remodeling program.

In 1958 the education wing and a new chapel were constructed. The multi-purpose room also was renovated. Cornerstone laying ceremonies took place on the last Sunday in September 1960.

In 1980 a complete remodeling of the 1891 portion of the church was undertaken, with the sanctuary balcony being removed and the chancel moved to the west side. A new west entrance was built onto the parking lot.

In the last several years, First Presbyterian has updated energy systems, windows and lighting to plan for the future and help the environment. The church was awarded the Illinois Sustainability Award for these efforts.

Birthday Celebration
October 20, 9 a.m.
First Presbyterian Chruch
100 North Franklin

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