Our Story

As the oldest Presbyterian Church in Rhode Island we have been worshiping the Lord since 1884…come see why! The narrative below summarizes FPC’s history, but first, here are some highlights:

The stained glass windows are stunning. Many symbolize the Scottish roots of Presbyterianism, and the love and majesty of Christ shines through. For detailed information, click here.

The seating in FPC’s sanctuary was arranged in a curved shape to ensure that no seat was better than another. Plus, setting aside areas for the poor, or building a balcony, was forbidden. Why? All are equal here.

The Beginning

 

In 1884, a group of earnest men and women in Newport’s United Congregational Church began a movement to establish a new presence in the southern part of Newport.  In time, this offshoot grew enough to warrant a separate organization and a new identity as a Presbyterian congregation.  On June 19, 1888, the organization of the First Presbyterian Church was officially recognized by the Boston Presbytery.  Thus the church came into being through the determination of a small group of men and women, largely of Scottish background, who desired to follow the form of worship, model of government, and theological convictions of the heritage of John Calvin and John Knox, in which they had been nurtured.

The cornerstone of a new church building was laid on the current site in 1892. The land was given to the congregation as a gift in memory of Nathaniel and Elizabeth Mumford Hammett. This gift carried a stipulation: “In the matter of sittings or renting of sittings, no section of the church or block of sittings shall be set aside for the use of the poor, but they shall be provided for anywhere throughout the church by selecting any unleased sittings.” The building was purposefully designed with no balcony, and no provision was made for a future balcony, in order to provide equal seating for all parishioners.

As a result of their dedicated efforts, and in spite of trials and great difficulty, the first preaching service was held in the church Vestry (now the Fellowship Hall) on March 24, 1894. On April 5, 1896, Easter Sunday, the first worship service was held in the sanctuary. What great joy that must have been for the congregation that had grown to one hundred and eighty-four!

The sanctuary’s stained glass windows include “banner” windows on the north and south sides of the church. These windows are copies of banner decorations used at the Second Council of the Alliance of Reformed Churches, held in Philadelphia in 1880. They indicate the vast heritage we have in our Presbyterian and Reformed churches, a heritage that has come to us through the ages and from many countries of the world. Every Sunday, these windows remind us “we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses.” (Hebrews 12:1 NIV)

Since its official organization in 1888, generations of members and friends of the First Presbyterian Church have given faithful witness to Jesus Christ.  In 2017 the congregation overwhelmingly approved transitioning from its parent denomination, “Presbyterian Church USA,” to “ECO:  A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians” to fully align with our core beliefs.  “ECO” is not an acronym; instead, the name represents the importance of strengthening the ecosystems of diverse local churches so they can flourish and enable followers of Christ to grow, thrive, and multiply.

ECO’s mission statement is:  “To build flourishing churches that make disciples of Jesus Christ.”  To learn more about our dynamic, Christ-centered denomination, visit ECO at https://www.eco-pres.org.

Today our congregation continues its faithful and historic witness.  We seek to glorify God, serving Him with hearts of love and hands of fellowship!

For a fuller description of our history, click here.  And if you want to learn more about our stunning stained glass windows, click here.

Find Us

4 Everett St, Newport, RI 02840
(401) 847-1749
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Contact: secretary@fpcnewport.org

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