1854: The First Presbyterian Church of Darby, PA | Presbyterian Historical Society

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1854: The First Presbyterian Church of Darby, PA

March 1, 2014
The First Presbyterian Church of Darby, PA, undated.

The First Presbyterian Church had its origin in 1852/53 in preaching services conducted by the Rev. J. Addison Whitaker, then pastor of what is now the First Presbyterian Church of Glenolden. The official organization of the First Presbyterian Church of the Borough of Darby followed shortly thereafter, on October 1, 1854. On October 1 2017 the congregation celebrates 163 years of continuous service and witness to the love and grace of God.

The sanctuary building of the church was first occupied in 1857. The Sunday School building of the church, known also as the Baird Memorial Chapel (named for the family who so graciously donated the property and building to the church) erected in 1883.  The sanctuary building was extensively renovated in 1901, including the addition of the first pipe organ for the church.  In 1928/29, a large addition at the rear of the Sunday School building substantially increased available classroom space and in 1952/53 a rebuilding program improved and enlarged the sanctuary.  The Sunday school building was sold in 2014, but the programs continue as part of the worship service.

Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, this congregation has sought to further the work of Jesus Christ by sharing the Good News with those in our community and in other communities as well. As we were founded by members of Glenolden’s Presbyterian Church, so in turn have we been instrumental in forming new congregations – in Clifton Heights in 1886 and the Lansdowne Presbyterian Church in 1887.   Our first Vacation Bible School was conducted in 1919, and annually reaches many children in our community of Darby and Colwyn with the message of God’s love in Jesus Christ.  Ours was one of the first Presbyterian churches to adopt a unified women’s program when the current Women’s Association was organized in 1939.  It continues with support for 2 Children in Latin America, and now includes several members from other churches.

This congregation has a long-standing commitment to mission, taking seriously our Lord’s Great Commission to “make disciples of all nations,” (Matthew 28:19) and continues to support missionaries in the field. Many members of this congregation have offered themselves for full-time Christian service. Members of this church have always stood ready to help our country when our nation’s security has been threatened. Two members made the supreme sacrifice during World War I, and ten members did likewise during World War II – laying down their lives that we might continue to enjoy the fruits of liberty and freedom.

The First Presbyterian Church of Darby was organized by the Third Presbytery of Philadelphia.  In 1871 it became a member of the Presbytery of Chester, and in 1943 was included in the enlargement of the Presbytery of Philadelphia, where our current membership remains. Bolstered by our past and hopeful about our future, we continue to develop programs for children and adults of all walks of life. Among other things, we provide an outreach luncheon, Flea market and Suppers and a children’s music ministry.  We operate a food closet for community residents in need, and maintain ties with a variety of civic and community organizations committed to improving the quality of life in our neighborhood.

Whether through worship, service, fellowship and/or prayer, we seek to serve God and our neighbors with joy and love. Ours is a fellowship of inclusion and warmth – founded on faith, open to all who seek the Lord, and sustained by God’s amazing grace for 163 years. For these and all our blessings we can only say, “Thanks be to God!”


This brief history was recently updated as a part of the Presbytery of Philadelphia’s 300th Anniversary Year of Celebration and Witness.  The story of the congregations throughout the Presbytery were revised to remind us of our past even as we live into the present and move towards God’s promised future. Read more about the 300th Anniversary: www.presbyphl.org/300th-Anniversary.