Presbyterianism traces its spiritual heritage to the Protestant Reformation and the influence of John Calvin, a 16th-century French-Swiss theologian. Calvin refined the Reformers' new thinking about the nature of God and God's relationship with humanity. John Knox, a Scottish clergyman, carried Calvin's teachings to Scotland, and Reformed communities arose in England, Holland, and France. American Presbyterianism traces its ancestry through immigrants from Scotland and England.
The first American presbytery was formed in Philidelphia in 1706. In 1746, Presbyterians founded the College of New Jersey, now Princeton University. Presbyterian ministers Reverend Jonathan Edwards and Reverend Gilbert Tennent were driving forces in the "Great Awakening", a revivalist movement in the 18th century.
For the remainder of the 18th and early 19th century, American Presbyterian denominations lived the Reformed tenet "Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda" - "the Church reformed, always reforming" - which calls the Church to continually re-examine itself in order to maintain its purity of doctrine and practice. American Presbyterian churches continued to form, join, grapple with theology and governance, and divide. The most notable disagreement occurred over the issue of slavery, which in 1861 caused the largest denomination at the time to split into the "northern" and "southern" churches. At the same time, Presbyterians joined, regardless of denominational affiliation, to educate the oppressed, minister to the needy, and bring the good news of Christ to all.
The late 19th and 20th centuries saw vast changes in the world view of individuals and the faith community of the Church. The Church at large strove to understand its role in a world that placed more value on human thought, experience, and achievement. This era is marked by the influence of such theologians as Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The close of the 20th century was celebrated by Presbyterians in America in such monumental steps as the reunification of the "northern" and "southern" churches into the Presbyterian Church (USA) in 1983. PC(USA) is the largest American Presbyterian denomination, with 1.1 million members and national offices in Louisville, Kentucky.
St. Philip Presbyterian Church
During the 1950's, Northeast Tarrant County grew rapidly when American Airlines and Bell Aircraft opened factories in Hurst and Richland Hills, and the need for a Presbyterian Church in the area was evident. Area presbyterians, under the leadership of Reverend Jim Garvin, began meeting in the former Covenant Church in Haltom City, and on January 29, 1956, Reverend Garvin was installed as the first minister of St. Philip Presbyterian Church. Construction on a new church building began in November, 1956, and St. Philip found its home at the corner of Pipeline Road and Precinct Line Road in Hurst in June, 1957.
The first women elders were elected in 1966, and St. Philip continued to grow, add staff, and serve the community. In 1979, Reverend Jim Garvin accepted a call to another congregation, and St. Philip said goodbye to its organizing pastor. Reverend Tom Brown was installed as pastor on November 16, 1980. During Reverend Brown's tenure, the music program grew, St. Philip hired its first Director of Christian Education, and expanded its education and fellowship opportunities.
St. Philip celebrated its 25th anniversary in January 1981. Reverend Garvin returned to preach, the church offered an organ recital and chili cook-off, and a time capsule was sealed for reopening at the church's 50th anniversary. In 1986, St. Philip expanded its worship space with new office space, more classrooms, and a new sanctuary complete with a set of beautiful new stained glass windows. In April 1991, Reverend Brown accepted a call to another congregation, and Reverend Steve Jester was installed on September 19, 1993.
During Reverend Jester's tenure, St. Philip expanded its mission outreach program, including allowing several community organizations, such as Mid-Cities Care Corps, Boy Scouts, Meals on Wheels, and Legal Aid to use church space during the week. In 2002, St. Philip again expanded its worship space with a new music room, fellowship hall, an "Oak Terrace" for gathering in small groups, and the Jim Garvin Memorial Bell Tower. During these years, St. Philip introduced a rotation model church school, continued to expand its mission work, and sought innovative ways to introduce people to the good news of Jesus Christ.
St. Philip celebrated its 50th anniversary in January, 2006 with a Jubilee celebration that included special music, the return of past church figures, recognition of charter members, and the opening of the 25th anniversary time capsule. St. Philip continued in its ministry, enjoying expanded membership and programming for its members, and outreach to the community. Reverend Jester accepted a call to another congregation in November, 2008.
In March of 2011, St. Philip welcomed pastor, Reverend Dr. Greg Garis, into its ministry. Reverend Garis had this to say about his first impression of St. Philip as a community of faith:
“I sense that St. Philip Presbyterian Church is a vibrant church that cares for each other and is committed to ministry to others. It is refreshing to find a church that has taken seriously the ministry of Jesus Christ. The history of St. Philip is full of good pastors and members who have followed the leading of the Spirit to meet the needs of others and to worship with joy. I am honored to be called to St. Philip and look forward to finding the new ways that God is calling the church to do ministry in the community and to nurture the members and friends in being more faithful to God and Jesus the Christ.”
After preaching his last sermon at St. Philip on February 19, 2023, Dr. Garis answered the call to be the Lead Presbyter for Transformation for the Presbytery of Susquehanna Valley in New York. His work there entails equipping, nurturing, and assisting the ministry of the 45 churches in that Presbytery.
St. Philip Presbyterian Church leaders are now following the PC(USA)-directed process of selecting and calling a new pastor.