CANTON First Presbyterian Church of Canton was organized on Sept. 13, 1821, on land donated by city founder Bezaleel Wells to be used always for a "house of worship."
This year, in preparation for its bicentennial, reconstruction is underway at the church at 520 Tuscarawas St. W.
According to the history portion of the church website:
Led by the Rev. William McLean, the first church building was erected between 1827 to 1833 under his successor, the Rev. James B. Morrow.
John Saxton, founding publisher of the the Canton Repository, and son, James Saxton, a prominent banker, served as elders of the early church.
The main stone structure of the current church was begun in 1868 and dedicated on April 23, 1871.
While it was undergoing construction, Ida Saxton (James’ daughter) and William McKinley, future president of the United States, were married on Jan. 25, 1871.
It was the first service of any kind in the newly-constructed sanctuary.
In 1912, a large choir loft was added and the congregation’s seating arrangement was reversed. In 1945, another multi-year building and restoration program was launched.
During this reconstruction project, the original sanctuary floor plan was lowered and seating again reversed and the chapel was built. Sanctuary windows were replaced with stained glass imported from England depicting scenes from Jesus’ life and of great reformers. The current four-manual pipe organ was gifted by Mr. and Mrs. Alvin J. Gibbs and Mrs. Frederick W. Preyer in memory of their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Gibbs.
In 1956, approximately 100 acres along Leesville Lake, 35 minutes from Canton, was donated to the church by Ethel Steele and Mr. and Mrs. Herbert E. Dougherty. This site now serves as Camp Wakonda, which opened in 1959.
In 1961, the church was renamed Christ United Presbyterian Church of Canton, then chartered as Christ Presbyterian Church in 1984.
Christ Presbyterian now provides monthly assistance through its Food, Clothing and Prayer Ministry, and a free Saturday morning breakfast.
Music programs have included performances by Apollo’s Fire, Chanticleer, and the King’s Singers. The church also provides space to Tiqvah Hands of Hope, a non-profit after-school enrichment program.
In anticipation of the bicentennial, a Spirit & Space Committee was organized in 2017.
The group has conducted meetings with leaders from local government, community organizations and other churches to explore the role Christ Church might play in further connecting to downtown Canton and beyond.
In 2018, the committee selected the Altanta-based consulting firm GENERIS to assist with a fundraising campaign, and the architectural firm of Chambers, Murphy, and Burge (a studio of Perspectus) to assist in re-design assessments.
A fund-raising campaign, Gather Us In, began in 2019 with the goal of raising $2.5 million. Rich and Laura Milligan served as campaign chairs, and Milligan’s parents, retired Judge Jack and Phyllis Milligan, served as honorary chairs.
Major physical changes to the church include the installation of an elevator and improved entry-way access from the church’s parking lot on the west side for the physically challenged; a resurfaced parking lot; a re-designed chancel space with acoustical and liturgical furnishing enhancements; and movement of the administrative offices to the Wells Avenue entryway. Ten percent of the money raised will be used for outreach.
The Rev. Erich Thompson of Greensboro, N.C., will design and craft new liturgical furnishings for the chancel.
Completion is planned for February.
"The call is to honor our Reformed tradition and respect the beauty of our building even as we re-imagine the space so that all generations that will gather here are welcomed into an environment that focuses the body, mind, and spirit on God’s grace, Christ’s call to discipleship, and the Spirit’s urging to serve," Rev. Dave DeVries, senior pastor, said in a statement.
To learn more about Christ Presbyterian Church and the Spirit & Space project, visit www.cantoncpc.org.
Reach Charita at 330-580-8313 or email@example.com
On Twitter: @cgoshayREP