Central's 150th Anniversary!
On October 23, 2005, Central Presbyterian Church of Norristown celebrated its 150th anniversary.
Central Presbyterian Church was founded in August of 1855 when a large number of church members broke away from the one Presbyterian Church in Norristown on theological issues. They rented a building until they erected a new church on Main Street between Swede and Cherry Streets. The cornerstone was laid on August 9, 1856 and the completed church dedicated on February 28, 1858, with Daniel G. Mallery as pastor. The congregation worshipped there for 45 years, then elected to "establish a mission in West Norristown", a growing area. They purchased a lot at the present site at Airy and Stanbridge Streets on November 16, 1902, at a cost of $5,000, and erected the present church building, which is designed "after the early period of the English perpendicular Gothic, with transcepts, nave and choir. Large trusses support open wood ceilings and are of the arch and hammer beam variety," according to a report in a 1907 news article.
A grand Hook & Hastings pipe organ towers over the choir loft. The church's elegant stained glass windows were designed by Nicholas D'Ascenzo, who also crafted windows for the Washington Memorial Chapel at Valley Forge, Riverside Church in New York City, and the National Cathedral. At the time of the church's Centennial anniversary in 1955, a new educational unit was built to house the growing Sunday School membership and fellowship activities. Dr. James L. Grazier was pastor during the 100th Anniversary and was also Moderator of Philadelphia Presbytery when the Presbyterian Churches of the U.S. and U.S.A. united.
Though Central has experienced loss of membership in recent years and faces challenges of declining infrastructure and financial difficulties, the congregation has not lost focus of their original mission to witness Christ and spread the Word of God to the community. For almost ten years, Central has offered free Community Dinners every Saturday, serving 80 to 110 people each week. For almost 40 years, Interfaith has provided food and clothing by referral three days a week to the community. Central has been home to many community organizations such as Alcoholics/Narcotics Anonymous Meetings, Bridge of Hope, Habitat for Humanity team housing, and Town Watch. It sponsors ESL classes and church- and home-based Bible studies in English and Spanish.
An important change to the church is the immigration of 12,000 Mexicans into the community. Rev. Gadiel Gomez-Saravia now leads over 50 Latino members of the congregation in worship and fellowship, and elder Gabriel Devathala, currently under the care of Presbytery during his seminary studies, leads a ministry to South Asian Christians. Other ethnic congregations and youth groups are based in Central’s building, involving efforts at multi-cultural and multi-racial reconciliation. A goal is to help the Latino group to become self-sufficient, while the congregation's hope is to surmount language and cultural differences to truly become once again a prosperous, mission-oriented Church.
Pastors of Central Presbyterian Church
Daniel G. Mallery October 1856--January 1862
Robert Adair June 1862--October 1865
Henry T. Ford July 1866--May 1875
William A. Jenks July 1875--October 1881
Joseph McCaskie April 1882--April 1886
J. Lincoln Litch November 1886--December 1891
Dr. James D. Hunter May 1892--May 1902
Dr. John Allen Crawford March 1903--June 1936
James Garrett Kell May 1937--September 1944
Dr. James Lewis Grazier March 1945--October 1959
Joseph MacCarroll September 1960--April 1963
John F. McConaughy October 1963--December 1978
Peter C. Leathersich February 1980--January 1990
Flo Guynn Stiffler September 1991--May 1996
Frank Amalfitano April 1999--May 2006
Robert B. Radak June 2006--May 2008
Gadiel Gomez-Saravia June 2003--present
William Schuler September 2008--present