History of the Church
Our current church vision reflects our long-term mission of being “a light on the hill” for Fayetteville and Northwest Arkansas: Reaching out as a visible expression of God’s grace, we will meet people where they are, inviting all into Christ’s family through engaging worship, fellowship, learning, and service. As you will see below, FUPC has a remarkable history of uniting in worship, ministry, and mission with other Presbyterian movements and denominations, with distinct streams of Reformed faith merging for a stronger and more visible Christian witness.
Throughout our 185 years of service in Northwest Arkansas, the changing face of the church has continually served the local community in Christ’s name. The University of Arkansas Infirmary, Butterfield Trail Village, Richardson Center, Cooperative Emergency Outreach, Creative School, Yellow Brick House, Boy and Girl Scout Troops, Habitat for Humanity, Life Styles, and First School are a few examples of institutions and ministry initiatives benefiting from Presbyterian leadership and active volunteers. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, multiple mission trips by adult and youth members helped with the needed community restoration. Each summer, church youth pursue mission in various under-resourced areas of the United States through Reach. FUPC was central to the formation of a connected group of Northwest Arkansas Presbyterian congregations who today are vitally involved in providing solar power for impoverished areas of Honduras, where vital connections with Honduran Presbyterians provide two-way strength for living together before God and serving one another in love.
No doubt in part due to its location in a university community, First United Presbyterian Church has had the privilege of nurturing an exceptional number of members in responding to God’s call to full time Christian ministry, including a remarkable number of women.
Timeline of First United Presbyterian Church – Fayetteville, Arkansas
1830 Early settlers met with the Reverend Buchanan to form Fayetteville’s first church, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church of Fayetteville. Worship services were first held in a blacksmith’s shop.
1862 A brick church was built with volunteer labor at a cost of $2,500 on 229 Block St. This building was used for Federal quarters during the Civil War.
1863 Confederates burned down the church building, and all records were lost in the fire.
1867 The congregation reorganized, rebuilt after the fire, and provided three moderators for the church’s General Assembly.
1873 The “Southern Church” (Presbyterian Church U.S.) organized the First Presbyterian Church of Fayetteville.
1874 The first pastor, the Reverend Davies, was called to the First Presbyterian Church. A sanctuary was dedicated on the corner of College Avenue and Spring Street. The lot and building cost $1750.
1904 First Presbyterian built a new brick church. The original frame structure was moved to South College Avenue, where the sanctuary became The White Chapel mission.
1906 The congregation of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church followed the main body of the Cumberland denomination in reuniting with the “Northern Church” (Presbyterian Church U.S.A.), and became the Central Presbyterian Church. The sanctuary and educational rooms were built at the corner of Dickson and St. Charles Streets, the present site of the U.S. Post Office.
1956 The town congregations merged boards to form one congregation under the discipline (governance) of the “Northern Church.”
1958 This denomination united with another Presbyterian body to form the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. The local congregation used this occasion to adopt its present name: The First United Presbyterian Church of Fayetteville.
1960 In joy and prayer, the congregation broke ground on Nov. 20 for the present church building.
1961 The congregation moved to the beautiful hilltop in July. The church campus on “Presbyterian Hill” included a fellowship hall, an office building, and two education buildings. The church worshiped in the Fellowship Hall.
1995 The sanctuary configuration underwent renovations by adding a dais, changing the carpet from gold to red, and adding several ranks of exposed pipes to the organ.
2000 An ambitious expansion and renovation effort added 14,930 square feet to the church, bringing the total footage to 42,825 square feet. During this period, the church’s mission statement became “a Light on the Hill.”
2003 The church, mindful of past and present servants who built for future generations, joyfully dedicated the updated campus to the glory of God.
2010 The church began an exciting new season of its ministry and outreach as Co-Pastors Jan and Phil Butin began service as a clergy couple. They were installed in a joyful celebration on April 18, 2010.
2014 A successful capital campaign with a $500,000 goal receives over $600,000 in contributions, enabling the church to eliminate its debt and make a variety of needed improvements including a substantial organ renovation. Campaign receipts also fund a new long term mission outreach in Honduras, together with Presbyterian mission co-workers there and other Presbyterian congregations of Northwest Arkansas. The initiative emphasizes providing solar power for water purification in remote villages, as well as sustainable community development and support of Presbyterian outreach and new church development.