National Presbyterian Church

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National Presbyterian Church
National Presbyterian Church is located in District of Columbia
National Presbyterian Church
National Presbyterian Church
National Presbyterian Church is located in the US
National Presbyterian Church
National Presbyterian Church
38°56′30″N 77°04′51″W / 38.9417°N 77.0809°W / 38.9417; -77.0809Coordinates: 38°56′30″N 77°04′51″W / 38.9417°N 77.0809°W / 38.9417; -77.0809
Location4101 Nebraska Ave NW
Washington, D.C.
CountryUnited States
DenominationPresbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Previous denominationPresbyterian Church in the United States of America
FoundedSeptember 15, 1812 (1812-09-15)
DedicatedSeptember 7, 1969 (1969-09-07)
Functional statusNational church
Architect(s)Harold E. Wagoner
Architectural typeChurch
PresbyteryNational Capital Presbytery

The National Presbyterian Church is a Christian congregation of approximately 1,500 members of all ages from the greater metropolitan Washington, D.C., area. The mission statement of the church is "Leading People to Become Faithful Followers of Jesus Christ Together in God’s World"[1]

The congregation meets at 4101 Nebraska Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. Designated as the national church of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the building complex occupies a 12-acre campus comprising six separate structures, including a main cathedral in the Neo-Gothic style—the third largest religious center in the nation’s capital. President Dwight D. Eisenhower laid the cornerstone October 14, 1967.[2][3]

The site also includes the National Presbyterian School, which provides pre-school-to-Grade 6 education. The school is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools and the Association of Independent Maryland and DC Schools and is open to all children.

The National Presbyterian Church dates its origins back to 1795, when a group of Scottish stonemasons working on the construction of the White House met for worship.[4] Since then, the congregation has been housed in several buildings across the city. Numerous presidents as well as other national and international leaders have attended the church. In 1866, the pastor invited Frederick Douglass, noted black abolitionist, to speak from the church's pulpit when no other church in Washington other than New York Avenue Presbyterian Church would do so. The church has hosted the British royal family, Mother Teresa and many other notable leaders.[5][6]

The Church today[edit]

The National Presbyterian Church conducts several weekly worship services as well as many other teaching, caring and music services for the community.

Sunday worship services[edit]

Traditional services - in Sanctuary[edit]

These services include biblical preaching, a full choir, classic hymns traditional and modern, and organ music of all periods. On special occasions, the musical offerings are augmented by members of local or visiting orchestral and choral groups, including members of the National Symphony Orchestra. Communion is served on the first Sunday of each month and is open to all persons within the Christian faith. Live video of the worship service is available online.

Contemporary first service - in Chapel of the Presidents[edit]

The Scripture readings and sermon are identical to those at the traditional services, but the service includes contemporary praise singing, as well as traditional hymns and gospel music.

Teaching ministries[edit]

Pastoral staff and elders provide numerous adult Christian education classes on Sunday mornings, Wednesday evenings and often on Saturdays. Sessions include several Bible classes, as well as classes dealing with current issues and personal growth. One class, called Wrestlers, has been operating since 1978; over 300 audio and video recordings of these classes are available. Lectures, conferences, and seminars are frequently hosted, including meetings of the National Capital Presbytery and the Reformed Institute. The Children's Sunday School includes preschool, elementary and youth group classes. Child care is provided.

The church also houses archives of historical documents, and contains two libraries with a full range of theological and historical books.

Caring ministries[edit]

The congregation and staff support numerous caring ministries, both in the local area and at many locations around the globe. They include:

  • Local/regional outreach: food and hunger relief (Martha's Table and Central Union Mission), housing (Habitat for Humanity), youth services (Unique Learning Center), and social services (Community Council for the Homeless at Friendship Place)
  • International missions: Wycliffe Bible Translators; the Russian-American Institute; Payap University in Chiang Mai, Thailand; Bethlehem Bible College; The College of Theology and Education in Moldova; New Hope International (in Eastern Europe); the Foundation for Peace, and many others.
  • Crisis care: assistance and counseling for persons dealing with serious personal problems (Stephens Ministry)
  • Faith and health: assistance to congregation members through blood pressure testing, CPR and defibrillator training, and Red Cross blood drives
First Lady Mamie Eisenhower opening Women's Bazaar at National Presbyterian Church

Other programs include the Business and Professional Women’s Guild, the Young Professionals, Men’s Ministry, SKIFF (retired persons’ group), and the Board of Deacons. With such activities the Women’s Association raised over a million dollars through over 150 years of their existence.

Music ministries[edit]

The main sanctuary has superb acoustics and the third-largest pipe organ in Washington, D.C., which accommodates a variety of musical styles in its worship and concerts. Its seating capacity (1450) makes the sanctuary a sought-after venue for many musical organizations from the Washington, D.C. area and around world.

Michael Denham is Director of Music Ministries. The church’s musical organizations include:

  • Chancel Choir: leads worship singing at the traditional Sunday morning services from September to June and during special performances during the Christmas and Easter seasons. The choir includes both talented volunteers and professional artists.
  • Festival Choir: provides special music for the two major high holy days of Christmas and Easter performed by a 100-member choir developed from members and friends of the congregation.
  • Grace Chimes: a five-octave handbell and chimes ensemble that performs occasionally at regular and special services and was established in 1994 under the leadership of Ms. Carolann Haley.
  • First Service Praise Team: an informal group of adults, youth, and children, that leads in the singing of praise and traditional music at the contemporary service.
  • Youth Choir (Grades 6-12) and Children’s Choir (Grades K-5)

“Music at National” Concert Series[edit]

Throughout the year, The National Presbyterian Church is home to a concert series sponsored by many major arts organizations for their subscription series and special events. Rarely a week passes without a concert by one of the church’s ensembles or such groups as the Washington Bach Consort, the City Choir of Washington, Washington Master Chorale, the U.S. Navy Band Sea Chanters, Choralis, the Vivaldi Project, Fairfax Choral Society, the Children’s Chorus of Washington, and international touring groups. These events are accompanied by regular visits from some of the nation’s leading college and university choruses. Schedules of concert performances are updated frequently.

Pipe organs[edit]

The sanctuary organ (with 115 ranks and four manuals) was built by the Aeolian-Skinner Organ Company in 1968-1969 (Opus 1456). Mrs. John Jay Hopkins donated funds for the organ in memory of her husband, who was the founder of General Dynamics Corporation. It is one of two Aeolian-Skinner organs in the church complex, the other being the 38-rank, 3-manual Heman Hawthorne Allen Memorial Organ in the Chapel of the Presidents.[7]

The main six divisions of the Hopkins Organ are located behind the choir at the front of the sanctuary with the pipe work shielded from view behind a series of vertical screens. At the rear of the sanctuary, a 23-rank antiphonal division is located in the gallery balcony. It includes a brilliant state trumpet, which is mounted horizontally. The organ's inaugural concert was performed in April, 1970 with Ernest Ligon at the manuals. [8] [9]

A new solo division was completed and dedicated in 2010, which enhanced the organ’s versatility and size to over 7,000 pipes. A detailed photographic description, history and samples of music from the Hopkins Memorial organ are available on the church website.

The principal organist, Mr. William Neil, retired in December 2017. He still serves as organist and harpsichordist for the National Symphony Orchestra.[10] He has released a number of critically acclaimed recordings of great organ literature and beloved hymns. The first of these, A Festive Proclamation, was nominated for a Grammy award as one of the best classical music recordings of 2009.


In January 1966, the congregation acquired its current property and began the design and construction of a new church complex. A distinguished building committee considered several designs, and selected the Modernist/Neo-Gothic design by ecclesiastical architect Harold E. Wagoner.[11] The limestone and steel structure was constructed by the Charles H. Tompkins Co. of Washington, D.C.[2][3][12]

Main sanctuary[edit]

The white marble and limestone sanctuary of the National Presbyterian Church seats 1,450 and has a traditional cathedral floor plan in the shape of a cross. The design of its 65-foot (20 m) ceiling gives the appearance of an inverted ship's bow, more specifically Noah’s Ark, symbolizing its purpose as a place of refuge and safety. In accordance with Reformed Christian principles, the walls of the sanctuary were unadorned to focus attention on the preaching from the pulpit. The chancel area contains the liturgical center with the pulpit, communion table and the lectern which are the focus of the corporate worship. A raised tiered choir loft is behind the chancel with the screened organ chambers behind.

Faceted glass windows[edit]

The sanctuary is colorfully illuminated by 73 faceted glass windows designed by Willet Studios of Philadelphia. The windows comprise one of the largest collections of faceted glass in the United States. Described in detail in a book published in 2012,[13] the windows range from the shorter windows lining the chancel sides that depict Bible stories to the two enormous transept windows, each made of eight 31-foot (9.4 m) tall lancets. The north transept window contains abstract designs drawn from images in the book of Revelation, and the text at the top reads "I know that my Redeemer liveth and at last will stand upon the earth" (Job 19:25).

South transept stained-glass windows depicting the mission of the church, National Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC. The text at top reads "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." (John 10:10)

The south transept window depicts the mission of the church, showing historical figures in science, art, politics, and ecclesiastical endeavors – even including astronauts - who improved the world with the help of the hand of God seen above them. The text at the top reads "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." (John 10:10).[13]

The designers of the main church building also incorporated space for the traditional 19th century Tiffany and Booth stained glass windows saved from the historic previous church. Other stained glass windows, new and antique, are visible around the campus.

Chapel of the Presidents[edit]

The Chapel of the Presidents, which seats 255, provides a more intimate setting for smaller events. Another series of Willet Studios windows located in the Chapel of Presidents depicts, in the major window, the history of the struggle to maintain religious freedom in America. There are also six windows portraying specific presidents (Washington, Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Wilson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Eisenhower, for whom the chapel is named and whose original prayer is printed on the outer wall).

Tower of Faith[edit]

The Tower of Faith is a 178 feet (54 m) structure that provides a landmark for the site. It contains a bell carillon consisting of 61 Flemish bell-tone generators in bronze struck by hammers, manufactured by the Schulmerich Carillon Company. In addition there are 25 English bells, relocated from the tower of the Church of the Covenant. Both sets are playable from either organ console in the main sanctuary or the chapel.[14]

The Tower of Faith sustained some minor damage during the 2011 Virginia earthquake, and required some structural repairs.

Courtyard and other buildings[edit]

Six other buildings surround the main sanctuary structure. Originally part of the Hillcrest Children’s Home, the Cotswold-style stone structures now house the National Presbyterian School, offices, and meeting spaces. The rear of the site includes a large parking area, which is used during the work week by employees from adjacent sites including NBC4 TV. An acre immediately in front of the sanctuary building (facing Nebraska Avenue, NW) is landscaped and contains a large marble Fountain Court and stone walls engraved with Biblical verses.[2][12]


Early years[edit]

The congregation that eventually became the National Presbyterian Church (and the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church) traces its heritage to the 18th century when Scottish stonemasons constructing the White House began holding Sunday morning worship services in a carpenters’ shed on the White House grounds. By 1795, the group had grown large enough to form St. Andrew’s Church and to install John Brackenridge as its minister. Church members met in private homes until 1800 when they occupied a frame structure at 10th and F Streets, NW. The small group persisted, meeting in several places between 1802 and 1811 including a school on East Capitol Street, a Masonic Lodge between 1st and 2nd Streets near the Washington Navy Yard, and even the Supreme Court of the United States chamber in the basement of the unfinished United States Capitol.

First Presbyterian Church[edit]

First Presbyterian Church (1812), 4½ Street, Washington DC

Members from the St. Andrew’s group officially established First Presbyterian Church on September 15, 1812. With contributions from James Madison and James Monroe, among others, the congregation erected a frame structure. This “Little White Church under the Hill” was located on East Capitol Street on the south slope of Capitol Hill, where the Rayburn House Office Building now stands.[4]

The first service in the new church was held on June 20, 1812. When the British burned and ransacked the Capitol in August 1814, the church was spared despite its proximity to the hostilities.

By 1821 the congregation numbered 114 members. Under the leadership of Ruben Post, First Presbyterian Church erected a substantial brick edifice on 4½ Street NW, which stood for over 100 years.

In 1853, Byron Sunderland began a distinguished 45-year tenure as senior pastor of the church. In 1857, Sunderland began to preach in favor of the abolition of slavery, a bold act in a city that was essentially a conservative Southern town. In 1866, Sunderland invited Frederick Douglass, noted black abolitionist, to speak from the church’s pulpit when no other church in Washington would do so.

At this time the Presbyterian denomination split when Southern presbyteries seceded as a body (the Presbyterian Church in the United States). Although “Old First” was at the time a member of the Virginia Presbytery, one of the seceding groups, a vote of the church’s congregation was split. As a result, the church was not attached to any presbytery for five years. In 1862, under a new presbytery it became part of the Philadelphia Synod.[15]

Sunderland served as Chaplain of the United States Senate during the Civil War and again in the 1870s and was a friend and adviser to President Abraham Lincoln.[16] Among the pastor’s many contributions to the Presbyterian denomination and the Washington area was his role as a founder of what is today Gallaudet University. Presidents John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Ulysses S. Grant, Grover Cleveland, and Benjamin Harrison worshiped at “Old First.”[17][18] Sunderland performed the marriage ceremony of President Grover Cleveland and Frances Folsom at the White House.[19] Orators of the day who spoke from the church’s pulpit included Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, Henry Ward Beecher, and T. DeWitt Talmage, who later became pastor of First Presbyterian Church and then editor of the [Christian Herald] magazine.[20]

In addition to Sunderland, who served as Senate Chaplain from 1861-1864), four other pastors of National Presbyterian Church congregations served as Senate Chaplains: John Brackenridge (1811-1814); John Clark (1818-1819); Reuben Post (1819-1820); and Edward L.R. Elson (1969-1981). (A total of 14 Senate Chaplains have been Presbyterians). [21]

By the early 20th century, First Presbyterian’s neighborhood had become largely commercial, and members were increasingly dispersed throughout the city. The Federal Government changed the name of 4½ Street to John Marshall Place and acquired the church site to erect court buildings. The congregation worshiped there for the last time on May 11, 1930, and then merged with the Covenant Presbyterian Church.

The Church of the Covenant (Presbyterian)[edit]

The urban growth that ultimately led to the destruction of the old First Church gave rise to many other Presbyterian congregations in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including the Church of the Covenant. On March 11, 1883, eleven men, meeting in the home of Supreme Court Justice William Strong at 1141 H Street, N.W., formed the nucleus of The Church of the Covenant.

Church of the Covenant

Officially organized on October 13, 1885, with 53 charter members, this congregation acquired a strategic site at the intersection of N and 18th Streets and Connecticut Avenue NW, the heart of a fast-growing and affluent residential area. On June 28, 1887, the cornerstone of the greystone Romanesque Revival church was laid. [22] The first service was held there on September 25, 1889. It was dedicated January 6, 1901, after the construction debt was paid. President Benjamin Harrison and inventor Alexander Graham Bell were among the new congregation’s worshipers.[23][24]

The Church of the Covenant flourished with strong lay leadership and a succession of pastors whose reputations extended throughout the denomination and, indeed, the nation. Teunis S. Hamlin, a strong preacher, helped secure a site for the George Washington University.[25] He also served as President of the Board of Trustees of Howard University for many years. Members of Covenant Church were active on many fronts. In 1885, its women founded the Society of the Covenant, which became the Women’s Association. One of Covenant’s early missions (in 1908) was to establish a tuberculosis clinic in Beirut, Lebanon. In the early 1900s, the congregation established in Georgetown the Peck Memorial Chapel, which provided, in addition to Sunday services, a vocational education program for minorities and disadvantaged youth.[26]

Under Charles Wood, pastor from 1908 to 1928, Covenant’s membership grew to 1,800. Wood, an outstanding preacher, organized and became the first president of the Washington Federation of Churches.[27][28]

It was with this ample Covenant congregation that First Presbyterian Church chose to merge. That it chose Covenant rather than another Presbyterian congregation in Washington was due in large measure to the movement for a national Presbyterian church in the nation’s capital. Throughout the 19th century, the General Assembly received numerous proposals for a national church and in 1923 established a commission to explore formally and officially create such a church in Washington. In 1930, the Church of the Covenant was selected to “furnish the congregational nucleus about which this National Church should be organized.” It was considered appropriate that the congregation of the now-demolished First Presbyterian church, with so rich a history, should move across the city and merge with Covenant in June 1930.

Covenant-First Presbyterian Church[edit]

Sanctuary of combined Covenant-First Presbyterian Church 1930-1967

The pastor of the combined Covenant-First Presbyterian congregation from 1930 to 1946 was Albert Joseph McCartney. He won admiration for his leadership through the difficult years of depression and war. Undaunted by the setbacks of the times, McCarthy never ceased advocating a great national church. His efforts were rewarded when the General Assembly took official steps to designate Covenant-First as “The National Presbyterian Church.” The designation became effective at services held on October 19, 1947, when President Harry S. Truman unveiled the bronze tablet bearing the church’s new name. Today, that bronze tablet is displayed outside the Chapel of the Presidents.

The National Presbyterian Church[edit]

Edward L. R. Elson, who succeeded McCarthy in 1946, worked tirelessly to inspire the entire denomination to the potential for Christian witness and service by a national church. On October 15, 1947, clergy throughout the denomination and the city of Washington converged at the Covenant-First Presbyterian Church for a dedicatory service to establish that church as The National Church of the Presbyterian denomination. For the new national church of the denomination, the General Assembly, in conjunction with church leaders, was anxious to expand the facilities to support a wider array of religious, educational, and cultural activities. His parishioner, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, whom Elson baptized in 1953, supported him in meetings with denomination leaders.

The obsolescence of the existing church building, along with the lack of space to expand, were among the determining factors for selecting a new location. In January 1966 the congregation acquired its current property and began the design and construction of a new church complex. For three years during construction, the congregation worshipped in the Capital Memorial Seventh Day Adventist Church. The cornerstone of the new church was laid by President Eisenhower on October 14, 1967, and the congregation first worshipped in its new home on September 7, 1969.[29]

The year 1969 also marked the opening of the National Presbyterian School, a private school that has grown to serve preschool through sixth-grade students. The school is open to children of all faiths in the Washington area.[30]

Edward L. R. Elson, who had overseen the conception, design, and construction of the new church, retired in 1973 to devote full-time to his duties as Chaplain of the United States Senate, a position to which he had been elected in 1969. He was succeeded as Senior Minister by Louis H. Evans, Jr. Each Senior Minister was supported by Associate or Assistant Ministers, who included Thomas A. Stone, memorialized in the church's fellowship hall; John Hayes, missionary and martyr in China; and chaplains from the Navy and Army.[31]

Evans was followed after 1990 successively by Bryant M. Kirkland (interim), Craig Barnes, Thomas A. Erickson (interim), Gareth W. Icenogle, Earl F. Palmer (interim), Patrick J. Willson (interim), and, in 2011, by David A. Renwick.

Notable milestones[edit]

Over the span of more than two centuries, the National Presbyterian Church or its antecedents have sponsored, hosted, or participated in a long list of events of historic interest. The church’s library and archives are replete with books, manuscripts, and photographs documenting occasions such as these:

1. Anti-slavery speeches by Frederick Douglass - During the pastorate of Byron Sunderland, Senior Minister at The First Presbyterian Church, the abolitionist Frederick Douglass was looking for a site within the city of Washington to give some speeches regarding the abolitionist movement. When Sunderland heard of the difficulty Douglass had in securing another location for his speech, he asked the Session if the church might host the famous orator. The Session was divided; some members of the Session resigned and a number of parishioners even left the church. However Sunderland prevailed, saying that it was better to err on the side of justice and Christian values. Douglass gave his presentations.[32]
2. First radio station broadcasts in Washington, D.C. - On December 22, 1921, the federal government issued a commercial broadcast license to The Church of the Covenant, the predecessor of The National Presbyterian Church. Station WDM went on the air on January 1, 1922, broadcasting the Sunday morning worship services at 833 kHz.[33] (The broadcast transmitter is now in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution.)
U.S. President Harry S Truman with Edward Elson unveiling plaque establishing the National Church of the Presbyterian denomination in 1947
3. Attendance of President Harry S. Truman at the consecration of The National Presbyterian Church – On October 15, 1947, clergy throughout the denomination and the city of Washington converged at the Covenant-First Presbyterian Church for a dedicatory service to establish that church as The National Church of the Presbyterian denomination. Senior Minister Edward L. R. Elson gave the honor of unveiling the plaque to the President of the United States, Harry S. Truman.[32]
4. Baptism of President Eisenhower – When he became President, Dwight D. Eisenhower expressed an interest in joining The National Presbyterian Church. On February 1, 1953, Elson baptized the new President. After the baptism, the President and Mrs. Eisenhower occupied a pew that would become habitual for them for the next eight years.[32]
5. Performance by Duke Ellington and his Orchestra - A number of special programs and activities were organized to celebrate the opening and the move to the new church site in 1970. One of these programs was a concert of sacred music composed and performed by jazz maestro Duke Ellington and his orchestra.[34]
1957 Royal Visit: L to R: Queen Elizabeth II, Senior Pastor Elson, President Eisenhower, Mamie Eisenhower, Associate Minister John Edwards and Prince Philip
6. Visit by Queen Elizabeth II – In 1957, President Eisenhower invited Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip of the United Kingdom, who were in the United States for a state visit, to join him and Mrs. Eisenhower for a worship service at The National Presbyterian Church.[32]
7. Presentation by Mother Teresa of Calcutta - In 1983, U.S. Senator Mark Hatfield, a friend of Senior Pastor Louis Evans, Jr., told him of Mother Teresa’s upcoming visit to the United States. Evans’ wife Colleen Townsend Evans arranged for Mother Teresa to speak at a scheduled Forum on women in the church.[32]
8. Visit by the President of South Africa – During a state visit to the United States, the President of South Africa, Mr. F. W. de Klerk, attended worship services at The National Presbyterian Church with the United States Ambassador to the Netherlands. Following the service, the President and his party were invited to meet the Session of the church and provide remarks on the status of apartheid in South Africa, which he later helped bring to an end.
9. Participation of national leaders in television programs – The Lowell Russell Ditzen was designated as the new Director of The National Presbyterian Center when the National Church opened. During the years of the Center’s operations, Ditzen invited a number of national leaders to participate in discussion programs on world events, which were broadcast on the church’s television program "Religion and the World". Participants included Martin Luther King, Jr. and Norman Vincent Peale.[35]
10. Interview with former hostage and Presbyterian minister, Benjamin Weir – Shortly after his release by Shiite militants in Lebanon in 1985, Benjamin Weir, who became Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), was interviewed on national television to explain his captivity and subsequent release. As the national church for the denomination, the church was selected as the appropriate venue for this historic event.[36]



The headquarters of the Presbyterian Church (USA) are located in Louisville, Kentucky. As a member of this body, the National Presbyterian Church is governed according to the polity of the denomination. Responsibility for governance rests with an elected group of Ruling Elders (presbyters) of the church called the Session. Pastors or ministers are elected by the Session; they are called Teaching Elders. Regional groups of churches are gathered into Presbyteries, and overall policy is decided by a representative gathering in even years, the General Assembly.

Current clergy[edit]

Led by the Senior Minister and supported by professional staff and volunteers, the program ministries of the National Presbyterian Church are performed by these ordained clergy:

  • David A. Renwick, Senior Minister
  • E. Quinn Fox, Associate Minister for Christian Education
  • Donna J. Marsh, Associate Minister for Missions and Outreach

Previous clergy[edit]

The First Presbyterian Church[edit]

  • John Brackenridge 1795-1817
  • Ruben Post 1818-1836
  • William McLain 1836-1840
  • Charles Rich, 1840-1843
  • William T. Sprole, 1843-1847
  • Elisha Ballantine, 1847-1851
  • Byron Sunderland, 1853-1898
  • Thomas DeWitt Talmage, 1898-1899
  • Donald C. McLeod, 1899-1913
  • John Brittain Clark, 1914-1927
  • Newton P. Patterson, 1928-1930

The Church of the Covenant[edit]

  • Thomas S. Childs, 1885-1886
  • Teunis S. Hamlin, 1886-1907
  • Charles Wood, 1908-1928
  • Albert Joseph McCartney, 1928-1930

Covenant-First Presbyterian Church[edit]

  • Albert Joseph McCartney, 1930-1946
  • Edward L. R. Elson, 1946-1947

The National Presbyterian Church[edit]

  • Edward L. R. Elson, 1947-1973
  • Louis Hadley Evans, Jr. 1973 – 1991
  • Bryant M. Kirkland, 1991 – 1993
  • M. Craig Barnes, 1993 – 2002
  • Thomas A. Erickson, 2002 – 2004
  • Gareth Weldon Icenogle, 2004 – 2008
  • Earl F. Palmer, 2008 – 2010
  • Patrick J. Willson, 2011


As a “credal” and “Reformed” church within the Presbyterian Church (USA) denomination, the National Presbyterian Church accepts and confirms the eleven documents that comprise its Book of Confessions, beginning with the Nicene Creed and Apostles’ Creed, and moving to the Barmen Declaration and the Confession of 1967. In accordance with these confessions, the church's members, clergy, and officers of the National Presbyterian Church adopted the following statement of faith:

"We are forgiven, redeemed and made whole by Jesus Christ. God is the Creator who made the universe and made us. We know and worship God as our heavenly Father, through relationship with his Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ is our Lord and the world’s only Savior. Through his life, death and resurrection, God offers us forgiveness and the opportunity to renew our relationship with God now and forever. Scripture is more than a set of guidelines or ideals. It is the Word of God, and our authority in faith and life. It tells us how human beings are to be in relationship with God and how our relationships with God and others become broken. It proclaims who Jesus Christ is and how he saves us. All Jesus-followers are called to live out their faith within his Church."[37]

The library and archives[edit]

In 1947, when the National Presbyterian Church was consecrated, one of the stipulations of the denominational designation was the establishment and maintenance of a library and archives. Since that time the Library and Archives Department has become one of the valuable resources of the church ministry and programs. In 2012 the William Smith Culbertson Memorial Library was designated by the national Church and Synagogue Library Association as the Outstanding Congregational Library of the United States. With a collection of over 18,000 items in various formats the library is one of the largest religious church libraries on the eastern seaboard of the nation. The Chapman Memorial Archives is a collection of over 450,000 documents and records of the church, its three predecessor congregations as well as a repository of minutes of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) denomination.

Many of the library's resources are available online through the church web site .


  1. ^ "Strategic Plan 2014" (PDF). National Presbyterian Church. 22 September 2014. Retrieved 2015-10-28.
  2. ^ a b c Nannes, Caspar. “National Presbyterian Takes Step Into New Era Saturday." The Evening Star, B1, Washington, 12 October 1967.
  3. ^ a b Clopton, Willard Jr. “Ike Loses Battle with Birthday Cake: Unveils Cornerstone for Church.” Washington Post, D1, 15 October 1967.
  4. ^ a b Jones, Olga. Churches of the Presidents", pages 22-33, Exposition Press, New York, 1954.
  5. ^ Folliard, Edward T. “Elizabeth, Philip Bid Washington Farewell", Washington Times-Herald, A1, 21 October 1957.
  6. ^ Dole, Kenneth. “News of the Churches: Royal Couple to Attend Two Church Services", Washington Times-Herald 19 October 1957.
  7. ^ "Washington, District of Columbia: National Presbyterian Church". Aeolian-Skinner Archives. Retrieved 2015-10-28.
  8. ^ Hume, Paul. “A Pipe Organ’s Debut.”, Washington Times-Herald, 27 April 1970.
  9. ^ Anderson, Jim; Childress, Jan (2010). "History of the Organ". National Presbyterian Church. Retrieved 2015-10-28.
  10. ^ "William Neil Biography", [1], Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  11. ^ Cooperman, Emily T.; Tatman, Sandra L. "Wagoner, Harold Eugene (1905 - 1986)". Philadelphia Architects and Buildings. Retrieved 2015-10-28.
  12. ^ a b Von Eckardt, Wolf. “Presbyterian Center: Mod-Gothicist Vision.” Washington Times-Herald, D1, 24 September 1968.
  13. ^ a b Communications Committee (2011). Facets of Faith: Seeing the Light through the Windows of The National Presbyterian Church. The National Presbyterian Church. ISBN 978-0-615-55904-9.
  14. ^ "Bell Tower Framework Completed." Washington Times-Herald, B1, January 17, 1968.
  15. ^ Marsden, George M., "The Evangelical Mind and the New School Presbyterian Experience: A Case Study of Thought and Theology in Nineteenth Century America". New Haven: Yale University Press, 1970.
  16. ^ “Election of Dr. Sunderland to be Chaplain of the Senate”, Washington Post, 5 May 1881.
  17. ^ "Where the President Will Worship: He Buys a Pew in Dr. Sunderland’s Presbyterian Church." Washington Post, p.1, 23 March 1885.
  18. ^ "Easter in the Churches: President and Mrs. Harrison Attend Service – the Celebration of the Day", The Washington Post, pA2, 22 April 1889.
  19. ^ "Married! President Cleveland Weds Miss Frances Folsom", Washington Post, p.1, 3 June 1886.
  20. ^ "Dr. Talmage Formally Called", The New York Times, 3 March 1895.
  21. ^ The Senate Chaplains, [2], U.S. Senate. Retrieved on 18 January 2018.
  22. ^ "Corner Stone Laid: Interesting Services at the Church of the Covenant",Washington Post, p.1, 21 Jan 1887
  23. ^ "He Came a Little Late: President Tardy at Sunday Morning Services But in Ample Time to Participate", The Washington Post, A3, 8 April 1889.
  24. ^ "Harrison at Church: He Listens to a Sermon on the Precepts for a Christian Life", Washington Post, 21 Oct 1889
  25. ^ "Tribute to the Life and Character of Rev. Teunis S. Hamlin, D.D., Pastor of the Church of the Covenant, Washington, D.C.", p. 42, Apr. 21, 1907. Retrieved on 18 January 2018.
  26. ^ "An Industrial School to be Opened", Washington Post, 11 Nov 1886.
  27. ^ "Dr. Wood Will Come Here: Philadelphia Pastor Accepts Call to Church of the Covenant.", Washington Post, 29 Jan 1908.
  28. ^ "Welcome to Dr. Wood; Church of the Covenant Pastor to be Installed on Friday", Washington Post, 23 Feb 1908.
  29. ^ Elson, Edward L. R. (1986). Wide Was His Parish: An Autobiography. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House. ISBN 978-0-8423-8205-2.
  30. ^ Pitts, Marjorie M. and Lynda M. Elliott. (1984). "History of the National Presbyterian School", National Presbyterian School Press.
  31. ^ The National Presbyterian Church. The National Presbyterian Church: The First 200 Years: 1795-1995.
  32. ^ a b c d e The National Presbyterian Church. A Brief History. 1998.
  33. ^ White, Thomas H. "Washington, D. C. – AM (Radio) Station History". Early Radio History. Retrieved 2015-10-28.
  34. ^ Learned, Douglas A. "Sacred Music – Sacred Space." Ellingtonia (Duke Ellington Society), 18.5, p.3.
  35. ^ Ditzen, Lowell R., Ed. From the Center Out. National Presbyterian Church, 1971.[full citation needed]
  36. ^ National Broadcasting Company, Washington, D. C. Video Recording, "An Interview with Benjamin Weir." 1985.[full citation needed]
  37. ^ Statement of Faith of National Presbyterian Church, By-Laws (1978), rev. 1994

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