First Presbyterian Church of Raleigh marked a milestone, the 200th anniversary of its establishment, last week, with among other things, a dramatic portrayal of its founding member, Rev. William McPheeters, by Hayes Permar.
It is and it has been a good and enlightened place, where members advocated civil rights and have historically worked to help the poor and the troubled. First Presbyterian has counted some of Raleigh’s most esteemed citizens among its membership, but it has helped a cross-section of Raleigh residents as well.
The late Rev. Albert Edwards, raised in Scotland by his grandparents, never lost a distinctive brogue and was identified by it for his 30 years or so at the helm of First Presbyterian. He was a charismatic figure who started funds to help people who needed it, including one fund to help the working poor, a group often lost when it came to getting some temporary assistance.
Rev. Ed McLeod, a soft-spoken, gracious leader, now is the church’s senior pastor and presided at the anniversary celebration in the old House of Representatives chamber in the State Capitol.
This might have been one church’s bicentennial, but it was a significant event as well in the history of Raleigh, where spiritual life always has been a formative influence in the community. In the case of First Presbyterian, that influence has been a strong, positive force.