Our story is not a story of great faith. It is a story of faith in a Great God. It all began around 1873. The dusty little town of Gastonia was beginning to grow. As people began to move into town, a new house of worship was required. A small group of these town folk started to worship at a little church on Airline Avenue.
This group wasn’t an official or organized church yet, but they had faith that God was starting something special. Combining their resources, they came up with $145, which they used to purchase a large plot of land at the corner of York Street and Franklin Avenue. They continued to pray, worship, and trust God, and he provided. This time they started to build. In the fall of 1886, a small stucco church building was constructed costing $1200. The vision of these faithful few was slowly taking shape.
On October 29, 1887 the First ARP Church of Gastonia was organized with a membership of 47 faith-filled people. The congregation called its first pastors. Under the preaching and leadership of faithful men like Dr. Boyce and Dr. Galloway, the church began to grow.
It was time for another step of faith. God was calling the church to get involved with mission work, both locally and globally. They began supporting their first missionary – Thomas Sanches to Mexico. They also decided it was time for this young church to plant another church – and so they started a mission work in 1913 near Loray Mill which is now known as Linden ARP Church. God continued to bless each step of faith.
The growing congregation was requiring more space so they demolished their building, worshipping in the courthouse, and held evening services at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church. During this time a larger building was built at the corner of York and Franklin Avenue costing $20,000. The first service in the new building was held on the last Sunday of February, 1918.
During the next few several decades, God continued to grow our faith. During the depression, when many families left Gaston county to move elsewhere to find work, they continued to believe God would provide. During this time all financial obligations were met and all debts were paid off.
During WWII, the congregation sent 87 young men and women into armed service for their country. This congregation believed God would protect them, and they prayed and kept in contact with these service men and women until they returned safely home.
In 1947 this congregation felt God calling them to continue to expand this ministry and so they stepped out in faith and purchased a piece of property on Chester Street, where our current church building now resides. The new church building was built and dedicated on November 14, 1948. And the church continued to grow.
Since that time membership, mission, giving, ministry, staff, have all continued to grow. Dr. McDill, Dr. Schutte, Rev. Grant Johnson, Dr. Murrary Griffith, Dr. Dick Bode, Dr. Harry Schutte again. Pastors come and pastors go but God continued to bless every step of faith that this congregation has taken.
A new education building was built back in 2002. Gaston Community Church was planted in 2008. From 2016-2019 the entire campus of First ARP underwent a major renovation, with increased parking, and a new Ministry Activity Center (MAC).
The theme of our story is this: God is so faithful – and delights in those who walk by faith in Him. So, stay tuned – God is still at work. To Him alone be the glory.