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What Makes Us Presbyterian


Learn more about Presbyterian heritage and the history of WPC in Williamsburg, VA.

Presbyterian history

Presbyterians trace their history to the 16th century and the Protestant Reformation.  Our heritage, and much of what we believe, began with the French lawyer John Calvin (1509-1564), whose writings crystallized much of the Reformed thinking that came before him.  Calvin did much of his writing from Geneva, Switzerland.  From there, the Reformed movement spread to other parts of Europe and the British Isles.  Many of the early Presbyterians in America came from England, Scotland and Ireland.  The first American Presbytery was organized at Philadelphia in 1706.  The first General Assembly was held in the same city in 1789. The first Assembly was convened by the Rev. John Witherspoon, the only minister to sign the Declaration of Independence.   
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what makes us unique

At the core of Presbyterian identity is a secure hope in the grace of God in Jesus Christ, a hope that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, empowers us to live lives of gratitude:  “In affirming with the earliest Christians that Jesus is Lord, the Church confesses that he is its hope, and that the Church, as Christ’s body, is bound to his authority and thus free to live in the lively, joyous reality of the grace of God.” (Book of Order F-1.0204)
This strong emphasis on the grace of God in Jesus Christ is our heritage from the founder of the Reformed tradition, John Calvin. 
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History of Williamsburg Presbyterian Church
Our WPC past is an important part of our present church.
In the 18th Century, colonists in Williamsburg were restricted to the religious practices of the Church of England. However, in 1765, 17 men petitioned the courts to worship with their families in the Presbyterian manner.  They received permission on June 17, 1765, to meet in a home behind the Raleigh Tavern.  The replica of the meeting house stands today behind the Capitol.
"Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms."
1 Peter 4:10
As the number of Presbyterians grew, some people worshiped near the York River.  By June of 1860, worshipers received a commission from the Hanover Presbytery to formally organize the Williamsburg and York River Presbyterian Church.
The Williamsburg congregation purchased a lot for $100 on the Palace Green from the College of William and Mary to build a church.  Those people worshiping at the York River built a church that remains today on the property of Camp Peary.
When the Palace Green property was sold in 1930, a new church was built on our current site.  By 1932, the Norfolk Presbytery united both churches into one house of worship, the Williamsburg Presbyterian Church.  By 2004, we built a larger sanctuary on the same property, because of our commitment to the Westminster Fellowship of the college.  The current sanctuary was completed in 2006.  Our past continues to inform our ministry today and tomorrow.

Read a brief history of the Presbyterian Church in Virginia here.