We are a member congregation in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) and located within the Philadelphia Presbytery.
The very earliest record of the First Presbyterian Church in Kensington indicates that in 1811, a minister, Mr. Jenkins, opened his new home on Crown St (Crease St) for worship. The work grew so rapidly, it required his two sons and two other men to help him. The Evangelical Society sent Rev. Benjamin Wright, but the group soon outgrew Mr. Jenkins' home. Worship was moved to the Rice School House on Queen St (Richmond St) above Bishop St (Berks St) but this also became too small. Faced with building a larger school or becoming a Presbyterian Church, the choice was the latter. A new church was built on Palmer St, above Richmond St and worship began there in 1813.
In December 1813, 14 trustees were elected whose names are on the original charter. A copy of this charter now hanging in the downstairs hallway shows the charter date of March 23, 1814. The spiritual body of the church became a reality the same day with the election of a Moderator and secretary and become THE FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN KENSINGTON. Growth continued beyond capacity, and the present building we dedicated in 1859. At that time the Sunday School numbered over 500.
The building, including a steeple 180 feet high, cost $24,000 and the furnishings cost another $2,215. It was dedicated May22,1859 and the first pastor was Dr. George Chandler.
Music for the services was first supplied by a melodeon and a little later, by an organ, both in the balcony and at the rear of the sanctuary. In 1897, a pipe organ was installed at the front of the sanctuary, behind the pulpit and a choir loft was built around the console.
The "Annex" was built in 1884 on the site of two dwellings next door because of the continuing growth of the Sunday School.
In 1921, the original steeple reached a dangerous condition and was condemned.Byvote of the congregation, the steeple was replaced by a copper dome, which today makes the church stand out as a landmark on Girard Avenue.
The beautiful stained-glass windows were not a part of the original building. When some changes were made to the sanctuary, the windows were installed. The windows were painted by the artist William Reith. His process was to add the paint to the surface of the glass. This is in contrast to the more modern process of baking the color in the glass. The windows are memorials to early members of the congregation. You can check out detailed information about the memorials and history of the people on Fishtown's historian Ken Milano's website at:
In 202 plus years the church has been served by only 10 full-time pastors and 4 temporary supply pastors.
To email the church click on Contact or send an email to:
To contact the clerk of session Donna Malkowski:
Rev. Shawn Hyska
Pastor Shawn has been the pastor at First Pres Kensington since December 2012. He is a native Philadelphian (he grew up in Lower Bucks County) and studied at Drexel University (majoring in accounting). After Drexel Shawn followed God's calling in his life and enrolled in Princeton Theological Seminary and graduated in 2009.
In addition to serving the church, Shawn is a financial consultant to non-profit organizations, after having served in various financial leadership positions with non-profits over the past six years.
Shawn's passion lies in seeing how and where God is moving and acting in our everyday lives. A typical Sunday does not pass by without a movie, music, or Phillies reference.
Pastor Shawn is involved in the Fishtown community as he leads worship at the Penn Home retirement home at least once a month (and also serves on their Board of Directors). In addition, he spearheaded the creation of Fishtown's newest community newsletter The Fish Net seeing a need to promote the neighborhood's activities, programs and meetings that wasn't being met.
Email Pastor Shawn: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter - @shawnhyska