For 135 years Second Presbyterian Church has played an integral part in the life of Chattanooga and the surrounding area. Second Church has and continues to mirror the changes and growth—highs and lows—of the southeastern corner of Tennessee where it is located.
In early 1871 Second Church was founded by a group of fourteen charter members and eight supporting members, all prominent citizens of the community.
Like most “Second” Presbyterian churches in the South, many of its original members had immigrated from the North during the six years following the War Between the States. Therefore, the church was organized as a “Northern Presbyterian Church.”
In September of 1878 Yellow Fever broke out within the community. Although church services were canceled and the congregation scattered, Christian responsibility for their neighbors was not abandoned. Church members volunteered services to the victims.
Under Dr. Trimble’s leadership the congregation voted to build a church at the northeast corner of Chestnut and West Eighth Streets. The building was dedicated in 1881 debt-free.
By 1889 a larger facility was needed and the property at Pine and Seventh Streets was purchased. Noted architect R.H. Hunt was hired to design the new edifice, and the present sanctuary was dedicated in 1891.
The Reverend Edgar A. Elmore, D.D., a Maryville College graduate and Tennessee native, became the fourth pastor in 1900. He brought to the congregation a close association with Maryville College which remained throughout his tenure and for many years following his service.
The Founders Memorial Building was dedicated in 1923 with the cornerstone containing the names of the members of the congregation who had served in World War I. The Elmore Room which has served and continues to serve the church in many capacities was named in honor of Dr. Elmore.
It was during Dr. Stimson’s pastorate that the Stimson Weekday Bible School was founded. Directed by Mrs. L.A. Hilliard it served the children and mothers of the Westside meeting educational, health, economic, and recreational needs of these families. This was a program many years ahead of its time. The Stimson Weekday Bible School continued until the “Urban Renewal Program” of the late 50’s and early 60’s eliminated the population of the Westside.
Dr. Stewart oversaw the renovation of the sanctuary in 1959. Like his predecessors, Dr. Stewart became active in community affairs.
In 1971 at the celebration of its first hundred years, mission involvement was noted as being an integral part of the life of Second Church. Many of the young people dedicated themselves to full-time church work; and there was generous support of foreign missions, local missions, the presbytery, the greater church, colleges, etc.—all were a vital part of the membership’s Christian commitment.
The Reverend Frank E. Jump served Second Church for twenty-seven years leaving in January 2001. During the years of his service the downtown neighborhood of Second Church was constantly evolving. Some of the downtown churches abandoned the inner city for suburban locations, and those that remained began to decline in membership. Second Church remained and continued its ministry. The creation and acceptance of the men’s shelter, St. Matthew’s, within the church was one of the more far reaching actions of Mr. Jump’s tenure.
The Reverend Perry C. McCallen, D.D., was called in June 2003 from Cape Coral Presbyterian Church (Florida) to become the ninth minister of Second Presbyterian Church. Today the parish of Second Church extends over more than one hundred square miles with members represented in many communities. The membership’s close-knit family in Christ and loyalty to Jesus Christ, to one another, and to Second Church is one of its conspicuous and commendable characteristics.
Today the immediate neighborhood—downtown Chattanooga—presents the membership of Second Church with unequaled challenges and opportunities. These challenges and opportunities will be met because:
“We are a grateful people of God called to carry out His holy purpose. Guided by scripture, we boldly and joyfully proclaim that our faith is in the eternal God, that our Savior Jesus Christ is Lord of our lives, and that we rely upon the Guidance of the Holy Spirit…” (Vision Statement 2001)