First Presbyterian Church is a welcoming, serving community, reflecting the inclusive love of God, and nurturing each individual’s spiritual pilgrimage.
Together and individually we seek to live as disciples of Jesus, embodying his love, forgiveness, mercy, and his passion for justice.
We celebrate the rich diversity of all God’s children and find our lives enriched by people of every race, age, gender, economic status, marital status, and sexual orientation. Please join with us in the joyful and often challenging journey of faith.
Our Mission & History
“Our Mission is to LIVE SPIRITUALLY, to LOVE INCLUSIVELY, to LEARN CONTINUOUSLY, and to LEAVE A LEGACY”
As a cathedral for the human spirit we strive to enrich the spiritual and cultural life of our community. We believe that all of life is a theater for the Glory of God. We celebrate the interconnectedness of the sacred and the secular, outstanding music and liturgy, an expansive Choir School, and innovative dramatic and visual arts.
As a congregation of inclusivity we strive to welcome all people into the life of our church. We are a friendly and caring church where people of all ages, backgrounds, and life situations are always welcomed, and where our differences are celebrated and respected. We encourage the openness and authentic humanness that breaks down barriers of fear and builds bridges of trust and love.
As a center for progressive Christianity we strive to nurture the development of resilient faith and noble values from earliest childhood, through adolescence, to mature adulthood. We are “a thinking person’s church.” We enjoy the challenge of worshipping God with our minds. We believe that all of life’s big questions are spiritual, and while there are neither easy nor ready answers, we seek to provide an open forum in which to explore them. We seek to deepen our commitment to the truth of our Christian tradition while at the same time discovering and respecting the truth of others’ traditions.
Leave a Legacy
As a catalyst for social change we strive to make a meaningful difference in the world and leave it a better place than we found it. We are committed to the ministry of the laity in society. We seek to be the hands and heart of God, loving others by sharing our time, talents, and resources, inspiring and empowering individuals to become all they can be, as well as creating just social structures.
Now in our 62nd year of worship, First Presbyterian Church of New Canaan was founded in 1956 under the first of only three permanent Senior Pastors in our history, the Rev. T. Guthrie Speers, Jr. The first Clerk of Session, or principal elder, was Stuart L. Higley. By the mid 1960s, Rev. Speers and his large and enthusiastic congregation had outgrown its original location, the Masonic Hall on Main Street, and began planning a new permanent home on a five acre parcel of land on Oenoke Ridge that had been donated by Miss Susan Dwight Bliss, in 1959. The cornerstone was laid in November 1968, and the first Sunday service took place on May 17, 1970 in the new Sanctuary.
Rev. Speers continued as FPCNC’s Senior Pastor for more than 36 years until his retirement in 1992. From 1995 to 2007, the dynamic and impassioned advocate of progressive christianity, Rev. Dr. Gary A. Wilburn, served as Head of Staff; followed by Rev. Paul E. Gilmore, who served as Head of Staff from 2010 to 2018. Our current Head of Staff is Rev. Carol Howard Merritt, bridge pastor.
From its inception, we have been a vibrant, loving community of faith well known for our commitment to openness and diversity, to social justice and inclusivity, to ecumenical fellowship and interfaith relationships. The church’s music ministry is highly regarded as one of the best in the region, and the church is sinfully proud of its strong Scottish heritage.
At the core of our being is the belief that the church is called to serve the greater communities in which we live. First Presbyterian Church of New Canaan was instrumental in the founding of New Canaan’s Waveny Care Center, South Avenue Cottage, and other important town and Fairfield County services. A significant portion of our budget and congregation’s interests and active involvement today is in service and ministry to the local community and to the world beyond our doors.