Memorial Presbyterian Church was chartered on June 9, 1946, by fifty-one members of First Presbyterian Church, one of the original churches of Montgomery. As a seed church, Memorial inaugurated a building program with the help of a gift from the men of First Presbyterian on five acres of land on South Court Street, which had been donated to Memorial by the Bellingrath family. At the time this was an unpopulated southern outskirt of Montgomery. Demographics have changed over time, but the spirit of giving that characterized the genesis of Memorial has not changed.
Our first worship service at Court Street was on Mother’s Day 1946, in the auditorium of Sidney Lanier High School, with Rev. Cecil Lawter presiding. Later that year the congregation would call Rev. Lawter to serve as their first pastor. Memorial’s first completed building was the Bellingrath education wing on December 22, 1947. The neo-Gothic designed sanctuary was completed seven years later in 1954 with additions to the plant made during the 1960’s. Members expressed their enthusiasm about Memorial’s music and mission traditions through generous donations, which included a pipe organ, carillon, and beautiful stained glass windows. The stained glass windows in our current sanctuary are among those donated to our Court Street location. The pipe organ and several other stained glass windows are currently in storage awaiting the time when we will commission their reuse on Bell Road.
Memorial’s membership grew quickly to 875 active members by 1963. Our first wedding in the sanctuary was that of Joe and Junera Stone in 1955, and our first baptism was that of Stewart May, each of whom continue to worship here. Memorial thrived during a time of national upheaval during the Civil Rights movement. Adhering to Christ’s mission of reconciliation and justice has been at the core of Memorial’s identity since her genesis, witnessed in part by being one of only four churches in the city to maintain an open door policy for all Christian worshippers. Generosity in mission and outreach ministries, along with our commitment to musical excellence, were, and still are, defining characteristics of Memorial’s members.
During the mid 1990’s the time had come for Memorial to more eastward for a variety of factors. Declining neighborhoods, increased risk, and dramatic shifts in church culture were painful realities for many of Montgomery’s original churches. Memorial relocated to Bell Road in large part due to land availability and the predictions for future growth potential on the East side. Our present sanctuary was completed in late 1999, and our first service here was on Christmas Eve of that year. During Memorial’s transition from Court Street to Bell Road her members worshipped as nomads at Westminster Presbyterian Church, a rented church facility on Atlanta Highway, and the Bell Road YMCA. It was a relief to be settled!
The present location and her current members carry on Memorial’s history of traditional yet relevant worship, providing mission opportunities both locally and globally, vibrant music ministry, and opportunities for education. We have maintained a presence among area families through our Mothers’ Day Out ministry. Our current size reflects the negative impact of conflict within the denomination over ordinations standards. Memorial has sought to maintain a presence in the denomination, but this has been an increasing challenge over the recent years. We are pleased with the direction Memorial is heading and we welcome you to be part of our ongoing history.