The Church's Timeline
In 1867, Rev. A. Jack Haynes organized the church in the Dallas County Courthouse. As there was no church building, the church probably held its first services in the saloon – no doubt the best place the town had to offer for meetings of any kind.
In 1868, the first church building was established as the Cumberland Presbyterian Church at Jefferson (now Record Street) and Corondolet (now Ross Avenue) in downtown Dallas. Capt. John M. McCoy, grandfather of a later pastor, wrote his parents in 1871 that he had found a little Cumberland Church and had decided to "put his shoulder to the wheel" and help in their Sunday School.
Early in its life, mission and community involvement became a key component in church life. In 1888 the women of the church founded the Society for Foreign Missions. A second group called the Aid Society was organized later. Eventually the two groups merged to become the Women’s Union of City Temple.
Under the leadership of Rev. J. Frank Smith the church grew rapidly, and soon a larger building became a necessity. The little frame building that had served the church for about 30 years was sold and a lot was purchased at the corner of Harwood and Commerce Streets.
An impressive brick church was built and the first service was held there in January, 1898. It was in this building that the General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church met in 1904. During this meeting the subject of union with the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America was discussed.
Two years later, in 1906, this union was consummated and the name of the church was changed to Central Presbyterian of Dallas.
Dallas continued its rapid growth and the church grew along with the city. Rev. Smith was a popular minister and speaker, and again the church outgrew its facilities. In 1915 the Session offered the congregation three propositions upon which they needed to vote: disband the church and join other churches, build several churches in different areas convenient to members, or build a larger downtown church. The congregation voted unanimously for the third option.
Ground was broken at the corner of Akard and Patterson in May of 1915, and the cornerstone was laid on Thanksgiving Day the same year. During the corner-stone laying ceremony, Rev. Smith said the building was not just for Presbyterians, but for the church universal in hopes it would be an inspiration to the whole world.
As if to underscore that vision, the Women of the church organized a Red Cross chapter that made duffel bags for soldiers and rolled bandages for hospitals.
Throughout the following years, church members and the church itself helped others in numerous ways, including partnerships with the YMCA and YWCA, the Council of Social Agencies, the Community Chest, Red Cross, Light House for the Blind, and many others.
The church became known as Central Presbyterian at City Temple. Dr. Floyd Poe began his ministry at City Temple in July, 1928, and would lead the church through its next move in 1962.
Groundbreaking for City Temple's new building took place on February 25, 1962. The cornerstone was laid on November 4 of the same year and on March 17, 1963 the church at 9009 Park Lane held its first service.
The name was changed to NorthPark United Presbyterian Church. As predicted, the move from downtown succeeded in attracting new members, and with available space the Session established a day school for pre-school age children.
Mission programs flourished, including one that has continued for more than 50 years: the Cancer Dressing Ministry. Today it makes some 50 heart-shaped pillows each month that are delivered to Presbyterian Hospital to be used by mastectomy patients.
In August 1965 the church was fortunate in obtaining the services of Rev. David Zacharias as pastor. Among the traditions begun by Rev. Zacharias were a congregational breakfast before the Thanksgiving Day service and the candlelight service on Christmas Eve.
Mission and outreach were now part of the fabric of the church. Active missions included Adopt-a-School; Block Partnership, which worked with minority groups to improve their environment; Meals on Wheels; AARP; CROP, a world hunger project; Adopt-a-House; and Reading for the Blind. In 1983 NorthPark partnered with 14 other churches to form North Dallas Shared Ministries in a city-wide effort to meet local human need.
Over the years, the church property increased in value, due in part to the construction of the NorthPark shopping center just across Park Lane from the church. Aware of these trends, in April 1981 the Session appointed a Long Range Planning Committee to appraise the property in order to begin negotiations with real estate developers.
Over the course of four year and many negotiations in April 1986, a contract was signed to trade the church's property at the corner of Park Lane and Central Expressway for a 6-acre tract just to the north, plus an additional sum and percentage of interest in the joint venture.
In September 1988, after screening more than 90 candidates, the congregation was presented with the name of Rev. Dr. John M. McCoy, and when the call was given, Rev. McCoy accepted and was installed the following month.
A groundbreaking ceremony at the new church facility was held on December 3, 1989. The new building was completed and the dedication ceremony was held May 26, 1991.
1990s to present
With its prime geographic position and its spire creating visibility along Central Expressway, NorthPark continued to grow. Rev. McCoy served the church for five years. When he decided to retire from full-time ministry, NorthPark called Rev. Dr. John Miller, who served from 1996 until 2008.
During Rev. Miller’s ministry, NorthPark established a Stephen Ministry program that for 10 years supported members through short-term emotional crises; expanded its staff to include its first Associate Pastor, Rev. Sally Brown, enhancing support to the church’s deacons and its mission work; and initiated an Alzheimer’s respite program called Casa de Vida, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2017. Through the work of a Vision Team, it also developed a vision statement that continues to energize and guide the church’s work today: At NorthPark, the faithful find community, community creates disciples, and disciples change the world.
Following Dr. Miller’s resignation, NorthPark launched a year-long search for a new pastor, ultimately calling Rev. Brent A. Barry, who preached his first sermon at NorthPark on November 22, 2009. Since then NorthPark has underscored its identity as a mission-based church by expanding numerous programs and re-focusing others.
NorthPark has traditionally been committed to food insecurity and hunger ministries and has creatively expanded its contributions by focusing efforts and directing funds toward the nearby Vickery Meadow community. Donations from members form a core contribution, and NorthPark’s Reverse Food Truck now allows non-members to donate food and money to help reverse hunger, primarily in Vickery Meadow. Since its inception, the Reverse Food Truck has collected more than 70,000 pounds of non-perishable food items, as well as cash donations exceeding $20,000.
In another example, many members were already involved with Faith on Tap, a home for faith-based discussions outside the church walls. NorthPark strengthened its involvement. Lively discussions continue at a nearby restaurant, and Rev. Barry took the discussion online with Faith on Facebook, an online discussion that allows anyone to participate virtually in ongoing conversations.
Currently under construction is the SoulFood Greenhouse – an effort that grew out of the SoulPatch, a small garden on the church grounds. The Greenhouse will grow hydroponic, pesticide-free tomatoes to deliver to the working poor of Dallas starting in the fall of 2017.
Church members have also started their own charitable ministries, such as Meds for Africa and Paper for Water. Numerous volunteers from within and outside of NorthPark Church support MEDS for Africa’s efforts to provide medical, dental and educational needs in Kenyan communities. Paper for Water was started by two young girls and their parents to fund water wells in third world countries. So far, the project has raised more than $1,000,000 and helped fund more than 100 water projects in 12 countries.
In 2010, NorthPark renovated and expanded its north lobby, creating a new welcome desk, conversation areas and additional fellowship space. Renovations in the other end of the building included remodeling the gym to create a vibrant, two-story youth center, which also allows the church to welcome and host its new Thai Fellowship worshiping community.
In 2012, the staff was reorganized and new positions were created for the needs of the 21st century church. Staff positions now include the Pastor; Associate Pastor & Director of Youth Ministries; Director of Mission & Older Adult Programs; Director of Children & Family Ministries; Director of Media & Church Relations; Associate Pastor Emeritus; Membership Coordinator; and Facilities Manager; as well as Director of Music; Director of Children’s Music; Organist; and Director of Handbell Choir.
Beyond its food missions and respite care ministries, NorthPark was crucial to the city of Dallas in calming fears during an Ebola scare in 2013. Members have also recently joined hands with the local Muslim community to break down barriers of fear and build bridges of peace. The Dallas Peace & Justice Center awarded its 2016 Peacemaker Organization(s) of the Year Award jointly to NorthPark Presbyterian Church and Masjid Al Islam Mosque for their combined interfaith outreach efforts to help further peaceful, ecumenical inter-religious understanding.
Today, just as 150 years ago, the building, the church’s missions and the congregation’s warm, caring culture draw members and visitors from miles beyond its doors.