In 1894, the City of Atlanta expanded its city limits to a point about where the A.T. & T. building now stands on Peachtree. This encompassed many new homes in the area north of the city and anticipated the construction of many more homes. Mrs. J. M. High (High Museum of Art), Mrs. J. D. McCarty, and Mrs. Clem Harris were members of First Presbyterian Church and lived in the area; they felt that a new Presbyterian church was needed and held organizational meetings in their homes. They recruited 100 members from First Presbyterian, 15 from Central Presbyterian Church, and one from Athens Presbyterian Church to be founding members on December 4, 1898. Descendants of the original founding members still are members: Frank M. Eldridge, Joseph K. Orr, IV, James T. Porter, Jr., and Edward K. Van Winkle, Jr. The first pastor was the Rev. Dr. Richard Orme Flinn. The church was constructed from Stone Mountain granite donated by charter members whose family owned the mountain and were in the granite quarry business. It was occupied for the first time for the Thanksgiving service in 1900.
In 1909 the church created the North Avenue Presbyterian School, which began with 21 students and met in the Sunday School building. In 1920 the school was incorporated. In 1921, the school moved to the 189 Ponce de Leon Avenue campus and operated as NAPS: coed until the sixth grade and a girl’s school through high school. Dr. Vernon S. Broyles was the President from the retirement of Dr. Flinn, until the formation of The Westminster Schools in 1951 by merging NAPS and Washington Seminary together after the retirement of the Washington sisters from operating this girl’s finishing school. Westminster was created as a Christian preparatory school for children of all ages.
The officers and members of North Avenue Presbyterian Church made a strategic decision in the 1950’s, which was to remain downtown although the church was no longer a neighborhood church as it had been at its inception and members had to pass many suburban churches on their way to church each Sunday. This decision was to become involved in urban ministry, with internationals, and with the world as well as the city.
Col. Roy LeCraw, a long time member, had a passion for foreign mission and after service in Korea during the Korean War he helped start over 100 churches in Korea. In 1957 North Avenue held its first annual missions conference where funds were raised for international and urban missions. This has continued ever since.
Missions became so important that a Minister for Missions was created on a part-time basis in 1970 and became a full-time staff position with the calling of Rev. Dr. Prakobb Deetanna on October 17, 1976, who had previously served part-time while completing studies at Columbia Theological Seminary in Theology and at Georgia State University in Education. He started the International Sunday School Class for American born and internationally born members and students. Alpha House was created for international students, and close ties were formed with the Presbyterian Church of East Africa, through their ministers studying at the Interdenominational Theological Center. Prak became the Minister to Internationals all over metropolitan Atlanta.
North Avenue sheltered three different Korean congregations in their formative years, one Kenyan Fellowship, one Eritrian Fellowship, and one Sudanese Fellowship. North Avenue, along with other churches in Atlanta, assisted in the founding and funding of the Kenyan Presbyterian University from the Pastoral Institute. Prak was the driving force behind many short term mission trips; because he felt that the experience would be transformative of the youth and members who went.
North Avenue has a unique ministry to Ph.D. students and visiting scholars from China at Georgia Tech. The church hosts a welcoming dinner in the fall as well as assisting incoming students from China. On Wednesday night there is an ESL class for internationals. On Thursday, at Westminster Christian Center (partially funded by this church) at Georgia Tech, there is a pizza dinner and Bible study for 85 Chinese students, scholars, and family. On Sunday there is an ESL Sunday School class that explains the sermon for that day. Throughout the year there are holiday meals, parties, picnics, cook-outs, and trips for the international students.
The Atlanta Children’s Shelter for homeless children are housed by North Avenue, and members take a significant part in the funding, founding, and leadership. Other Urban Mission involvement includes the Clifton Shelter for Men, the Cup Worship Service, and the Atlanta Day Shelter for Women & Children. North Avenue has worked with 24/7 Gateway – Atlanta Union Mission as well as the Peachtree-Pine Shelter. Urban Mission funds have helped Midtown Assistance and many other programs.
North Avenue has become a diverse place of worship with members from more than 30 foreign countries. North Avenue has a 9 AM Contemporary, 11 AM Traditional, and a 5:45 PM worship service as well as Healing Service at 12:15 on the Third Sunday.
History of North Avenue Pastors
Dr. Flinn retired on July 3, 1939, and Dr. Ernest Thacker served as interim minister for 16 months. In January of 1941, Dr. Vernon S. Broyles became the second pastor of the church of 250 members. In 1950 Dr. Broyles accepted a call from the General Assembly to head the Board of Church Extension as its first Executive Secretary. In 1950, Dr. R. McFerran Crowe became the third pastor. In 1954, Dr. Crowe received a call to become president of Belhaven College in Jackson, Mississippi, and Dr. Broyles was recalled to be the pastor of North Ave. Dr. Broyles served until his retirement on May 30, 1976. On September 26, 1976, Rev. Charles Parker Wright was called to be the fourth pastor. In October of 1984, Rev. Wright resigned to undertake studies for a doctoral degree at Columbia Theological Seminary. On September 8, 1985, Dr. R. Leslie Holmes was installed as the church’s fifth pastor. In 1988, Dr. Holmes left North Ave. to accept a call to a church in Coral Gables, Florida. In 1990, Dr. James E. Long, Jr. was called as the sixth pastor. On June 16, 1995, Dr. Long died after a long illness. On April 20, 1997, the Rev. Dr. D. Scott Weimer was called to be the seventh pastor of North Avenue Presbyterian Church.
North Avenue Stained Glass Windows
North Avenue’s beauitful Sanctuary is home to several amazing stained glass windows, some crafted by Louis Comfort Tiffany. Read more about these special pieces of art in this brochure (.pdf)