Germantown: Historic Church Still Active in Community

The Rev. Kevin Porter has been at the First Presbyterian Church in Germantown since 1993.
The Rev. Kevin Porter has been at the First Presbyterian Church in Germantown since 1993. Photo courtesy of First Presbyterian Church

Germantown is home to many historical churches–many of which were founded in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The First Presbyterian Church in Germantown, now in its 202nd year, is one of the more active churches in the area.

In 1733, the Market Square Church opened its doors to German immigrants. All services were in German. However, as children of the immigrants grew up, they wanted services in English, the language they were more accustomed to.

The Rev. Dr. Samuel Blair began to have services in his home.

Although the actual date of the official inception of the First Presbyterian Church in Germantown is unknown, it is thought to have been in October 1809. The original church building was on Germantown Avenue between Haines and Rittenhouse Streets and was used from 1812 to 1872.

When the Rev. J. Frederick Dripps came to First Presbyterian in 1870, the original building was sold and a new one was constructed beginning in 1871, which remains today the church’s house of worship, at 35 W. Chelten Ave.

Much like in its past, the “congregation is still involved in events in Germantown,” said the Rev. Kevin Porter, the First Presbyterian’s director of adult education and community life.

First Presbyterian runs the Germantown Avenue Crisis Ministry through the church and has a running food cupboard, in conglomeration with Philabundance. “We don’t serve meals. We have a food cupboard for folks to get non-perishables,” Porter said.

The crisis ministry also helps individuals balance a budget and plan for the future. “We help them not to get into a crisis in the future,” Porter said.

Porter plays an active role in the Bread & Cup Coffeehouse, a program that uses art as a way of reaching out to the community. Poets, singers and storytellers alike come to the church on the first Sunday of every month to showcase their talents.

An artist's rendering of the new church building when it first opened its doors in the 1870s.

First Presbyterian is also part of wider community involvement. “We were one of the institutions that helped found the Germantown Community Connection,” a network of organizations, said Porter. The organizations goal is to “investigate, manage, create and build capacity for charitable, educational, cultural, scientific and community development planning and activities that will impact Germantown’s quality of life,” according to its website.

Porter said he sees great importance in the GCC because it “is bigger than one organization can ever be.”

A downturn in the economy has caused community involvement to suffer a bit. “We can’t be as actively involved as we’d like to be,” he said.

First Presbyterian will be decreasing its community grants this year. First Presbyterian contributes 10 percent of its operating budget to the grants. But because the budget is getting squeezed, so are the grants for the time being, Porter said.

For more information on the church, visit

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