Evergreen Presbyterian Church
Sunday Worship 11:00 am at 263 S. McLean
Phone: (901) 274.3740
Office Address: 613 University, Memphis, TN 38107
Office Hours: Mon-Thurs 9am - 1:30pm
The history of Evergreen Presbyterian Church begins at the turn of the century when Second Presbyterian Church saw the need to establish a church in one of the fastest growing “eastern” sections of the city, now know as the Evergreen neighborhood. With the help of Second Presbyterian Church, thirty-six charger members organized Evergreen Presbyterian Church on February 6, 1910, in the home of Mr. and Mrs. A. B. Carruthers. The founding minister, Reverend D. W. McIver, had been the Assistant Minister of Second. In June of 1910, the new church building located at the corner of Autumn and Dickinson Streets was completed on property donated by Colonel Robert Galloway. The intervening years saw the arrival of the Reverend James B. Carpenter who served the congregation from 1913 to 1927, and the Reverend Theodore Smylie succeeded Reverend Carpenter. During Reverend Smylie’s pastorate 1927 - 1931 , the congregation grew to over six hundred members, and the Church produced its first history and congregational directory. The Reverend George W. Belk accepted a call in 1931, but his ministry was cut short by a fatal illness in 1934. In September of that year, the Reverend Walter John Millard became “Preacher” to the Evergreen Congregation. After World War II, though Evergreen needed a new building for its own growing congregation, plans were put aside until a more urgent need was met. Presbyterians in the Macon Road area of the city needed help. Taking money from its building fund, Evergreen purchased an army chapel and presented it debt free to the Macon Road congregation. Evergreen helped sustain this congregation until they were able to stand-alone. Evergreen’s need for a larger building grew more pressing. In December 1950, the cornerstone of the present sanctuary was laid, and the first service was held in the new sanctuary in October 1951. Three years later the education building was completed. During these years, the rotation system was adopted for officers and teachers of the church. The Covenant Life Curriculum was being developed, and Evergreen was chosen as one of the pilot churches, resulting in an educational climate more innovative and stimulating than ever before. During the early years at the “new” location across the street form Rhodes College (formerly Southwestern at Memphis), Evergreen developed an active college ministry that continues today. In 1956 the W. J. Millard Chair of Bible and Humanities was established at Rhodes. During Dr. Millard’s tenure Evergreen had three Assistant or Associate Ministers; the Rev. Wayne Gray 1951 – 1952, the Rev. William D. Brown 1952 – 1957, and the Rev. A. Patton White 1957 – 1959. Dr. Millard retired in 1959, Dr. Robert G. Patterson served as Interim Minister during 1960, and was succeeded by Dr. Van M. Arnold. During Dr. Arnold’s tenure as minister, women were first elected to the Session and to the Diaconate (1970). In these years, Evergreen developed a recreation ministry that sought to meet the needs of the community as well as those of the congregation and built the recreation building (1970) to house this program. The playschool was opened in 1977 joining the recreation program as continuing symbols of Evergreen’s strong commitment to the community. Evergreen had four Assistant or Associate Ministers who served with Dr. Arnold; the Rev. Robert L. McLeod 1961 – 1965, the Rev. Edwin W. Strock 1965 – 1967, the Rev. Tony Knox 1969 –1971, the Rev. Millen Darnell 1966 – 1974, and the Rev. August Schmidt 1975 – 1977. Dr. Arnold retired in September 1976 and was succeeded by the Reverend W. Ned Hollandsworth. In June 1978 the Reverend Ann Reed Held was called to serve as Associate Minister of Evergreen, the church’s first woman minister. The Rev. Held resigned in 1983 to pursue further study, and in July 1984 the Rev. Kirby B. Hill assumed the duties of Associate Minister serving until 1993. During Dr. Hollandsworth’s pastorate, Evergreen saw a return of stability to midtown and an increase in the number of younger families joining Evergreen. In October 1985 Dr. Hollandsworth resigned to accept the call of First Presbyterian Church, Morristown, TN.
The Rev. Bert Johnston served as Interim Minister until the Fall of 1986 when Evergreen extended a call to the Rev. Dr. R. Richard Baldwin to become Senior Minister, and Dr. Arnold was named Pastor Emeritus. The Reverend Billy Newton, chaplain at Rhodes, was named Parish Associate in 1990, serving until the fall of 2007. The relationship with Rhodes was strengthened in these years and continues to grow. The Reverend Stephanie Bussey-Spencer was called and served as Associate Minister of Education 1992-1997. In 1995, the Reverend W. Stewart Rawson was ordained and installed as Associate Minister serving until 1997. Dr. Baldwin resigned in December 1996 to become Executive Presbyter of the Presbytery of Memphis. The Rev. Sam B. Laine served as Interim Minister for over a year. The Reverend Harry L. Strong began as Senior Pastor of Evergreen on June 1, 1998 and served until October 2001. On February 27, 2000, the Reverend Anna D. Small was called as Associate Pastor and served in that capacity until July 2003. In January 2001, Evergreen Underground, an alternative contemporary service was begun. The Rev. Kenneth S. Letterman was called as Designated Pastor in February 2002. He received his DMin from Memphis Theological Seminary and was installed as Pastor on June 6, 2004. Rev. Amy F. Howe, a former member and very active member of Evergreen, returned as Parish Associate in 2004. Later Rev. Walt Tenneyson, Chaplain at Rhodes College, and Rev. Kara Kilpatrick joined the staff as Parish Associates. With the aid of a grant in June 2009, the Evergreen Congregation called The Rev. Julie Bailey as Associate Pastor for Christian Education and the Rev. Davis Bailey as Associate Pastor for Evangelism and Young Adult Ministries. Kara, Julie, and Davis left Evergreen in 2012 to pursue other ministries. At the end of March 2013, Evergreen took a bold step and sold the property to Rhodes College with the understanding that Evergreen would always have a place for worship on the Rhodes Campus. In June 2014 the Congregation called the Rev. Lucy Waechter Webb as Co-Pastor, to become the solo pastor upon Ken’s retirement. Ken began a sabbatical in November will full retirement to begin September 2015.
On June 21, 2015, the congregation held its last service of worship in the sanctuary at 613 University. On the Leaving Well Sunday, we said good-bye and blessed the spaces that meant much to the members across the years for their new purpose by Rhodes College. Many former members and families
returned for this special service. After worship there was dinner on the grounds and an organ concert given by former and current organists as well as a flute and trumpet. The beautiful music was a fitting sent-off and tribute to the music ministry that has always been and will continue to be an essential part of Evergreen. The congregation has a new transitional home on Sunday mornings at the Beethoven Club, corner of McLean and Peabody where we are beginning the next chapter.
July 20, 2015
Martha J. Becker