In May 1866 the first Protestant sermon in the Livermore Valley was preached to several pioneering families in the valley by Rev. W. W. Brier, an iterant pastor.
This small group of faithful worshipers grew until in 1871 the First Presbyterian Church was established in Livermore.
After meeting in the schoolhouse, the Exchange Hall and various other buildings in the center of town, the first permanent building was dedicated in July of 1874 with 11 communicant members. Our historical chapel on the corner of 4th and K Streets has been in constant use since its dedication.
The congregation outgrew the campus consisting of the chapel, fellowship hall and classrooms by 1960. With three worship services Sunday mornings, a Sunday school and youth groups of several hundred children, and a growing ministry, the congregation needed more space.
With a leap of faith, and the decision to stay located in downtown Livermore, the homes on the block were purchased, the land cleared and our present Sanctuary and education buildings were built and dedicated in 1965. They served the congregation and community well until in 2002 - 2003 a major renovation was done to the campus to enable us to continue our vital and energetic ministry in our community and the world.
The congregation has been dedicated to spreading the love of God through service to the community and throughout the world for 140 years.
To learn more about the history of our congregation, a book, 125 Years: A History of the First Presbyterian Church, Livermore, California 1871 – 1996 is available in our church office.
The History of the Presbyterian Church
Martin Luther and John Calvin were the two most influential 16th century reformers responsible for the birth and establishment of Protestantism. Luther was excommunicated from the Church of Rome in 1520 when he refused to deny his convictions and concerns about what he felt were seriously destructive tendencies, errors, and excesses in her theology and practice.
John Calvin, a pious Roman Catholic in Paris, was converted to the Protestant view in 1533. He had to flee France, taking refuge in Basal, Switzerland. He wrote the basic document of the Reformed Faith: "The Institutes of the Christian Religion." It is still considered by many to be the greatest theological work ever produced. Traveling to Geneva, Calvin became the mind and heart of the "Reformed Church," of which our Presbyterian Church is but one of several.
John Knox, a powerful Scotch reformer, had to flee Roman Catholic England, taking refuge in Switzerland. While at Geneva he caught the vision and genius of Calvin in both his conception and grasp of the Christian faith, and in his understanding of the real function and place of the Church. In 1559 Knox returned to Scotland to rejoin the Protestant forces in their struggle for freedom. In 1560 the Scottish Parliament officially proclaimed the Reformed faith to be the religion of Scotland. Knox was asked to prepare a confession of faith and a system of government for the church. It was adopted by the Church of Scotland, which in 1560 became the "Presbyterian Church" (taken from the Greek word, "Presbyter", meaning elder.)
In 1643, the English Parliament called an assembly of church leaders in Westminster. They met for four years and drafted the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, a Directory of Worship, a Book of Discipline, and a Presbyterian form of Church Government. With the latter three divisions having been revised several times, these works comprise the Constitution of the United Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.
Presbyterians were among the first American colonizers. The first permanent Presbyterian Church was organized in Long Island in 1640. The first Presbytery was organized in Philadelphia on 1705, and the first Synod in 1716. Presbyterians followed the westward movement, establishing churches on every frontier.
After much growth and organization, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. was organized in 1789. In 1858 the United Presbyterian Church of North America was formed by the union of the Associate (Presbyterian) Synod and the General Synod of the Associate Reformed Church.
Then on May 28, 1958, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, one hundred years later, the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. was created by the union of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. and the United Presbyterian Church of North America.
In 1983 the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. (often known as the Southern Branch) and the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (often called the Northern Branch) were reunited and became the current Presbyterian Church (USA). Our national offices are in Louisville, Kentucky.
A Brief History of the Book of Confessions
The present Book of Confession is the product of a church merger. In 1958, the former United Presbyterian Church of North America and the former Presbyterian Church in the United States of America united to become The United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. The merging assembly at Pittsburgh authorized a Special Committee on a "Brief Contemporary Statement of Faith." The Confession of 1967 and the Book of Confession is the product of the Special Committee's work. After nine years, during which successive General Assemblies heard progress reports and one Special Committee of Fifteen intensively studied and made minor corrections in the original draft; the Boston General Assembly in 1966 approved the Book of Confessions and sent it to the presbyteries for study and vote. More than two-thirds of the presbyteries voting approved, and the 178th General Assembly in Portland in 1967, the church constitution was changed to include the new Book of Confessions. A brief summary of each document in the book follows:
- The Nicene Creed. The oldest creed in the book derives its name from the Council of Nicaea held in 325 A.D., for refuting the theology of Arius who had declared that Christ was only like God, and therefore, not true God. If this heresy had prevailed, then God himself was not fully in Christ, and consequently, Jesus lacked full knowledge of God. Another more
like God, might appear in the future. The key phrases to refute this heresy are: "Being of one substance with the Father," "True God from true God," and "Begotten, not created."
- The Apostles’ Creed. Contrary to common belief, this creed came not from a collection of phrases composed by the twelve Apostles, but from the doctrine which arose in the first century. The use of the words, "I believe," indicates that originally this creed was a personal confession made at the time of baptism. It assumed its present form in the sixth or seventh century A.D.
- The Scots Confession. John Knox and five associates, all named" John" wrote this document in 1560 in four days! It remained the confession of the Church of Scotland until it was replaced a century later by the Westminster Confession of Faith. The basic structure is that of the Apostles’ Creed. It is a fresh, vigorous, someti111:es vituperative manifesto of reformation, lacking in precision but by no means inferior in structure or content.
- The Heidelberg Catechism. In 1563 two young scholars, Urisnus and Olevianus, were brought to the University of Heidelberg by Frederick III, ruler of the Palatinate, to write a document which would resolve the differences between the Lutheran and Reformed branches of the church in his land. The catechism resulted. It is conciliatory in spirit and personal in tone. It is eminently practical for faith in that it always asks what benefit is to be derived from the doctrine under consideration. It is structured according to the church year.
- The Second Helvetic Confession. In the year 1561 Heinrich Bollinger, the Swiss Reformer, wrote this document as his own confession and testament. He was Zwingli's successor in the Reformed Church in Zurich. In addition to covering the main points of theology, this confession details the work of the parish minister in a manner most helpful to pastors in any age. The confession is moderate in tone and catholic, or universal, in outlook.
- The Westminster Confession of Faith and the Shorter Catechism. In 1643, the English Parliament convened an assembly of churchmen from England and Scotland to devise a new confessional statement for the recently united kingdoms of England and Scotland. Meeting at Westminster the assembly completed its work in 1649. Although never adopted be the Church of England, it was adopted by the Church of Scotland in 1649. It was brought to America by the early settlers and became the doctrinal statement of the Presbyterian Church in America in 1729. It continued to be the sole confession until it was incorporated into the Book of Confessions in 1967. Westminster is renowned for its logical clarity, rationality and intellectuality. It represents propositional theology.