A church is not a building; it’s a community of human beings who choose to follow Jesus Christ. A church is also not simply the sum of its history; rather, it is a present and living reality. That being said, the physical facilities in which a congregation gathers for worship, study, mission and fellowship do matter. Even though a church is here and now, its past has helped shape its present. The Brick Presbyterian Church, a living community of modern disciples, is blessed both with beautiful buildings and a rich history that house and have shaped that living community.
A Brief History of The Brick Presbyterian Church
Brick Church has been in continuous operation since 1767, except for
the years of the Revolutionary War, when it was commandeered by the
British forces for use as a hospital and later as a brig. The church was
an expansion of the flourishing First Presbyterian Church at Wall
Street, which had become so crowded that it was plain a second church
was necessary. Its pastors, headed by the Rev. Dr. John Rodgers, and its
officers administered both churches. The Brick Church did not become a
separate and incorporated entity until 1809.
The Brick Church
has had three locations in New York City. Its first site was on Beekman
Street. This spot is now occupied by Pace University's downtown campus.
The elders deemed a move necessary when it became apparent that the
neighborhood was deteriorating and most of the members were moving
uptown. Two wars, three epidemics and three great fires changed the area
from residential to a neighborhood of boarding houses and commercial
operations. The church moved to Fifth Avenue and 37th Street in 1858,
and remained there until 1940, when, again, in response to the migration
of its congregation, it relocated to its third and present site at Park
Avenue and 91st Street.
The church has been blessed with gifted
and distinguished pastors. Our first pastor, Dr. Rodgers, regularly
corresponded with George Washington, was moderator of the first General
Assembly in 1789, and was chaplain to the New York State Legislature. He
would deliver a short (60 minute) action sermon on Communion Sundays,
and close the street in front of the church during services to eliminate
noise. He has been followed by many notable clergy, three of whom were
elected moderator of the General Assembly.
clergy following the Rev. John Rodgers were: Gardiner Spring
(1810-1873), James Ormsbee Murphy (1865-1875), Llewellyn Bevan
(1877-1882), Henry Van Dyke (1883-1900), Maltbie Davenport Babcock
(1900-1901), William Rogers Richards (1902-1910), William Pierson
Merrill (1911-1938), Paul Austin Wolfe (1938-1964), D. Reginald Thomas
(1965-1970), James Seth Stewart (1972-1974), and Herbert B. Anderson
(1978-2001). It was during the pastorate of Dr. Wolfe that The Brick
Church moved to the present location.
The Rev. Dr. Herbert B.
Anderson, who retired in January 2001, had served as the senior minister
of The Brick Church since 1978, and had been active on the national
Presbyterian Church level, chairing The Board of Pensions and The Board
of Trustees of The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Foundation.
The Rev. Michael L. Lindvall
became the 13th installed pastor of The Brick Presbyterian Church on
October 27, 2002. Previously, he had served the First Presbyterian
Church of Ann Arbor, Mich. as pastor of the multi-staffed church, for 10
years. During that time he was moderator of the Detroit Presbytery and
served as chair of the General Assembly Committee on Church Orders and
Ministry. Before his call to Ann Arbor, he was pastor at the First
Presbyterian Church of Northport, N.Y. for 13 years and associate pastor
of the Drayton Avenue Presbyterian Church in Ferndale, Mich. A
graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, Lindvall also attended the
University of Wisconsin and the University of Michigan. He is the author
of several books and many articles and essays.
contributions to the body of sacred music have been made by several
Brick Church clergy: William Pierson Merrill, Maltbie Babcock, Henry Van
Dyke and Paul Austin Wolfe are all well known in this area. Clarence
Dickinson provided outstanding musical leadership along with Helen
Dickinson, who founded the School of Sacred Music at Union Theological
Seminary in New York City. He was succeeded at The Brick Church by T.
Charles Lee, also director of the Oratorio Society of New York, Eugene
McCoy, and David A. Weadon. The current minister of music is Keith S.
Tóth, a graduate of the Oberlin and Juilliard Schools of Music.