In 1869, fourteen members of Hopewell and Union Associate Reformed Presbyterian Churches in Chester County petitioned the A.R.P. Synod to organize a church in the town of Chester, South Carolina. They were: Matthew and Mary Jane Elder, William John and Sarah Torbit Henry, Margaret Hemphill Gaston, George and Rosannah McCormick, Francis M. Torbit, Matthew White, John Simpson, Sarah Simpson Baird, Joseph and Martha Millen Wylie, and Mary Ann Wylie.
Rev. Robert Wilson Brice, who was the minister at Hopewell, located in the Blackstock area, had been preaching at Old Purity Presbyterian Church on Great Falls Road since 1866 for the benefit of his members who lived in the town of Chester. He became the first minister of the Chester A.R.P. Church as a supply minister.
Sometime later, the Chester Church secured his services for one-third of his time and continued to worship at Old Purity. The congregation then purchased the former Methodist Church on Center Street in 1871 for $1,100.
The first elders of the church were, John Simpson, Joseph Wylie and William John Henry. Rev. Brice continued to serve the congregation on a part time basis, with services every third Sunday, until 1875.
The first full time minister of the church was Rev. John Preston Marion. He began serving three-fourths time in Chester, with the remaining time in Smyrna, on Rocky Creek in Chester County. In 1879 he was called to full time service in Chester.
In 1878, the former Methodist sanctuary was in poor condition and was demolished. A new building was built on the same site. This structure now serves as St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on Center Street. This church was designed by architect Samuel Sloan and cost $2,600 to build. This structure served the congregation until 1900. Rev. Marion resigned after six years in 1882.
The next minister of our church was Rev. Mason Wylie Pressly who served from 1882 until 1886. At that time, membership had increased to 100.
Rev. Pressly built the house at 100 York Street, also designed by Samuel Sloan. During this pastorate, the women of the church organized a Benevolent Society.
In 1887, the church called Rev. James Strong Moffatt, D.D. as its fourth minister. At the time of his installation, Joesph Wylie made a gift of the home at 115 York Street as its first manse.
Dr. Moffatt was particularly interested in youth work and organized a Young Peoples’ Christian Union at the church. In 1893, the church purchased a lot at the Eureka Cotton Mill and built a chapel there as an outreach ministry.
In 1897 the lot at the corner of Main and Wylie Streets was purchased and our present sanctuary was erected there in 1898 at a cost of $11,671.58.
The building was designed by Hayden and Wheeler, architects of Atlanta, Ga. The original configuration of the sanctuary had the pulpit located on the Hudson Street side. The large stained glass windows on the Wylie Street side were then at the rear of the sanctuary. The room at the back of the present sanctuary was a Sunday school room with tambour doors which could be pulled down to separate it from the sanctuary. There were also several one-story rooms behind the sanctuary.
Our church was responsible for organizing the First Rock Hill A.R.P. church in 1895. Dr. Moffatt resigned as pastor of the Chester Church in 1906 to become the president of Erskine College.
Dr. Charles Edgar McDonald became the next pastor of our church in 1907. During his pastorate, our church began to support a foreign missionary for the first time.
Prior to 1906, the Associate Reformed Presbyterian church did not allow musical instruments in its sanctuaries. Before that time, psalms were lined out by a leader with a tuning fork and sung without accompaniment. The Moeller organ was added to the sanctuary in 1908.
At this time, the organ was installed on the Hudson Street side of the sanctuary in keeping with the original configuration. It was one of the first musical instruments in use in an A.R.P. church. Dr. McDonald died in 1909 after a short illness while pastor of the church.
Rev. David Gardner Phillips, D.D. was called in 1909 to be the sixth minister of our church. During his pastorate, a member of our congregation, Miss Esther Strong became one of the first women missionaries of our denomination. She served in Pakistan for three years. Dr. Phillips was pastor during World War I and was deeply involved in patriotic duties. He resigned in 1922. During his pastorate the church gained 111 members increasing to a total of 321 members in 1923.
Rev. Paul Adam Pressly, D.D. was called as the seventh minister of the Chester church in 1923. The congregation continued to grow under his leadership and in 1925, a three story educational building was added and the sanctuary rotated to its present configuration. New stained glass windows were added on the Hudson Street side to match those on the Wylie Street side and the pulpit and organ were moved to their present locations. Dr. Pressly died while minister of our church in 1936 after serving for thirteen years.
He was succeeded by Dr. Joseph Lee Grier who was called in 1936.
In 1949, the session approved the use of selected hymns. Prior to the time, only psalms were sung in our denomination. Dr. Grier resigned in 1949 due to health reasons after serving for thirteen years.
Dr. Arthur Murray Rogers was called to serve in 1950. The old manse was sold and a new manse built at 122 York Street. Dr. Rogers served as pastor for 15 years and resigned in 1965.
Rev. Dwight Lafayette Pearson was called as the tenth minister of our church in 1965. He served as pastor for thirty-eight years, the longest service in the history of the church. During his pastorate, the session undertook to expand the property of the church and improve the facilities. In 1977, the adjacent movie theater on the corner of Main and Hudson Streets was acquired and demolished. Also additional property to the rear of this was acquired for parking. In 1979, the former Chester Telephone building was purchased on Wylie Street and renovated as a minister’s office. This was re-named the Bell Annex. The warehouse behind it was also acquired for storage.
The Moeller tracker organ was restored in 1979. It had been dormant since 1961 when it was thought to be unfixable and was
replaced with an electronic organ. In 1981 the Barron Room was renovated, moving the kitchen and re-equipping it with modern . Later, then entire educational building was renovated. A few years later, an elevator was added, making the building handicapped accessible.
Rev. Pearson retired from the ministry in 2003 after 38 years of service.
Rev. Clint Houston Davis was called in 2004 and continues to serve the congregation to this date. In 2008 Brad Shillinglaw was hired as our director of youth services. He continues in that position at this time.
A handicapped ramp was constructed, making the sanctuary accessible from the educational building. The church has also purchased the adjacent Powell Theater building in 2009. Plans for the use of this space are still underway.
The sanctuary underwent a major renovation in 2010, expanding the choir loft and the pulpit area. The woodwork was all refinished and most of the carpet removed in the sanctuary. This new configuration made the choir and pulpit area wheel-chair accessible. A grand piano was donated to the church in 2012.
The ministry of the Chester Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church continues to grow with active youth and adult ministries. The mission of the Chester ARP Church is to glorify God as we grow in Christ and witness to the World. We do this as a family joined in faith in Christ through worship, Christian Education, evangelism, fellowship, service, stewardship and nurture. We humbly seek to communicate this to all by our words and deeds.