Birth of Second Church
Presbyterianism came early to the western frontier. Organized in 1828, First Presbyterian Church of Little Rock was the first Presbyterian church organized west of the Mississippi.
By 1882, Little Rock had grown to be a small city of 28,000 people. In that year it was decided that Presbyterianism needed to expand. Because of transportation problems in the days before automobiles, a Presbyterian mission was projected on the western edge of the city at the corner of 4th & State Streets. As this new effort proceeded, the members of the mission decided, with the blessings of First Church, to become a separate church rather than a mission. So Second Presbyterian Church was born April 18, 1882, with 14 charter members. The property and uncompleted building were turned over to the congregation, and as a further gesture of good will, the wife of the pastor of First Church gave to the new church its first manse at 519 West 4th Street. This church extension effort set a good pattern for Little Rock Presbyterians, an example which Second Church itself would follow in five years to come.
During its first 28 years, Second Church was served by five pastors and its enrollment grew from 14 to 270 members.
The Growing Years
The character of Second church was shaped and strengthened during the next 52 years under the outstanding ministries of Dr. Hay Watson Smith (29 years) and Dr. Marion A. Boggs (23 years). Dr. Smith was a profound scholar and fearless preacher who clearly stated to the Presbytery of Arkansas in 1911 his divergences from the doctrines of the Westminster Confession of Faith on such matters as the infallibility of the scriptures, the method of Creation and total depravity. His liberal views on evolution later brought him into conflict with extreme fundamentalists of the denomination and he was charged with heresy by the Presbytery of Augusta. Before the General Assembly, Dr. Smith was successfully defended by a young minister from Arkansas named Marion A. Boggs, who succeeded in having the charges dismissed on a technicality. The congregation of Second Church warmly and overwhelmingly supported Dr. Smith and prospered under his leadership.
A new church building was erected at 3rd and Gaines Streets at a cost of $250,000 and the church membership had reached a total of 955 by the time of Dr. Smith’s retirement in October 1939. Soon after Dr. Boggs succeeded Dr. Smith, the membership grew to 1,107, the first Presbyterian church in the state to exceed 1,000 members.
Following World War II, in recognition of the urgent need for Presbyterian outreach in the rapidly growing residential section of western Little Rock, Second Church purchased property and erected a chapel in Westover Hills and provided a nucleus of about 30 members to organize Westover Hills Presbyterian Church in 1948. Through its budget, Second Church continued to contribute to Westover Hills for several years until it became self-sustaining. Second Church took the leadership in enlisting support of other Presbyterian Churches in Little Rock toward establishing additional churches in the western part of the city. St. Andrews Presbyterian Church was established in 1956 on West 32nd Street on a site donated by Frank Lyon, an elder in Second Church, and Grace Presbyterian Church on Rodney Parham Road was established in 1961. Second Church continued to support both these new churches financially until they became self-sustaining. More recently has been the support given to Trinity Presbyterian Church, Organized November 1, 1987, and in its second location, now on Rahling Road.
By the early 50’s a majority of the members of Second Church had followed the population trend and were living in the western part of Little Rock. In 1952, the Session appointed a long-range planning committee to study and chart the future mission of Second Church, particularly with reference to whether the church would remain at its downtown location and direct its mission to that of a central city urban church, or whether it would move to the western part of the city and structure its mission around that of a residential family church. The planners realized that a decision to move the church, if made, would be at least 10 years in the future. In the meantime, the church was bursting at its seams. So in 1953-54 a major reconditioning and expansion was carried out at 3rd & Gaines as an interim step to provide sorely needed facilities.
In 1957, when Little Rock became the nation’s battleground for public school desegregation, Dr. Boggs, strongly supported by the Session of Second Church, was one of the few ministers who publicly advocated integrated public schools in keeping with the U.S. Supreme Court decision. Despite vulgar, anonymous phone calls and bomb threats, Second Church continued to hold periodic integrated church services and fellowship meals with black Allison Memorial Presbyterian Church. Dr. Boggs’ courage in that situation contributed to his election as Moderator of the General Assembly of the PCUS in 1960. By the time of Dr. Boggs’ retirement in 1962, Second Church had 1,071 members and had long been the largest Presbyterian church in the state.
In Western Little Rock
The decision to move to the western part of Little Rock was reached in 1965 while the Reverend William Fogleman was pastor. A site was selected and a capital funds campaign was conducted in 1967 resulting in pledges of $800,000. The church also contracted to sell its property at 3rd & Gaines to the U.S. Government for about $400,000.
The last service at 3rd & Gaines was December 17, 1968, after which the pews and stained glass windows were moved to the new building on Pleasant Valley Drive. The new pastor, F. Wellford Hobbie, conducted Sunday worship services for the interim at the B’Nai Israel Temple at 5th & Broadway. (The church was later able to repay this gesture of friendship by offering its chapel to the congregation of B’Nai Israel for Friday worship services from June 1971, until January 1975 while their new Temple was being built.) The first worship service in the new sanctuary was held on February 9, 1969. The ten acres and church building on Pleasant Valley Drive and a new manse in Foxcroft cost $1,200,000.
Growth of the congregation and of the area led the people to add an educational building containing a dozen classrooms and a multi-purpose Great Hall at a cost of $2,300,000. The new Facility was dedicated March 6, 1988.
The $4.4 million Second Beginnings Capital Campaign from 2003 to 2006 included the addition of the 10,000 square foot Youth Building, additions to the Endowment and retirement of the roof debt. The Youth Building which was dedicated on June 4, 2006 continues our tradition of encouraging the use of our facilities by our ministries, ministry partners and traveling faith-based groups.
The $3.6 million Second Vision Capital Campaign from 2017 to 2021 included the replacement of the Sanctuary organ, renovations to the choir loft, Great Hall and kitchen, updates to technology, installation of solar panels and creation of a welcome area in the Northwest Entry. These projects enable us to live up to our calling to remain vital and accessible in areas of welcome, technology, worship, education and community outreach. As an Earth Care congregation, the solar panels reduce our dependence on non-renewable resources.
Women were first elected to the Session and Diaconate of the Church in 1969, and the Presbytery of Arkansas, greatly influenced by Second Church, became a union presbytery of both the southern (PCUS) and northern (UPUSA) Presbyterian churches in 1974. Wellford Hobbie was succeeded in December 1975 by J. Allen Smith. Following the death of Allen Smith in 1993, shortly before he was to retire, William C. (Bill) Poe served as pastor from 1994-1999. Stephen Carey (Steve) Hancock then served as pastor from 2001 – 2021.
Pastors Hay Watson Smith, Marion A. Boggs, William Fogleman, F. Wellford Hobbie, J. Allen Smith, Bill Poe, and Steve Hancock were all outstanding pulpiteers, compassionate pastors and understanding counselors, ably assisted by associate pastors listed below. Second Church has been blessed throughout its history by outstanding ministers and the present pastoral staff lives up to that tradition.
But the strength of a church lies ultimately in its members. The congregation of Second Church, over the past 100 years, has included an unusually large number of lay men and women who have not only served the denomination with distinction, at the local church, Presbytery, Synod and General Assembly levels, but who have also been outstanding leaders in the civic, charitable and business organizations of the community.
Second Church through the years has been known for its progressive positions in theology, church policy and social action. Avoiding the extremes of right of left, it has been a unified church, free of serious internal schisms and dissensions. As a result, it has been a more effective church in its mission both to its members and to the world outside its walls.
- A. Ross Kennedy, Pastor 1882 – 1888
- James R. Howerton, Pastor 1888 – 1895
- Samuel Semple, Pastor 1895 – 1899
- Jasper K. Smith, Pastor 1900 – 1904
- C.R. Hyde, Pastor 1905 – 1910
- Hay Watson Smith, Pastor 1911 – 1939
- Marion A. Boggs, Pastor 1939 – 1962
- Will Jethro Fogleman, Pastor 1963 – 1967
- Francis Wellford Hobby, Pastor 1968 – 1974
- James Allen Smith, Pastor 1975 – 1993
- William Christopher Poe, Pastor 1994 – 1999
- Stephen Carey Hancock, Pastor 2001 – 2021
- Michael Maryosip, Assistant Pastor 1923 – 1925
- Alexander W. Hunter, Assistant Pastor 1938 – 1939
- Jac C. Ruffin, Associate Pastor 1954 – 1965
- Abel McIver Hart, Associate Pastor 1965 – 1968
- William Guy Delaney, Associate Pastor 1967 – 1977
- James Randolph Bullock, Jr., Associate Pastor 1977 – 1989
- Park Herrington Moore, Jr., Associate Pastor 1983 – 1990
- Charles Avery Bruner, Associate Pastor 1991 – 1994
- Karen Kokles Akin, Associate Pastor 1992 – 2016
- James B. Miller, Associate Pastor 1996 – 2008
- Camille LeBron Powell, Associate Pastor 2003 – 2014
- Lindy Smith Vogado, Associate Pastor 2013 –
- Jennifer Kirby Evans, Associate Pastor 2017 – 2021
- Alisa Pennington Secrest, Associate Pastor 2018 –
Interim Pastors 1991 – 2022
- Guest preachers on 12 Sundays September 1990 – December 1990
- Hal Duerksen, Parish Associate 1991 – 1999
- Roy T. Sherrod, Interim Associate Pastor January 1991 – July 1991
- Bob Stalcup, Temporary Pastoral Supply February 1993 – June 1993
- B. Harrison Taylor, Interim Pastor June 1993 – April 1994
- F. Harry Daniel, Interim Pastor July 1999 – January 2001
- John Edwards Withers, III, Interim Pastor March 2001 – July 2001
- James Mosley, Interim Associate Pastor July 2002 – June 2003
- Bill Branch, Interim Associate Pastor October 2008 – February 2010
- Robert E. Williamson, Jr., Parish Associate April 2010 –
- Rachel Shepherd, Interim Associate October 2014 – February 2016
- David Gill, Parish Associate June 2015 – October 2021
- Marie Mainard O’Connell, Interim Associate November 2016 – December 2017
- Randy Hyde, Interim Associate Pastor February 2018 – July 2018
- William Galbraith, Transitional Pastor November – December 2021
- Joseph “Jody” Welker, Transitional Pastor January 2022 – January 2023
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