Mission History
First Presbyterian Church, San Jose; Joining hands with Christ in the Inner City

Past Mission History
Established in 1849, the First Presbyterian Church celebrates its significant heritage as the second oldest Presbyterian Church in Northern California. This future-focused congregation has served the greater San Jose community in many ways for more than 165 years.

First Presbyterian Church in the Mission Field

Since it was "planted" in the mission field as an urban ministry, First Presbyterian Church takes great pride in its ongoing work in the area of mission and outreach to the community and the world.

The minutes of the Woman’s Board of Missions, the Home Mission and Foreign Mission societies of our church date back to 1874!  There was much effort expended towards the immigrants in San Jose’s Chinatown, teaching English, providing food, discouraging opium usage and aiding young Chinese girls sold into prostitution here.  We worked in conjunction with Cameron House of San Francisco, supporting their efforts by work in our own community.

Eleanor M. Wright

Eleanor M. Wright

In 1926, Eleanor M. Wright sailed for China under the auspices of the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions.  Miss Wright had joined First Presbyterian Church in 1907 and her service in educational and social service mission work was conducted at Ming Deh Girls School, at Nanking, China. Miss Wright was in charge of social work for the mission, doing pioneer work organizing a dispensary, playground, Mothers’ Club, bathhouse for women and children; sanitary, health and religious education and conducting the choir in Hansimen Church, Nanking.

On the occasion of the 90th Anniversary of First Church, the courageous Miss Wright wrote (just six weeks before her death): "This is no era for marking time or waiting for a more convenient day… As Christ’s followers we cannot stand by with folded hands when so many call to us for help. We must work united and much more effectively not only to relieve suffering, but for peace and good will among men." Miss Wright’s words ring prophetically true.

Over the years our church has responded to the needs of the times in serving our community and the world.  In the 1950’s First Church partnered ecumenically with other churches to tutor children of migrants working in the fields surrounding San Jose.  In the 1960’s, our church responded to the clarion call of Louise Benson, the founder of Sacred Heart Community Service, who had been providing food and clothing out of her home and challenged us to do the same in our urban neighborhood.  We made sandwiches, taking them to the First Unitarian Church for distribution.  Soon gleanings from a catering service enhanced the sandwiches we could provide, and in winter we supplied vegetables for soups that were made on a hot burner in a basement room of the church.  In the late 1960’s several members because involved in teaching English as a Second Language to Mexican and Vietnamese immigrants.  Water became our mission in the 1990’s, when we raised funds to pay for water pumps in developing countries. We raised $1000 to provide Moringa Tree seedlings, which are used to clarify water.  Another Mission project was preparation of layettes for newborn babies, distributed in local hospitals through the Santa Clara County Public Health Department.

In the 2000s we began picking up bags of groceries from the African American Center and Yu a Ki which were distributed to Town Park Towers, the low income Presbyterian home next door to us, and soon because a distribution center, packing and distributing bags of food from Second Harvest Food Bank for the Senior Brown Bag Program. Each Thursday up to 22 volunteers came to help pack and distribute bags containing such foods as potatoes, onions, cabbage, squash, melon, apples, carrots, rice, beans or pasta as well as canned goods and occasional chicken or ground turkey.

Our current projects are described on the Mission pages of this website -- an ongoing, evolving ministry serving those in need.

First Presbyterian Church | 49 N. 4th Street | San Jose, CA  95112 | 408-297-7212 | Site Map