It was a wedding and a birthday party and a reunion and a get-acquainted mixer and a christening and even — but just a little, because nobody really dwelled on it — a sort of wake during which a few silent goodbyes surely were offered.
And when the music, the sermon, the prayers and even the humorous asides had ended, Southern Nevada’s newest church was born: Grace Presbyterian Church, created through the merger of First Presbyterian Church of Las Vegas and Summerlin Presbyterian Church.
The new church began to write its own history exactly one week ago during a chartering service at the now-former First Presbyterian Church, 1515 W. Charleston Blvd. First Presbyterian Church, along with Summerlin Presbyterian Church, 4590 S. Hualapai Way, now become campuses of Grace Presbyterian Church.
The Rev. Jim Houston-Hencken, former First Presbyterian Church pastor and now pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church — the Rev. Dana Pope, associate pastor of First Presbyterian Church, similarly continues as associate pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church — said the merger has been in the works for more than two years.
First Presbyterian Church, which this year celebrated its 60th anniversary, played a key role in the valley’s religious landscape. In fact, Houston-Hencken said, “most of the five Presbyterian churches in Las Vegas have been planted with members and finances from First Presbyterian Church and the Nevada Presbytery.”
However, Houston-Hencken said, “nearly three years ago, we came on hard times because of the economy.”
A trend toward decreased contributions was seen at the same time as the need for the church to assist people grew, he explained.
“Our attendance numbers have not decreased as dramatically as our budget, so we believed that was a sign that it was an economic issue: People had less money to contribute to the church and the ministry.”