Our History

Downtown Presbyterian Church was formed in January 1974 from three historic Presbyterian congregations in the heart of Rochester--First, Brick, and Central Presbyterian Churches.  Since then, we have grown into a creative, welcoming, and joyous spiritual community, blessed by strong traditions of superb music, dynamic preaching, deep caring, profound learning opportunities, and compassionate transformation in our city and world.  We continue to follow the Spirit's lead as we live into these callings and as we respond to the presence of new members and friends.

In 2016, we launched the Spirituality, Arts, and Justice Center (SAJ), which has engaged hundreds of people from the community and congregation in book discussions, transformative listening workshops, healthy cooking classes, non-violence retreats, arts events, Loving-kindness Meditation, and Community Sings.  For more information about these activities, please visit www.sajcenter.org

Currently Downtown Presbyterian Church is involved in several efforts to embody God's steadfast compassion and creative transformation in our world. Together we ...

  • Welcome homeless neighbors into our building through the Rochester Area Interfaith Hospitality Network
  • Collect and distribute food through the Community Food Cupboard
  • Engage and support volunteers in Tutoring at School 3 in Rochester
  • Bring well water to remote African villages through Water for South Sudan
  • Provide education and leadership skills to children and teens through Building Minds in South Sudan
  • Celebrate God's gifts of diversity in race, ethnicity, ability, age, sexual orientation, and gender identity
  • Work with Teen Empowerment to address systemic poverty and racism in Rochester and create positive police-community relations
  • Practice our faith in ways that foster well-being for the earth and all its people

Downtown Presbyterian Church has been part of many efforts to follow God's call to create peace and shared well-being for all.  In September 1970, the local Selective Service offices, as well as other federal offices, were ransacked by a group of students opposed to the war in Vietnam. Central Church allowed the students space to meet in during the trial. Downtown Church became a More Light congregation in 1979, welcoming gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender members and friends. During 1984-6, the Gomez family, which had fled El Salvador seeking sanctuary in the US, was housed in the Institute Building.  In 1993, the Session (governing board) formed "That All May Freely Serve" and called the Rev. Dr. Jane Adams Spahr as a national evangelist, who contributed much to the establishment of equality in the Presbyterian Church, USA with regard to sexual orientation.

To learn more about the three forerunner churches of Downtown Presbyterian, click here.