The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church grew out of the union of two churches in 1859: F Street Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church and Second Presbyterian Church. It has been a thriving congregation for generations.
The church, just blocks from the White House, has welcomed presidents (including Abraham Lincoln), cabinet secretaries, and members of Congress over its many years in downtown Washington, D.C. One of NYAPC’s famed pastors was the Rev. Peter Marshall, who also served as chaplain of the U.S. Senate. His life was chronicled by his widow Catherine Marshall, in the best-selling book, A Man Called Peter.
NYAPC has been on the front line of movements for social justice and civil rights in Washington, D.C., and across the nation. During the civil rights movement, several lay leaders at NYAPC became involved in the voter registration drives in Selma, Alabama, in January 1965, and were later joined in these efforts by the Rev. George Docherty and the Rev. Jack McClendon. Several NYAPC members and clergy participated in the subsequent March 9 “Minister’s March to Montgomery.” In February 1968, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached one of his final sermons from the NYAPC pulpit at the second rally of Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam. NYAPC’s commitment to civil rights continued by serving as the information center of the headquarters of the Poor People’s March in spring 1968 and as the church supported Vietnam War protesters into the 1970s.
The church extended its radical hospitality to people experiencing homelessness and in the 1980s. This hospitality continues today as the Radcliffe Room Ministry and through the Downtown Day Services Center. Outreach and support for those protesting for justice continues to this day as well, as does NYAPC’s long-standing tutoring program and numerous other ministries. The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church has both a vibrant history and a bright future.