Niceville First Presbyterian Church celebrates centennial June 27

Special to Gannett

Warren G. Harding was president of the United States when the Valparaiso Community Church formed from the Union Mission on June 26, 1921. Now known as the First Presbyterian Church in Niceville, the congregation celebrates 100 years on Sunday, June 27.

The church marks 37 years in Niceville at 1800 John Sims Parkway after moving from its previous location on Chicago Avenue in Valparaiso where it resided for 63 years. The church represents the oldest continuing congregation in the Niceville-Valparaiso area.

The Valparaiso Community Church formed from the Union Mission on June 26, 1921.

According to church archives and member accounts, the Rev J. L. Garnett, a Methodist minister, led services each Sunday at a school in Valparaiso beginning in 1920. Members of this pioneer church called themselves the Union Mission. Their new church building — still standing — was completed in April 1926 at 162 Chicago Ave. It is now the home of the Korean Full Gospel Hope Church.

On June 26, 1921, church members, led by Rev. Garnett, adopted a constitution and by-laws and changed their name to the Valparaiso Community Church.

Today, First Presbyterian is a member congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). Richard Adelman, who pastored from 1966 until 1993, described how the church searched for the right form of government and doctrine:

“We wanted a church that had a basic view of scripture; had to have representative form of government; had to be on the basis of love or confidence, and we had to have the option to vote ourselves out if we decided we had made a mistake. We also wanted a denomination that had good sound theological seminaries.”

First Presbyterian Church in Niceville to celebrate centennial.

There have been many notable milestones in the church’s history, but Joe Grider, the current pastor since 2005, says the church’s mission captures the heart of the church well, “A community of faith, hope, and love, committed to knowing Christ and making him known.”

”The church helped start new PCA churches in Destin and Crestview and is looking forward to growth in Niceville and eastward toward Freeport. The church currently hosts adult, young adult, youth, and children’s groups with activities throughout the week, as well as Sunday School at 9:15 a.m. and corporate worship at 10:45.

“Although we’ve been meeting since last April, we’re gearing back up after the COVID-19 pandemic, and will have a full fall schedule by August with young adult, youth, choir, Bible studies, and home groups throughout the week, and of course worship service on Sunday,” Grider said.

The church has also begun hosting food trucks on their grounds every other Wednesday evening both as a community service and as a way for the church to foster friendly interaction with its neighbors.

For the centennial celebration, several members who were part of the Community Church will give accounts of some of the key milestones they recall, and following the Sunday worship service there will be a centennial luncheon with historical memorabilia on display.

Grider added, “The next 100 years looks bright."