A Look Back To Our Beginnings
Riverlawn Presbyterian Church’s birth was due to the church growth eyes of the First Presbyterian Church of St. Albans long before the term was popular. In 1955 the Session of the First Presbyterian Church realized the need for a church to be started in a rapidly developing suburban area along the Coal River. The pastor of First Church, Fred Woodward, and the Session representative, Stanford Spracklin, spearheaded the church planting. Visiting door to door in the area, they discovered eight people interested in beginning a new church. On July 24, 1955 a grocery store was leased, renovated and a Sunday School was opened.
From this small nucleus the chapel (not yet a church) began to grow as a part of the developing community. An educational building was built on donated property given by two prominent families in September 1956 and with the financial assistance of First Church (SA) the Reverend Jack L. Fleck was called to become the chapel minister. With the acquisition of full-time pastor Rev. Fleck confidence in the chapel began to deepen. The community’s awareness of the congregation was broadened and two years later on May 11, 1958 Riverlawn Presbyterian Church was organized with 101 charter members. Many of these people were members of the First Presbyterian Church in town.
Less than one year later the Reverend Robert E. Burnett was called to be the pastor of the newly organized Riverlawn Presbyterian Church. Under the leadership of Rev. Burnett and the vibrancy of a new community the roots of the church rapidly developed. In 1961 the congregation completed the present sanctuary. Reverend Burnett faithfully guided the church until 1972.
The 1970's and 1980's
In August 1973 Rev. David Williams became pastor of Riverlawn and during 1974 children's church & a puppet ministry was begun. In March 1975, Rev. Williams and several church members expressed a desire to become affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in America. A vote was taken with the majority of the members voting to remain as a member of the Greenbrier Presbytery. Rev. Williams & his followers left Riverlawn causing a split in the church. However, the 40 remaining members rallied together and began reorganizing. In June 1976 the church welcomed William (Bill) Cain as their new pastor. It was during Bill's time at Riverlawn that the church saw great growth. Small group Bible study, service projects for the community, Sunday evening Family Night, Mission of Mercy, Mother's Morning Out & Pre-school began during these early years of Bill's tenure at Riverlawn. Plans for an activity building (gym) addition were developed and work was completed in 1981. A Youth Minister was hired due to the growing number of families with teens attending Riverlawn. A second worship service was added to allieviate the overcrowding since Sunday morning worship at 11:00 often had over 250 in attendance. Bill Cain served as minister at Riverlawn for 13 years before leaving in 1989 to serve a church in Lebanon, OH.
Riverlawn in the 90's
The 1990's saw Riverlawn continue to be an active church. Rev. Lang Montgomery, serving from 1990 to 1996, brought to the church his gift of leading worship and encouraged exploring the new style of 'praise and worship.' A tape ministry was begun, new choir robes obtained and a new organ was purchased in memory of member Jim Locke in 1995. The Rev. Doug Minnerly became pastor in 1997 and while serving at Riverlawn new hymnals, a new pulpit & baptismal font were purchased; our sound system was updated; mission trip to Colombia, South America began; Wednesday Nite activities started and a new stained glass window installed. During this time the church also sponsored the building of a Habitat for Humanity house. In September 1998 Riverlawn celebrated their 40th Anniversary.
2000 and Beyond
Upon the departure of Rev. Minnerly in February 2001 the church continued to support the mission work in South America, developed groups to study both The Purpose Driven Life and Purpose Driven Church by Rick Warren, and remained active in the life of the community by offering after school care (His House), pre-school and biddy basketball leagues.
In 2004 Riverlawn called Rev. Chris Kilbert to serve as minister. Since Chris’ arrival a Sunday evening Prayer & Praise Service was initiated and a “Covenant with Children” was begun in 2009. As a result of that covenant a Wednesday Family Night developed which serves children and their families from the community. A meal is served and activities for children as well as Bible study for adults is offered. One highlight with Chris as our pastor was Riverlawn's 50th Anniversary celebration in June 2008. Many updates have been done around the church these past 7 years including the installation of audio visual equipment (computer & screen), air conditioning in the gym and general maintenance. The members of Riverlawn continue to grow spiritually under the leadership of Pastor Chris.