Memorial is a group of people with different accents, from different socioeconomic backgrounds, and in different stages of life. Some of us are very involved with the life of the church. Some are cautiously curious. Some are skeptical. We’re families, students, business professionals, university faculty, young creatives, and night-shift workers. Whoever you are, you’re free to question, to watch, to care and be cared for. You don’t need to dress a certain way or speak a certain way or think a certain way to be part of the community.
Memorial Presbyterian Church began as a social experiment launched at the height of the U.S. Civil War in a city then under martial law. On July 4, 1864, a mixed gathering of Union and Confederate sympathizers launched a community to test whether the old-school Christianity of Jesus and the Bible could enable radically diverse people to live together in community. Among that first generation of leaders was:
- President Lincoln's Asst. Secretary of the Treasury, then fighting for the Union, A.G. Edwards, who later founded what today is Wells Fargo Advisors.
- Confederate sympathizer Edward Bredell, Sr, recently placed under house arrest for communicating with the Confederate Army where his son then served — the junior Bredell having earlier founded the St. Louis Cyclone, the city's first baseball club (National Association rules).
- Mary Jane Townsend, domestic servant (cook), black woman and former slave, who developed Memorial’s Leonard Ave Mission. Overcoming racism inside and outside the church, Ms. Townsend established Berea Presbyterian Church out of Memorial thirty years later, saving her wages to pay the $3700 for a manse to attract an ordained minister for her black congregation.
Northern and Southern. Republican and Democrat. Black and white. Rich and poor. Memorial had a reputation as the city’s most diverse gathering, an experiment to see whether Jesus can do what we humans find impossible. That was the vision: to build a community out of natural born enemies on the foundation of a God who died for his.
Even though most of us weren't raised Presbyterian — a lot of us weren't even raised Christian — we’re affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in America. The PCA is one of nine Presbyterian denominations in the United States and provides us with a system of representational leadership and educational and theological resources. While we actively partner with churches of many denominations or no denomination, we believe working within a denomination brings us a healthier level of structure, accountability and support.