HISTORY OF THIRD
A Brief History of Third
Third Presbyterian was organized on July 11, 1884. The church was an outgrowth of a “Sabbath” school established by First Presbyterian Church. After six months of operation, which included a two-week revival service under a Gospel Tent, the Third Presbyterian Church of Birmingham was organized. The church began with 31 charter members and was served by four supply pastors between 1884 and 1888.
By 1889, Third had grown to over 500 members, commissioning over 50 of its own to begin churches in the nearby communities of Woodlawn, Leeds, and South Highlands. That same year, on August 4, the church's first permanent pastor was installed, James Alexander Bryan. Bryan had been a visiting preacher at Third while a seminary student at Princeton University. He would later become known to virtually everyone in Birmingham as "Brother Bryan." Bryan would continue to serve the church and the city for 52 years.
Also in this period, the congregation undertook the task of constructing a building. The original building, located at 6th Avenue South and 22nd Street South, cost about $5300 and was dedicated in January 1891, free of debt. Brother Bryan's house was located in the adjacent lot. The building was enjoyed for a decade, until April 17, 1901, when an apparent spark from a passing street car ignited something in the barn adjacent to Brother Bryan’s house. The fire subsequently spread to the house and church. The building completely destroyed, the congregation would continue meeting in a tent without missing a service, until a new church building was constructed a on the other end of the block on the corner of 7th Avenue.
Only Four Senior Pastors in over 130 years
Only four senior pastors have served Third Presbyterian Church throughout its history.
James Alexander Bryan was a graduate of Princeton University and was ordained as the first Pastor in June of 1889. “Brother Bryan” faithfully served the church and the city of Birmingham for 52 years until his death in 1941.
James Samuel Cantrell, Assistant Pastor since 1939, succeeded Brother Bryan in June 1941. It was a natural transition since he was a protégé of Brother Bryan. "Brother Jimmy" was a graduate of Howard College(now Samford University) and Columbia Theological Seminary. He faithfully served the Lord until his death on July 1, 1978.
Richard C. Trucks succeeded his father-in-law, Brother Jimmy in 1978 and served faithfully until 2019. He is a graduate of Samford University and received his doctorate from Reformed Theological Seminary.
Michael Brock succeeded Richard in 2019.
Our Current Buildings
Completed in 1902, the church sanctuary and chapel remain essentially the same today. The corner steeple/tower is different, as the original was severely damaged by lightning. (circa 1930's) The tower was refitted with a less steep roof line, giving a slightly different appearance than the side tower which still maintains the original sharp-angled roof.
Immediately adjacent to the church was Brother Bryan's house, which laster became the "Sunday School Annex." In 1959, the house was razed for the construction of a new addition to the church, the "Bryan Educational Building," which was dedicated on December 11, 1960.
In 1963, the corner tower was ornamented by an electric, vertical corner sign and in 1972, it was capped with a large, neon cross on its apex. These two items became monumental marks of the church, still depicted to this day in renderings and photos of the Sanctuary.
The sanctuary and chapel (the original structure) underwent a major renovation/restoration from 1993 to 1995. While entailing considerable structural repair, the restoration also gave a facelift to the interior. The electric sign & cross on the corner tower were also removed due to structural damage they were inflicting on the building. The cross was replaced by a smaller metal-cast cross, matching the metal apex piece of the side tower.
The Sanctuary and Educational Building underwent another renovation from 2014 to 2015, primarily modernizing the Educational Building and giving the Sanctuary and Educational Building a facelift.
Third Presbyterian Church was in the Southern Presbyterian Church (PCUS) from 1884 until 1982.
In 1982 Dr. Trucks and the Elders recommended and the congregation voted unanimously that the church leave the PCUS and join the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).
Third Presbyterian Church is a member of the Evangel Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in America.
James A. Bryan observes the remains of the original sanctuary, which was destroyed by fire in 1901.
James Alexander Bryan, known to the entire city of Birmingham as Brother Bryan.
Rev. James S. Cantrell