A Brief History of the Church





The Gatlinburg Presbyterian Church was organized on October 20, 1963

with 21 charter members. Formal opening services for the church plant
were held on Sunday, July 25, 1965.

The Presbyterian Church in Gatlinburg owes its existence to an initiative undertaken by the Home Missions Committee of the Knoxville Presbytery in the early 1960s. Because of the large number of tourists visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (at that time, approximately 6 million annually), the Committee recognized the need for a Presbyterian presence in Gatlinburg and took steps to address that need. The Presbytery identified a number of Presbyterians already living in the area and helped them organize a church in Gatlinburg. Services began in 1963 in the home of Grant Cantwell, one of the 21 charter members of the Church, but plans to construct a building for the Church began immediately. The new building was formally dedicated on July 25, 1965, less than two years after the Church was organized.

From the outset, the Church embraced a two-fold mission. Not only does it offer opportunities for worship to the many visitors who come to the area to enjoy the beauty of the Smoky Mountains, but it also provides a church home for residents of Sevier and adjoining counties. From the original group of 21 members, the Church grew to a congregation of approximately 125 in a little over a decade. Visitors from far and wide attend our services and, not infrequently, outnumber the members of the Gatlinburg congregation. Many
visitors return year after year and have become well-known to us; we look forward to their visits and the opportunity to greet them.

In 1995 the Church expanded its mission to the local community when it opened a Child Care Center as a service to working parents. Initially, it was housed in the educational/fellowship wing of the Church building, but, in 2003, it moved into its own facility in a nearby house owned by the Church. The Child Care Center served the Church until February 14, 2013.

Modifications over the years to the original physical plant include alterations to the sanctuary in order to permit installation of the Shantz pipe organ that the Church had been able to purchase. The organ and a newly acquired grand piano were formally dedicated during the Church’s 35th-Anniversary Celebration in September of 1998. In 2003 further renovations were made to the building. An additional entrance was constructed to allow for wheelchair access to the Church, and other modifications were undertaken to make the facility more handicapped-friendly. It was also at that time that the stained-glass windows which the Church had acquired from the Central Presbyterian Church in Chattanooga were installed, following a design by the Gatlinburg architect James Coykendal. The result of his design was the creation of what is generally acknowledged to be an exceptionally beautiful space for worship, and it deserves to be seen by all.