First Presbyterian Church of Sterling, Illinois was founded in 1844 on the banks of the Rock River shortly after the town was settled. The proximity to the river and to the Hennepin canal system made Sterling a perfect place for the burgeoning steel industry. Until the demise of the steel mills in the early 1990s, Sterling was the “Hardware Capital of the World.”
The congregation was once very large in membership, with three pastors on staff. After its building burned in 1922, the congregation erected a new building at 410 Second Avenue. The 3-story building, dedicated in 1923, boasts six stained-glass windows, a large pipe organ, a gym with a basketball court, and two libraries. The Christian Education wing, constructed in 1963, contains multiple offices and classrooms which are used not only by the church but by many community organizations. The church sits in the heart of downtown, giving rise to our tagline: “A heart for God in the heart of Sterling.”
First Presbyterian Sterling has had a long history of generosity and service in the community and in the PC(USA), with benevolences and contributions as far-ranging as Kenya, the historic Embudo medical mission in New Mexico, and a local Presbyterian Disaster Assistance fund when the mills in Sterling closed. The church is still active in ecumenical community ministry and in local and national mission work, with a special emphasis on programs for children and those who are hungry.