First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) of West Palm Beach had its beginning in April of 1914 in the home of D.J. Ross with O.J. Bulfin doing the preaching. Before long the attendance grew too large to continue services in the Ross home. Over the next two years, they outgrew two other temporary sites and, in 1917, the church purchased a site on Lakeview Avenue. A frame building was constructed on that property and became known as the "Little Brown Church," which served as the church’s sanctuary until late 1923.
In 1924, the congregation merged with another local church. The total membership was made up of 36 families. Shortly after that, the church purchased land on the corner of Florida and Hibiscus where it built a larger building. This building was leveled in the hurricane of 1928, which devastated much of South Florida.
During the four years following the hurricane, the congregation worshiped and conducted all activities in the basement of the destroyed building. During that time, the men of the church worked 1700 hours using architectural plans to rebuild the structure. The women of the church prepared many meals to feed the workers. The building, when completed and painted white, resembled a temple and soon became known as "White Temple." The church adopted the name of White Temple Christian Church.
In the late 1950s, White Temple Christian Church helped establish Bethany and Tropical Sands Christian Churches. The White Temple Christian Church grew and, by 1960, had outgrown its space. In 1963, five acres of land was purchased on the corner of Congress Avenue and Chillingworth in the newly-developed Westward Expansion.
Also in 1963 the church became incorporated as First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the same year the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) became a ‘denomination’ after being known as a ‘brotherhood’ from its founding. In 1964, the congregation moved to its new site to occupy a fellowship hall and a five-room classroom building, even though there was not a residential dwelling in sight. In 1965, a governmental agency bought one acre of the church property along Congress Avenue to create space for the I-95 overpass.
In 1967, the new sanctuary was completed and occupied. In 1976, a new five-room classroom building was completed. In 1995, there was a significant expansion to the church facility including: an expansion of the Fellowship Hall (with additional restrooms and showers), the addition of a full service kitchen, the addition of office space, the addition of a classroom, the addition of a drive under canopy, and the creation of the Narthex connecting the Fellowship and office area to the Sanctuary. In September 2004, two hurricanes damaged the Sanctuary and in 2005 the Church Sanctuary began extensive refurbishing, which was briefly interrupted by another hurricane in October of 2005.
The church has a long history of producing ministerial candidates. As early as 1925, individuals of this congregation have heard the call to ministry, when four young men made the decision to serve God as leaders of a flock; all four were later ordained, including Rev. A. Dale Fiers, who became the first General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in North America and Canada.The following have served as ministers of the church during the different periods of its life:
- Leah Fiers, O.J. Bulfin, C.J. Massey, L.W. Porter, Daniel Stewart, and J.H. Bristor (1914-1923)
- E.C. Gallegar, Paul Anderson, William John Minges (1924-1941)
- T.A. Corbett (1941-1943)
- Robert S. Bennett (1943-1956)
- Reverend Earl H. Eppling (1957-1971)
- Reverend B. Fred Woolsey (1971-1978)
- Reverend John Ledford (1978-1983)
- Reverend Steven Williams (1983-1988)
- Reverend Donn Brammer (1988 to present)
Rev. Donn Brammer has served as our minister since November 21, 1988, and has continued in the church’s tradition of encouraging others to answer God’s call to ministry. During Donn’s tenure three members have been ordained: Rev. Lorraine Wells, who was ordained in January 1994; Rev. Crystal McAliley, who was ordained in June 2001, and Rev. Keith McAliley, who was ordained in June 2005. In addition, four other members have declared themselves to be candidates for ordained ministry.
The church’s website (www.firstchristianwpb.org) lists 11 outreach and support ministries, including Alcoholics Anonymous, Chrysalis, Emmaus, Kairos, Kairos Outside and the Christian Manor. The church has hosted a variety of regional and district meetings, and was selected as a training site for Children’s Worship and Wonder. We were proud to serve as the site for Dr. Betsy Steier’s installation as Associate Regional Minister on October 27, 2001. Betsy is a former member of our congregation and is now serving as the Senior Minister of the First Christian Church in Tampa, FL.
First Christian Church is extremely generous in its support of world-wide outreach ministries through such agencies as the Disciples Mission Fund and the Week of Compassion, and continues to be recognized by the Church Finance Council as one of the top giving congregations in the nation.
In addition to its ministries, the church also serves the neighborhood as the meeting place for the Palm Beach Lakes South Neighborhood Association and as a polling place for three precincts. Many members of the church serve on the administrative councils and service committees of a wide variety of local support organizations such as Adopt A Family.
One of the church’s proudest associations is with The Easter Seals Early Intervention Program which began in two classrooms of the church in the 1980s and has now grown into a full-size $2 million complex built adjacent to, and leased from, the church for $1 per year.