Collegiate Presbyterian Church was founded February 21, 1911, when thirty-some members met at the home of Thomas Sloss. By the end of February, the new church closed its charter-membership period with a total of 40. The Synod of Iowa envisioned a church that would minister to both Iowa State College and the greater Ames community. The idea of serving both “town and gown” in a single congregation was innovative at the time.
Although the church had no physical plant in 1911, it did own the land and a manse at the southwest corner of the intersection of today’s Sheldon and West streets. During 1911, the church met for a time at the Sloss home and then at the chapel in Alumni Hall. The latter was discontinued because other churches objected to the use of state property by one denomination. So the congregation bought a tent and pitched it on their lot, where they met until cold weather came. The next move was to a dance hall over Champlin’s Grocery at the present-day location on the southeast corner of Lincoln Way and Welch Avenue. Worshipping there every Sunday for five years, the congregation did its best to keep right side up on folding chairs placed on the highly waxed dance floor. Membership increased to more than 200 during this period.
By 1914 a second pastor was added to the staff. Rev. J. W. Innes, CPC’s first pastor, became the college pastor, and Rev. H. W. Johnston was installed as the community pastor. View photos of the 1915 cornerstone laying ceremony. The original church building, the present sanctuary, was dedicated in December 1917. Total membership was then 400. In 1919 the Westminster Foundation was established to oversee CPC’s college student ministry.
In 1923 CPC sent out it first missionaries, who served in Brazil. Since then CPC has supported special projects in Liberia, Kenya, and the Philippines. Beginning in the 1950s, CPC assisted international Iowa State students from India, Brazil, Japan, the Philippines, Guatemala, Lebanon, Ghana, Jamaica, Taiwan, Cameroon, Nigeria, and Nicaragua. In Ames, CPC housed Hope Preschool for many years and has assisted Story County Housing, Youth and Shelter Services, Good Neighbor Emergency Assistance, Emergency Residence Project, Free Medical Clinic, Center for Creative Justice, and many other services. Since 1947, the Presbyterian Women’s Association has supported mission work from the proceeds of rummage sales. In the 1950s and again in the 1980s, Collegiate sponsored several refugee families and helped them settle into life in Ames.
Collegiate’s first addition (the west wing) was completed in 1952 to house the Westminster Foundation campus ministry activities, Christian education programs, the church library, and a choir room. That same year, the church added a second worship service. Another building program was launched in 1959. A new south wing provided space for church offices, more education rooms, the Sarah Barlow fellowship lounge, the second-floor Westgate Center for campus-ministry offices and programs, and the Helser chapel.
The 1960s found Collegiate offering a third worship service and installing closed-circuit television in Helser chapel to accommodate the growing number of worshippers.
In 1975 Collegiate completed a major rebuilding and renovation of the sanctuary. The chancel was relocated from the west end of the sanctuary to the east end. The east balcony was removed, and the east windows were colorfully reglazed to become the focal point of the remodeled sanctuary. At the west end, the former chancel platform, choir loft, and organ console were removed to accommodate seating. A new balcony was built in the west end for the choir and organ. The decorative backs of the elders’ chairs, retained from the original chancel, were incorporated into the balcony railing. An elevator, installed in 1974, made the seven levels of Collegiate accessible to all.
College Presbyterian Church was a grand experiment in 1911. Could a single congregation minister to both the university and resident communities? For 100 years this congregation has sought to be faithful to its unique calling to be, as Dean R. E. Buchanan wrote in 1917, “a combination of student and community church in which in every essential respect the work is absolutely coordinate.” More than six thousand persons have been members of Collegiate Presbyterian Church, and many thousands more have been influenced in the name of Jesus Christ by its ministries, both local and worldwide.
A PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH ORGANIZED
Ames Intelligencer, February 23, 1911
The fourth ward is to have a new church organization and a commodious building for the worship of God as understood by those who affiliate with the Presbyterian denomination. The recent entry into Ames of several Presbyterians devoted to the church has brought about the new organization. Heretofore Presbyterians have come and after a short season of looking around have either united with other denominations or have retained possession of their letters. But the new kind to enter Ames society are of the Scotch variety who are "Presbyterians till they die, who've been baptized in the Presbyterian faith and stay on the Presbyterian side."
In expressing himself on the situation one of the charter members said: "I suppose these other churches are alright, but somehow they do not seem like home to me. Anyway, the fourth ward ought to have another church and I do not see why we cannot have one of our faith which will prove an incentive to our people to get the church going habit. This is essential for a college city. The College Chapel does not supply the need of the community. It is wrong in principle. It gets regular church members out of the habit of attending divine worship. You know we have such a practical college here that our people have adopted the principle that as salvation is free, it should be provided by the state and so we have the chapel exercises. I enjoy these services, but it is not a church home. It promotes bad habits. After attending chapel for a short time I actually get just like some of the rest of them and when attending regular church services and the contribution box comes around I go down into my pockets grudgingly. While the Chapel services are great intellectual treats, they are failures religiously. Understand me, I do not say that the new organization is to fight the Chapel idea. We hope to work with those who attend Chapel. We expect to supplement the Chapel work by having our services at an hour that will not conflict with the college services. We hope to reach the college professor, who has strayed from the regular fold and who is satisfied to have his salvation furnished him on a gold platter free. We want to get the students back into the church going habit again. Most of them come here from homes where the family habit is to go to church. The chapel is attractive for a short time and then a large per cent of them drop out of even this and the place which knew them once knows them no more forever. The Presbyterian church is more tenacious. It hangs on to a man like grim death. If we can get a chance at these students and salvation free professors we will straighten them out and make church goers out of them. Our church does not come though to make war, but to bring peace.
At the home of Thos. Sloss on the College campus, the Presbytery of Waterloo organized a church of some thirty members Tuesday evening. Officers of the church were elected and articles of incorporation were adopted. The following elders were elected: Thomas Sloss, Prof. Brown, James Reid. Trustees: Thomas Sloss, Alexander Grey and George Smiley. The charter membership list will be kept open until March 1st for additional members.
Preaching services will be held this next Sabbath evening at the home of Mr. Sloss, conducted by Dr. Purmort of Des Moines, the Synodical superintendent. The public is invited to this service, after which the session will meet to receive members. It is proposed to erect a good house of worship during the summer on the site of the recent home of Mr. Stewart, at the west gate. In due time a minister will be placed in charge of the new church as pastor.
The name of the church is "The Collegiate Presbyterian church of Ames," and while it will be nominally under the care of the Presbytery of Waterloo, it will be supported by the entire Synod of Iowa. The purpose of this organization is to provide a church home for residents near the campus and also to give convenient church privileges to the many students while attending the college.
START CAMPAIGN FOR NEW CHURCH NEAR COLLEGE
Ames Weekly Tribune, November 9, 1914
Fifty prominent Iowa laymen and pastors will start this week as a "Flying Squadron" on a state wide campaign to secure $50,000 for an institutional church building at Ames to be used as a religious center particularly for the more than 500 Presbyterian students now attending Iowa State college.
Plans for this "Student's Church" campaign were developed last week at a gathering of Presbyterian workers from all parts of the state to meet Dr. J.W. Cochran, secretary of the Presbyterian board of education at Philadelphia, which has general charge of the religious work for students at state institutions. President R.A. Pearson and other members of the college faculty who attended a campaign dinner gave their hearty endorsement to the movement. Mayor Parley Sheldon of Ames announced that Rev. W.A. Sunday, the evangelist, now in Des Moines, had sent his check for $500 to the church fund.
Local college professors and citizens, organized into teams, Saturday pledged themselves to raise $10,000 in Ames for the new church. Rev. A.E. Kiser, and Dr. John W. Innis have charge of the state campaign. Among those on the "Flying Squadron" are Dr. Frank G. McKern and Rev. J.W. Countermone of Des Moines, Dr. J.A. Marquis of Coe college, Dr. E.E. Hastings of Fort Dodge, Hon. C.W. Black of Malvern, Willis Jenks of Waterloo, Rev. J.P. Linn of Marshalltown, Rev. J.E. Cummings of Council Bluffs, Dr. Elmer A. Bess of Iowa City, Dr. Samuel Conybeare of Cedar Rapids, Dr. S.R. Ferguson of Cedar Rapids and P.C. Smith of Monticello.
PRESBYTERIANS TO DEDICATE BUILDING
Ames Weekly Tribune, December 6, 1917
Next Sunday will be a red letter day for the members and friends of the Collegiate Presbyterian Bible school and church, for on that day the beautiful edifice, which stands at the west end of the campus, will be dedicated, and the services will be such that it will be an interesting day for the people of the city.
Possibly there is not a church in the state which will have the same dedication services as the one to be dedicated Sunday. There are practically to debts, there will be no appeal for money. In this day of so much want for the different classes of work, the constant demand for funds, makes the dedication of such a large structure stand out as most imposing and that it should be completed with the balance even is a pleasing thought. The program for the day is a most interesting one, and will be as follows:
Bible school at 9:30 a.m.
Pre-dedication address by Rev. C.H. Purmort, D.D., Moderator of the Synod of Iowa,
Des Moines, 10:45
Dedication address by Rev. A.B. Marshall, D.D., Omaha, Neb., president of Omaha Theological Seminary, 3:00 p.m.
At 7:00 p.m. a union meeting will be held of the Young People's societies of the Methodist and Presbyterian churches and the Christian Associations of the college, led by Rev. L.A. Brudford, pastor of the College Methodist church
Starting at 7:45 post dedication addresses bearing upon student work in universities, will be given by Rev. Mathew Allison, Presbyterian University pastor, Madison, Wis.; Rev. A.E. Bess, D.D., Presbyterian University pastor, Iowa City; Rev. Richard C. Hughes, D.D., secretary University Work, Philadelphia; Dr. Warren H. Wilson of the Department of Country Life Work, Board of Home Missions in New York City.
The public generally is extended an invitation to attend these services and they will find pleasure in attending.
DEDICATED NEW CHURCH EDIFICE
Ames Weekly Tribune, December 13, 1917
The dedication of the new Collegiate Presbyterian church last Sabbath placed another handsome structure in the city for the public use and the doors of one of the finest churches in the city were thrown open to the public. The services were held during the day, while the dedication service was held at 3 o'clock Sabbath afternoon. The previous day there had been appropriate services and the building was inspected by a large crowd of people, who expressed their admiration on the beauty of the architecture, both inside and out, and the arrangement of the building on the interior where various rooms have been so handily arranged.
The dedication address was delivered by Dr. A.B. Marshall, at 3:00 o'clock Sunday afternoon. Dr. Marshall is from Omaha and is president of the Omaha Theological seminary. At 10:45 Sabbath morning Dr. C.H. Purmort, of Des Moines, preached the pre-dedicatory sermon.
The church was founded in Ames in February, 1911 and Dr. J.W. Innes was named as pastor of the church and has held the position continuously. Rev. H.W. Johnson was also secured for the church and has served as community pastor. The two men have worked hard and long and now the realization of a handsome church has been brot about. Their efforts have been unceasing and the work has been made possible by their standing over the state and the interest of the Presbyterians to have a fine building so near the college campus.
The cost of the work has been about $80,000. Citizens over the state have subscribed about $68,000 and the balance has been subscribed by local people. The total number of subscribers to make possible such a magnificent structure totals 1,200 people.
The addresses Sunday evening had much to do with student activity and student church life.
Drs. Innes and Johnson and the Presbyterians of the state are to be congratulated on such a building and Ames is to be congratulated that such a goodly body of men and women have aided in the construction of one of the finest church buildings in the state.