Cape Fear Presbyterian Church in Wilmington was birthed in 1943 during the height of the emergency wartime shipbuilding effort. At the time, Wilmington saw an influx of 15,000 workers, some of whom desired to gather for fellowship with other Christians and to learn more about the Word of God. They held regular meetings, their numbers grew, and the need for their own church building became clear. On April 23, 1944, construction began on a new facility at the corner of Shipyard Blvd. and Vance Street (The original bricks that formed the building were sold by members door to door for 50 cents each). By God’s grace, Cape Fear’s ministry continued to grow due to the dedication of its members and the several pastors who led them.
In 1955, the Cape Fear church had the largest number of new members received of any of the churches in the then Wilmington Presbytery. Due to their continued growth, a building expansion program had begun, and it was eventually determined that relocating to a new piece of property was a better option. On December 2, 1956, Cape Fear celebrated Advent in a new sanctuary at the present location.
Over the next several years, the congregation faced several challenges, some external like the departure of many members due to the relocation of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad from Wilmington to Jacksonville, FL, and the changeover of the shipyard from military to civilian; and some internal including numerous transitions in pastoral leadership, and the expensive replacement of the original wooden beams that supported the sanctuary. Despite these challenges, God remained faithful to Cape Fear, and their ministry continued to be blessed.
The church continued to prosper throughout the 70’s, especially under the leadership of pastor C. Wesley Jennings. 1980 brought the completion of an additional building (now known as Jennings Hall). At 5000 sq. feet, the building contains a half-court gym-recreation room, a kitchen, two restrooms and five classrooms.
In the ensuing years, a number of pastors were called to continue the ministry at the corner of Newkirk and Shipyard, serving our congregation with "energy, intelligence, imagination, and love:" Rev. Frank Elliott (1981), Rev. Dan Robinson (1981-1989), Rev. Joe Woody, Jr. (1989-1990), Rev. Chris Yim (1990-1994), Rev. Robert Childs (1994-1995), Dr. Curtis Christian (1996-2005), and Rev. Jonathan C. Watson (2006-2022).
Cape Fear Presbyterian Church has a long and vital history of dedicated people being faithful to God’s continued call.
In September of 2018, the church buildings were heavily damaged by Hurricane Florence. Damaged roofs allowed rain water to intrude forcing the removal and subsequent replacement of all ceilings, flooring, and a host of other items. There was never any question about rebuilding, and over the next eight months, the congregation held their own worship service Sunday afternoons at Winter Park Presbyterian Church. The restoration process provided our facility a much needed face-lift and opportunity for improvements. To learn more about this chapter in our history, visit the blog.
Today, we remain a welcoming, dedicated congregation, with a strong sense of personal faith and belief in the Word of God. We are a mix of children, young adults, middle age, and seniors. It’s notable that people who were raised in this church are raising their own children here, as well as stepping into positions of leadership. (In fact, half of our current Session members grew up in this congregation.) On any given Sunday, you’ll find kids, parents, and grandparents sitting together on our pews. We desire to make an impact on our community, and have a true love for children and youth.