First Presbyterian Church of Taos

We best serve Christ by loving all!


The history of the First Presbyterian Church in Taos begins in 1868. In that year representatives of the Ladies’ Missionary Society of New York traveled to the Theological Seminary in Alleghany, Pennsylvania to recruit a missionary to serve the Navaho Indians of Arizona and New Mexico. James Madison Roberts was called to this mission and late in 1868 he and his new bride Martha took their wedding trip across the plains. They traveled by train guarded by cavalry soldiers to the western border of Kansas where the railroad tracks ended. A stagecoach, also guarded by soldiers, brought them safely to Santa Fe. After a short stay in Santa Fe, they went on to Fort Defiance, Arizona to begin their ministry among the Navahos.
The young couple was quartered in a small adobe house with dirt floors and a
fireplace for a stove. Mr. Roberts had no knowledge of the Navaho language, and
it was slow work earning the confidence of the natives. The presence of American
soldiers at the fort did not help the missionary very much as they did not
appreciate the influence that the Roberts were slowly exerting over the Indians.
Trouble eventually arose, and a U.S. Indian Agent reported to Roberts that there
was a plot to kill him, his wife, and their two children. He was advised to
leave the fort. He did so immediately and returned to Santa Fe.
The Roberts was preparing to return to Ohio when he was approached by a group of Taosenos who requested that he come to Taos to preach the Gospel. The Taosenos who invited the Roberts to come to Taos were the remnant of the apostatic church formed by Padre Antonio Martinez after Archbishop Jean-Baptiste Lamy excommunicated him from the Catholic Church in 1858. Following Padre Martinez’ death in 1867 the church had been earnestly looking for a new pastor and Roberts answered this call. The First Presbyterian Church was officially established on November 15, 1874. Its charter members were: Vincente Romero, Jose Mondragon, Maria Mondragon, Martha Roberts, and Joaquin Sandoval. At this time and for many years thereafter the services were conducted in Spanish.

Pastor Roberts and his wife started a school in their home teaching English to interested natives, and Hispanos. The greater Presbyterian Church at this time had become interested in this sort of educational activity through the efforts of Mary Pyle of Cincinnati, Ohio. The Presbyterial Society, of which she was president, undertook the support of Pastor Roberts missionary activities in Taos.

It does not know exactly when the construction of the First Presbyterian Church of Taos was completed, but the cornerstone was laid in Lomas Plaza in 1882. Shortly after the completion of the church, a mission school was built nearby in which primary and elementary grades were taught.
 ​Padre Antonio José Martínez
Abiquiu NM 1793-Taos 1867educator and publisher, politician and priest of Taos 
The early Presbyterian Mission School filled a real need in the community. At that time the public school system was rather inadequate and the early public school teachers lacked training. Also, the county was unable to compensate them satisfactorily. The Mission School teachers who came mainly from New England states were well-trained, young, dedicated individuals who were willing to devote their energies and affections to this mission. The school was closed in 1916.

174 names appear on the Roll of Membership from 1874-1900, with the exception of 17 all are Spanish. In the early days, session meetings were held at the homes of one of the members or at the Taos Mission House. Often the setting for big dinners, box suppers, meetings, and various community entertainments, the church served as a hospital during the World War I influenza epidemic. The interior of the Taos edifice gained distinction when in 1924 Blanche C. Grant, Taos artist and writer, painted life-sized murals of scenes from the Holy Land on the walls. Considerable publicity was given to this work, and tourists were encouraged not to leave Taos without viewing the murals. Mabel Dodge Luhan’s marriage to Antonio Lujan from the Taos Pueblo on April 17, 1923, is recorded in the church’s register of marriages. Andrew Dasburg, noted Taos modernist painter, is reported as an official witness to the ceremony.
In 1941 the congregation for the first time actively discussed the prospects of constructing a new church building.  In July of that year Famed Santa Fe architect and the progenitor of the Pueblo Revival School of Architecture, John Gaw Meems, was contacted. Church member and famed Taos Society of Artists founder Bert Phillips agreed to donate one of his original paintings as payment for the building plans prepared by Mr. Meems. Due to the declarations of war, plans for constructing the new church were shelved for the duration of the war. In 1946 the church purchased property in the Taos Canyon, at which its church camp Loma Verde was built.

On March 5, 1950, the congregation voted to apply for a grant of $2000 and a loan of $7000 from the Board of National Missions for the construction of a new church. Soon afterward a meeting of the congregation was called to discuss the possible sale of the old church properties. In due course, the properties were sold to the Taos Municipal Board of Education for the sum of $20,000. A building committee was then established and under the direction of architect Meems, construction of the new church began in 1951. When completed and dedicated on June 22, 1952, the total cost of construction was approximate $50,000.
Portrait of Bert Geer Phillips
Located on Paseo del Norte, approximately a half mile north of the Taos Plaza, the church was built on property formerly owned by the enigmatic Arthur Manby. The church sanctuary, as well as the education building, completed in 1964, are constructed in authentic Pueblo Revival style architecture, for which John Gaw Meems was so famous. This style of architecture is the only indigenous style on the North American continent, incorporating three elements: pre-Columbian, Spanish and modern utility. Its sanctuary is a splendid example of early mission-style architecture with its high ceilings, vigas, corbels, candles, and choir loft with the carved stairway.

When the educational building was completed in 1964 at a cost of $60,000 it was specifically dedicated to be of utility to the community at large. From that date to the present the facility was made available to scores of community organizations in need of a meeting space. During the 1960’s the church became very involved in special ministries throughout the region, including unique efforts to promote better relations between members of the various communes existing at that time and the Taos community at large.

Due to a vacancy in the pulpit at Ranchos de Taos Presbyterian Church and a significant cut in funding from the National Missions Board, the Ranchos and First Presbyterian churches in 1971 made the decision to pool resources and procure a minister who would serve both congregations.
In December of that year, the first minister was called and began serving both congregations. This arrangement continues to today.

In the current era, the church and its members continue in the rich tradition of service to God and to the community. Its members earnestly endeavor to reflect God’s love for his people individually, and corporately as the First Presbyterian Church of Taos.


The Community We Serve:

Ideally situated on a rolling mesa at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Taos has a magical quality. Its rugged beauty, majestic mountains, wild Rio Grande River and unique blend of cultures - Spanish, Native American and Anglo - draw artists and photographers from around the globe. There's no rat race here and a fair share of non-mainstreamers have made this laid-back, low-key mecca their home.

Taos Pueblo, where the Tiwa Native Americans have practiced their traditions for centuries is a World Heritage Site. The historic district, where the church is located, is the heart of a vibrant area of shops, art galleries and some of the finest restaurants in New Mexico. Skiing is a major draw during the winter, but with world-class museums, an active local theater scene and a full calendar of festivals and special events, there's no shortage of things to do year round.

Taos is a popular Tourist destination. In fact, tourism and lodging are major contributors to the area's economy bringing in more than $85 million annually.

Unique factors drive the local real estate market making Taos different from other areas. Only 38 percent of the land in Taos County is privately owned and some of that is undevelopable due to steepness or other reasons. In other words, there’s only a small supply of land available for development and mushrooming construction costs help keep existing home prices high.

Another substantial factor affecting real estate is a large number of 2nd homeowners. During the summer, the church has seasonal members who are very much a part of our life and worship. This large influx of regular visitors contributes significantly to both the local economy and the church. The median home cost in Taos County is $209,000. Home appreciation the last year has been 2.40 percent.
Another potential reality for the future is the fact that a lot of property (land and homes) has been purchased by those living elsewhere who, as baby boomers, will be looking at retirement and relocation to our area in the coming years.
As of the 2010 Census, the town of Taos had a population of 5,716 with a Taos County population of 28,444. A 15-mile radius around the church reveals that our service area is slightly more than 50% Hispanic with an older demographic: 35% being more than 55 years old and 28% being 35 to 54 years old. As of 2014, Taos County's population is 32,775 people. Since 2000, it has had a population growth of 9.33 percent.
The educational attainment breakdown shows that 41.1% of our target area has an associate degree or higher with another 23% having at least some college education. A more educated community may expect more sustained reasoning during a sermon than the average congregation would prefer. Though a church ought to be open to all people, guests who find themselves surrounded by people with a different education may be less likely to stay. Taos County public schools spend $17,181 per student. The average school expenditure in the U.S. is $12,435. There are about 17.2 students per teacher in Taos County.
An income study for this area tells us that 25.4% of households were classified as living in poverty. Another 16.6% were considered to be close to the poverty level Conversely 25.8% of households had an annual income of more than $60,000. Compared to the rest of the country, Taos County's cost of living is 5.40% Higher than the U.S. average. The unemployment rate in Taos County is 8.60 percent (U.S. Avg. is 6.30%). Recent job growth is Negative. Taos County jobs have decreased by 0.53 percent. The Presbyterian Church (USA) has ministered effectively to people in each occupational group. However, different approaches are usually more effective with each group. For example, most members want both programs and events. But white-collar workers tend to prefer the long-term possibilities of programs; while blue-collar workers tend to think special events are more important.
The area language study shows that 58.7% of households speak English only, While 36% speak Spanish only.
27.5% of households had children under the age of 18 living with them, 34.7% were married couples living together, 16.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 44.0% were non-families. 37.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.18 and the average family size was 2.87.
Of the 68.57% of the people in Taos County who claim to be religious, meaning they affiliate with a religion. 54.61% are Catholic; 1.82% are Latter Day Saints; 2.73% are another Christian faith; 0.18% in Taos County are Jewish; 2.49% are an eastern faith; 0.94% affiliate with Islam. Only 0.69% say they are Presbyterian.
Statistics compiled from The US Census Bureau, Sperling's Research and the Presbyterian Church USA Research Department

First Presbyterian Church of Taos​
We best served Christ by loving all!