In 1997, four families began to gather on a weekly basis to study the Bible and pray that God would open the doors to establish a local congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) to serve Skidaway Island and the other island communities of southeastern Savannah. The initial funding for this new church, Kirk O’ the Isles Presbyterian Church (PCA), was provided by Independent Presbyterian Church, Savannah, and Central Georgia Presbytery.
In June, 1998 Dr. Michael Milton, an experienced PCA church planter, was called as Organizing Pastor to establish the Kirk O’ the Isles mission church. On September 2 the first service, Tuesday Night at the Kirk, was held in the historic Whitefield Chapel on the campus of Bethesda Home for Boys. Regular Sunday evening worship services in Whitefield Chapel began on September 13. The first class of 27 communing and non-communing members was received during the first Sunday morning worship service on January 24, 1999, which was attended by our U.S. Congressional Representative, local government officials and representatives of Independent Presbyterian Church and other area churches.
The fledgling Kirk congregation quickly established vital ministries to serve the church and the local community. Sunday school classes for all ages were organized almost immediately after the commencement of morning worship services, and the Kirk Choirs and the Women in the Church (WIC) were started shortly thereafter. During July, 1999, the first Vacation Bible School was held for families in the community, including many of the Bethesda boys, who regularly attended worship services.
After Organizing Pastor, Dr. Milton, was called to serve as Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Chattanooga, TN in January, 2002, and later that year, in July, Reverend Kreg Bryan was called to Senior Pastor. Kirk O’ the Isles continued to hold its worship in Whitefield Chapel until October, 2002, when the new Bethesda school opened. The worship venue was moved to Wesley Chapel, overlooking the Moon River on Burnside Island, until June, 2005, and then was moved again, this time taking up residence to 8011 Waters Ave. We spent four very happy years worshiping and serving God at Waters Ave. During that time Rev. Kreg Bryan accepted a call to serve a church in the Cleveland area.
On July 30, 2006, our current Senior Pastor to the Kirk pulpit, Dr. Neil C. Stewart was installed. Dr. Stewart, a native of Ireland, came to America in 1999 to pursue a call to Christian ministry. He trained for the ministry in Jackson, Mississippi, at Reformed Theological Seminary. Before this, he served as a pediatrician in the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children, Northern Ireland. Dr. Stewart brings with him a commitment to long term pastoral ministry. He firmly believes that ministers who stay for decades in one parrish have the greatest effect for the Kingdom of God, as they baptize, marry, and bury members of the congregation they have known all their lives.
Since Pastor Stewart’s arrival, the Lord has abundantly blessed the Kirk; our attendance on Sunday mornings and evenings has experienced wonderful growth, the congregation continues to enjoy a tremendous spirit of unity, peace, and zeal for God’s work, and we moved once again, consolidating ours sanctuary and office space all under one roof in our current location in the Nettle’s Chapel of Memorial Day School. We must say, we are delighted with these facilities and hope to stay here many years as the Lord leads.
In October of 2011, Stephen Sutherland, along with his family, was called as our Associate Pastor of Family Life. He is married to Ruth, an Irish Pediatrician, and they are the proud parents of 5 children (Joshua, Caleb, Georgia, Gabrielle, and Lucia). Before taking this call, Stephen was the Head of the Religious Studies Department at Ballycastle High School, in Northern Ireland. Stephen helps the pastor equip the men of the congregation to lead their famillies. He also puts his teaching skills to good use in our Sunday School program, and has the opportunity to preach when Pastor Stewart is away.
And so, through the years, while the “tabernacle” has continued to move, God has kept the Kirk faithful to its mission. She has held the line, proclaiming the Gospel of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. This Word of grace has sounded out through our community to the nation and, indeed, to the rest of the world.