The First Presbyterian Church of Birmingham, Michigan — Last Stop on My One-Woman Road Trip

Facade of the First Presbyterian Church of Birmingham, Michigan. Photo by Barbara Newhall

Photo by Barbara Newhall

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

It had been a wonderful tour around Michigan’s lower peninsula. Just me, a full tank of gas, and my trusty point-and-shoot. And now it was over.

Grosse Pointe. Pentwater. Ludington. Traverse City. Howell. And finally, Birmingham, the suburb of Detroit that had been the scene of my personal teenage angst.

I’d sung in the choir at Birmingham’s First Presbyterian Church as a girl. I’d been confirmed there as well,

And now I was being given a chance to read from “Wrestling with God” to a Sunday morning gathering of twenty or so church members and their pastors.

I chose a passage that described my upbringing as a Presbyterian — and the doubts that arose when I left home for the University of Michigan:

From “Wrestling with God”

When I was a child, God was very real to me. As a little kid in Detroit I loved Sunday school at our local Presbyterian church, and later as a teenager I looked forward to choir practice and youth group. The others in my family were indifferent church-goers: My father was a lapsed Methodist. My mother had been Catholic as a girl, but undertook an extended leave of absence from her church when she married my father. My brothers—well, they just didn’t find God all that interesting.

A stained glass window in the chapel of the First Presbyterian Church of Birmingham, Michigan. Photo by Barbara Newhall

Stained glass window in the church’s chapel. Photo by Barbara Newhall

But I did. I believed in God, and I loved Jesus, the Galilean carpenter who walked on water and calmed the raging sea, who gave sight to the blind, who cared for the poor and the weak as well as the powerful, who died and rose from the dead, as I would someday. God was real to me in those long-ago days. God’s existence was not something I arrived at intellectually. It was something I just knew . . .

Things changed when I graduated from high school and went off to Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan. I told my first academic advisor that I liked to read, and he signed me up for a course in Great Books. Eagerly I dove into Lucretius, Aristotle, Virgil, Dante, Milton. My freshman year, instead of God, I thought about books. . . .

— Excerpted from “Wrestling with God: Stories of Doubt and Faith,” by Barbara Falconer Newhall. Patheos Press. © 2015 Patheos Press. All rights reserved.

The choir at the First Presbyterian Church of Birmingham, Michigan, practices before a Sunday morning service. Photo by Barbara Newhall

The choir rehearsed before the Sunday morning service in the sanctuary of the First Presbyterian Church of Birmingham, Michigan. I spoke after church in the Fireside Room. Photo by Barbara Newhall

For a copy of “Wrestling with God” and more about my life-long struggle with doubt and faith, go to More stories of my one-woman road trip at “Pentwater’s Antler Bar — A Beer Too Many” and “Wrestling with God on the Shores of Lake Michigan.”

Facade and steeple of the First Presbyterian Church of Birmingham, Michigan. Photo by Barbara Newhall

The First Presbyterian Church is on West Maple Road, across the street from the Methodist and Baptist churches. Photo by Barbara Newhall



  1. Judy Perryman says:

    Friend of Connie’s. Thank you for making FPCB look so good – we try to be. So sorry I did not get to meet you. Look forward to following your blog.


  2. Connie Dugger says:

    It was so good being with you and catching up. Love your book!

  3. Sharie McNamee says:

    Whatever you write about you make it interesting to read.

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