The Presbytery of the Northern Plains expanse from the lakes and forests of west central Minnesota to the vast farmlands, potholes, and plains of North Dakota, and even sneaking into Montana, consisting of Presbyterian Christians as diverse and beautiful as her geography. One of sixteen Presbyteries in the upper Midwest making up the Synod of Lakes and Prairies, the Presbytery of the Northern Plains was established in January 1977 with the realignment of the Red River and North Dakota Presbyteries. Interestingly, the boundaries of the newly-formed Presbytery were almost identical to those of the Red River Presbytery when she was established in 1879, consisting of all of the northern Dakota Territory and the six northwestern counties of Minnesota.
The mission of the Presbytery of the Northern Plains as we seek to be a faithful witness to the good news of Jesus Christ, is three-fold:
To CARE for the congregations and members of Presbytery by providing guidance, encouragement and resources for their ministries;
To CONNECT congregations and members of Presbytery with one another and with the church beyond our denominational geographical bounds;
To CHALLENGE the congregations and members of Presbytery with a vision of faithfulness so that, with God's help, our witness on the plains can grow.
"A vibrant, informed, Presbyterian community which nourishes ministry and joins in Christ's mission"
The Presbytery of the Northern Plains was organized in January 1977, the successor to a long series of presbyteries in the northern Dakota Territory, and later the states of North Dakota and Minnesota, which originated in the Presbytery of St. Paul. The earliest Presbyterian work in this area was conducted by the Church of Scotland in 1815 around Pembina in territory held by the Hudson Bay Company. Settlers of European descent began arriving after the railroads came through beginning in the 1870's. The oldest congregation in the Presbytery as presently aligned is the First Presbyterian Church of Moorhead, chartered in 1872.
Today much of the area of the Presbytery continues to reflect decisions made 100 years ago. North Dakota was platted with towns and railroads before it was homesteaded, using planning models developed for climates where the average rainfall was greater than found here. This resulted in what has been called the “too much syndrome,” (too many miles of railroad and highways, and too many towns, school and churches). By 1917 there were 186 Presbyterian congregations in North Dakota alone. Today the total number of congregations is one-third of that number. In 1996, the population of North Dakota was the same as it was in 1920, 641,000. Presbyterian comprise 1.27% of the population.
The economy across the Presbytery is predominantly agriculturally-based, with wheat, sugar beets, potatoes and other crops most prevalent in the east, and ranching in the more thinly populated, drier western sections. Mining, oil, and military bases are significant contributors to the economy. The population has been declining over all with pockets of growth around Fargo, Grand Forks, Bismarck, and Rolla.