Over the weekend I told a Homecoming friend that I was now at Fourth Presbyterian as choir director. He chided me about the name of the church. His comment was that after a "First" church of whatever denomination is established, then subsequent churches ought to have another name and not follow the numeric pattern.
I think he might have a point. However, one must consider the context in which these instututions were named. For example,at about the same time we were getting First, Second, Third, and Fourth churches, we were also getting First National Bank, Second National, etc. These institutions didn’t consider the numeric label to be indicative of order of importance. Rather, it was a simple acknowledgement of which had been established first, second, etc.
The numerical naming of institutions was also a testament to the affluence of a particular city. A town that could boast a Sixth Presbyterian Church would REALLY be something. Those places that were named for a person or place were usually outside the city limits.
As the emergence of sporting events lent a competive edge to everything, the numerical naming system pretty much ended. You would now be hard pressed to find a Second National Bank, or any business institution with "second" in the name. The implication is that you have to be First, or something else entirely. Since churches are not competitive (supposedly) the numerical naming has survived.
In Greenville, First, Second, and Fourth Presbyterian have active congregations. I’m not even sure if Third is viable. Interestingly enough, All three choir directors for these churches sing in the Greenville Chorale.