Westminster Through the Years
(from The Beauty of Holiness, 2nd Edition)
Westminster Church of Detroit was first organized on October 6, 1857, and the Rev. Henry Neill served as the first pastor. Until a suitable house of worship could be planned and erected, services were held in rented space in the United Presbyterian Church at Lafayette and Wayne.
With a natural desire for their own home, Westminster members worked toward the dedication of their first church on Washington Boulevard, between State and Grand River. A goal which was achieved in January 1861.
From that time to this, its religious influence has spread city-wide.
The growth and progress of the church paralleled the north-ward migration due to the rapid growth of the city. Prompted by the fact that there were two Presbyterian churches serving the downtown area within a few blocks of each other, a site at Woodward and Parsons was acquired in November 1872.
Westminster’s services were continued in the Harper Hospital Chapel from March 1873 to May 1874, when a new chapel was dedicated.
Seven years later the Church Sanctuary was completed. Records indicate that during these years the continuance of the church was threatened, but the loyalty, faith, and generosity of its members and ministers kept the church active so that it adequately served the community for forty-four years until 1918.
The interest of Detroit in a cultural trend prompted the city authorities to request that the church be removed to provide a site for the new Orchestra Hall.
Still following the northward trend, Westminster moved to temporary quarters in the old United States Army Barracks at Collingwood and Hamilton, where services were conducted for more than two years.
The building at Hamilton and Glynn Court was dedicated in November 1920, and served as Westminster’s church home for the next thirty-four years.
During this time, the consecrated leaders of the church had a vision of erecting a beautiful Sanctuary at that location, but these plans were never carried out. This might well be considered the crisis of Westminster’s history.
A changing neighborhood and inadequate facilities prompted an important decision to project Westminster Church to the northwest, in view of the new concentration of population in that direction.
Substantial gifts to the congregation beginning in 1947 made it possible to begin a new venture on the eight and one-half acre tract of land at Outer Drive and Hubbell.
A group of devoted Presbyterians, who were conducting a Church School in Winship School, added their leadership to the forces of Westminster the same year.
A New Church Committee was established, and their work was rewarded by the building of the first unit, the Chapel, dedicated in November 1949.
Activities began to grow with providential rapidity, and before the expiration of the year, the Chapel proved to be inadequate for the growing congregation. Consequently, another addition was dedicated in January 1951.
Plans were developed and approved for the erection of a complete, adequate, efficient church plant, appropriate to carry on the most effective Christian program.
Successively, Fellowship Hall, the Christian Education Unit, and the offices were built and occupied.
The cornerstone of the new Sanctuary was laid in October 1953. The climax of the vision and the dream was reached during a great Dedication Week, from September 26 to October 3, 1954, when our beloved Minister, Dr. John Arthur Visser, and the two Assistant Ministers, the Rev. Allan J. Weenink and the Rev. Richard W. Mitchell, together with the Director of Christian Education, Miss Marguerite R. Bowden, and the Director of Music, George F. Thomas, led the congregation of 2,074 members, and the Church School of 1,350, into the glorious new Westminster Church.
They came to the joyous occasion of Dedication with a song of praise to God, and thanksgiving to all who had a part in the inspiring fulfillment of the hope and the dream.
The Centennial of Westminster Church was celebrated on October 6, 1957. With confidence in the God who has blessed Westminster in the past, the members and children who now constitute the Westminster Family continue its rich traditions.