HISTORY OF WESTMINSTER PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
Westminster Presbyterian Church traces its roots back to 1858 when the United Presbyterian Church of Des Moines was organized with five charter members. Over the next six decades, the church merged, split and changed its name numerous times. In 1926, two Presbyterian congregations joined together and purchased property at the corner of Beaver and Franklin Avenues for a new church, to be named the Beaver Avenue Presbyterian Church. With tremendous faith and courage in the face of difficult economic times, the new church was built just as the Great Depression began. In 1932, the Beaver Avenue church united with Westminster Presbyterian Church, then located at 12th Street and Forest Avenue, and the Westminster name was adopted.
In the late thirties the Westminster Youth Club, an after-school program for children and youth was organized. The program generated such tremendous church growth that it became a model for churches across the country. In less than 10 years, the congregation doubled in size, reaching a membership of 2,000. Also during this time, Westminster spearheaded efforts to form the Knox United Presbyterian Church near the corner of Hickman Road and Merle Hay Road.
The church continued to grow, and more space was needed to meet the increasing program needs. As a result, the Chapel and south education wing were added in 1955. Westminster’s staff also increased to include two full-time assistant pastors, a Christian educator, and a music director.
During the 1960s, Westminster was instrumental in the creation and construction of the retirement community of Calvin Manor, and the Westminster Preschool was begun. A new weekly newsletter and neighborhood meetings kept members informed and connected.
During 1970s the church was renovated, Tuesday Fellowship Club for seniors and retirees began, and the Westminster Foundation was created. The seeds were sown for the creation of Westminster House, a residence for those living with mental health issues.
In the early 1980s Westminster installed a much-anticipated new tracker organ in the Sanctuary. The quest to obtain this organ has an intriguing history of its own, complete with the dramatic rescue of organ parts from a bankrupt organ builder in Pennsylvania. The organ was completed and installed by Iowa’s Dobson Organ Builders in 1981.
Another building renovation was begun in the mid-eighties. A new midweek program, Westminster Wednesday, was initiated. Also, a long range plan was created, and the mission of Westminster was focused on spiritual growth and the healing love of God. Westminster’s small group ministry was created as a result of this planning process. The Westminster Fine Arts Series was begun in 1994.
In the mid-nineties Westminster entered the age of electronics with our own website. World outreach programs increased, with mission trips to Honduras, Haiti, and later, El Salvador. A mission partnership was also established with a congregation in Hungary following a visit from their pastor. In 1999, a major renovation plan was approved, which included the addition of new offices and music rehearsal space. A grand celebration was held when construction was completed in 2001.
Around 2003 Westminster turned its attention to spirituality and welcoming the outsider. Under church leadership, Westminster continued its rich tradition of excellence in ministry.
Pastoral care for members of the congregation has remained strong and supportive under the steadfast leadership of Executive Associate Pastor Dr. Ken Arentson. The Stephen Ministry program, begun at Westminster by Pastor Ken, has provided – and continues to provide – much needed comfort to all members who seek its support. Westminster’s homebound visitation program, also under the guidance of Pastor Ken, gives homebound members a continued feeling of connectivity to Westminster.
The Rev. Scott Paczkowski began his ministry at Westminster on December 1, 2010. Since his arrival, the church has created a new mission statement, “Westminster is a welcoming Christian family, joined in discipleship to pray, learn and serve,” which is shaping ministry at Westminster. The church’s committee structure has been strengthened, and member involvement is on the increase. In 2011 Westminster Preschool was restructured and the church to welcomed a more diverse student body.
Local outreach has grown with Westminster’s the creation of God’s Garden, to provide garden fresh vegetables at reasonable prices to members of the congregation, and also offer vegetables for distribution at the local Food Pantry.
Throughout its history, Westminster Church continues its long and faithful tradition of service to God and God’s people.