Just three years after the turn of
the twentieth century, eighteen imaginative “Colored people who were
of Presbyterian inclination began holding religious services in the
Central Presbyterian Church on Sunday afternoons”. Some of them with a
background of training and educationderived from schools operated in
the Carolinas by the Presbyterian Church, spearheaded the committee
that appealed to the then Los Angeles Presbytery for “care and
development” of the new venture. On October 9, 1904, at 3 o’ clock in
the afternoon the new work began and seventeen, “- who had no letters
of dismission, though previously members of the church, were received
by confession of faith and examination. - “One received the ordinance
of baptism as he had not previously made his confession”. On October
21, 1904, the organizational work was finalized when “the church was
reported to the Presbytery of Los Angeles and ordered enrolled in the
The new Westminster Presbyterian Church not only marked the birth of a
Colored Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles, it was also to be the
first of its kind in the state of California.
In 1906, land was purchased at West 35th Place and Denker Avenue, a
site far removed from the hub of Negro residences and activity, It was
here that the first Westminster Presbyterian Church was to be erected.
The young church, under the care of the Presbytery, began to grow and
in 1908 a call was extended to the first pastor, Rev. Robert W.
Holman. For five “Building Years”, Rev. Holman labored in the new
vineyard with astonishing success in adding to the numerical growth of
the church. At the conclusion of his ministry Rev. Hampton B. Hawes, a
graduate or Lincoln University Theological Seminary, and later to
become the former Pastor’s son-in-law, accepted an invitation to
pastor at Westminster.
The magical touch of this deeply spiritual young minister added
immeasurably to the congregation, and over a period of forty-five
years Westminster grew spiritually and numerically. The ministry of
Rev. Hawes, who was to become Moderator of the Synod of Southern
California and have conferred on him the degree of Doctor of Divinity
by Occidental College, was marked by two World Wars, a devastating
depression, the New Deal and numerous other national events that would
have diminished the enthusiasm and quenched the spiritual fire of a
less dedicated group of Christian believers.
It was during the agonizing years of post-depression that the first
dreams of expansion began to take -hold, led by the young people of
what was then the largest church school on the westside of Los
Angeles. It was through their continued interest in Bible study and
personal spiritual development that the need for larger facilities
became apparent. Plans were made for the purchase of additional land
across the street from the church for the erection of a Christian
Education -center that would meet the needs of the ever-growing west
side populace. However, because of the shortage of building materials,
the plans for building had to be placed in -” curtailed until such
time as there was some easement in the field of new construction.
Out of the ravages of war a new “Westside” began to develop and ethnic
changes in residential areas became evident. Populations shifted and
the expanding extremities of Negro occupancy west of Western Avenue
began to have–an effect on congregations that had heretofore been
exclusively located in the Crenshaw district and surrounding areas.
Before the retirement of Dr. Hawes in 1958, a special committee of
Westminster, representative of the entire congregation, and under the
direction of the Session, began to negotiate for the present church
home. With the cooperation of the boards and the agencies of the
Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., the acquisition of the 2230 West
Jefferson Boulevard became a reality. In 1949 the new and expanded
ministry began to have its effect on the “new territory.”
The acquisition of another home site for the congregation became one
of the most notable achievements under the leadership of Dr. Hawes.
The present location of Westminster was, in 1948, in ‘ethnically
virgin’ territory, west of Western Avenue. Working through a maze of
entanglements imposed by the Presbyterian Church, USA, Westminster
experienced continued growth, and until his retirement in 1958, Dr.
Hawes continued to lead the church congregation in building the
foundation of a strong and fundamental religious force.
In 1959, a young graduate of Lincoln University with pastoral
experience garnered at St. John’s Presbyterian Church in Detroit,
Michigan, Reverend James E. Jones was called to lead the congregation
into what was to become perhaps, the most socially turbulent times of
postwar years. His challenge to the membership was to remember, “The
windows of Westminster look out upon all the avenues of the world.”
Keeping this thought before them, Westminsterites began the first
multiethnic ministry in the Synod of Southern California and the Los
It was during the pastorate of Rev. Jones that giant strides were made
in the fields of public education and social services, resulting in an
ever expanding church membership and an increasingly dynamic Christian
witness. He preached that the people of Westminster must look
realistically at the world in which they find themselves and admit
that there is alienation, estrangement, and escalating political
violence on nearly every main street in the cities of the world.
Recognizing these conditions and knowing that God is our help, we then
understand that God is calling His people to the work for the
reconciliation and salvation of all men. After another pastor-people
relationship of nearly 26 years duration, the Reverend Dr. James
retired, and was later to be named Pastor Emeritus by the church.
Reverend Oliver L. Brown, coming from a pastorate in New Jersey,
brought to Westminster a new awakening to the social, economic, and
spiritual deprivation of our society with a special focus on the areas
immediately surrounding the church. He reemphasized the responsibility
of the church toward suffering humanity and instituted programs that
are today bringing a measure of relief and compassionate comfort to
the less fortunate at home and abroad.
Reverend David Morris, Associate Pastor, joined with Rev. Brown in
gearing up for the unprecedented challenges and changes in the
congregation and surrounding community. These included the purchase of
land to build a senior housing complex and to put into play the
building of bridges of communication with other congregations and
denominations. He brought an all-encompassing concern for human kind
and personally entered into cultural exchanges that opened doors of
communication. Reverend Oliver Brown remained with the church until
Reverend Glenn Jones, the current pastor, has brought to the church a
strong commitment for studying the scriptures and an enhancement of
worship through his talent and love for music. His strong dimension of
spirituality continues to move the church forward.
Now in its 100th year of worship, praise, service and celebration,
Westminster, under his leadership, is looking forward to gearing up
for the unprecedented challenges of the new millennium as we meet the
spiritual and social needs of the congregation and community.
The installation of an elevator to better serve our congregation and
community, the opening of the 56 unit Dr. Charles H. Moore Housing
Complex, the repairing and modernizing of the physical House of God
and the completion of the Westminster Presbyterian website are all
In memory of the pioneering spirit of Reverend Robert Holman; The
Architect of Westminster’s spiritual ministry, Dr. Hampton B. Hawes:
the visionary and social conscious Dr. James E. Jones and the energy
and expansiveness of Rev. Oliver Brown, Westminster enlistees in the
ever-changing army of Christian Soldiers, pledge themselves to
continue, with Jesus’ joy, the faith journey of which they have been
called to be a part.