Westminster Presbyterian Church began with eighteen imaginative “Colored” people who were inclined to the Presbyterian order of service and organization. These eighteen were so inclined because of their background, training and education roots from schools operated by the Presbyterian Church in the Carolinas. They began holding services in the Central Presbyterian Church on Sunday afternoons. This new church development committee appealed to the then Los Angeles Presbytery to come under “care and development” and on October 9, 1904, after the eighteen were received by either confession of faith or baptism and examined, the process for Presbyterian membership officially began. On October 21, 1904, the organizational work was finalized and “the church was reported to the Presbytery of Los Angeles and ordered enrolled in the “Presbytery”.
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 and west of the Mississippi. In 1906, land was purchased at West 35th Place and Denker Avenue. The first Westminster Presbyterian Church was erected. The young, growing church, under the care of the Presbytery, extended the first call to pastor, Rev. Robert W. Holman . . . in 1908. Rev. Holman labored in the new vineyard with astonishing growth in spirit and numbers. After five years and at the conclusion of Rev. Holman’s service at Westminster, The Rev. Hampton B. Hawes, a graduate of Lincoln University Theological Seminary, accepted an invitation to pastor the Westminster congregation. He later became the former pastor’s son-in-law.
The anointed leadership of this deeply spiritual young minister added immeasurably to the congregation. The ministry of Rev. Hawes lasted forty-five year and did not weaken through momentous events: receiving the degree of Doctor of Divinity by Occidental College, becoming Moderator of the Synod of Southern California, persevering through 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. Westminster grew spiritually and numerically. Eventually a new “Westside” began to develop and ethnic changes in residential areas became evident. Populations shifted and “Negro” occupancy west of Western Avenue began to have–an effect on exclusively monoculture congregations that had been located in the Crenshaw district and surrounding areas. Rev. Dr. Hampton B. Hawes continued to lead the congregation in building the foundation of a strong and fundamental religious force until his retirement in 1958. Before his retirement, a special representative committee, under the direction of the Session, began the negotiations for the present church home. With the somewhat reluctant cooperation from the Los Angeles Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., the acquisition of the present location, 2230 West Jefferson Boulevard, became a reality in 1948. In 1949 the new and expanded ministry began in the “new ‘ethnically virgin’ territory”, west of Western Avenue. Acquisition of another home site for the congregation became one of the most notable achievements under the leadership of Rev. Dr. Hawes.
In 1959, Reverend James E. Jones, a young graduate of Lincoln University with pastoral experience from St. John’s Presbyterian Church in Detroit, Michigan, accepted the call to lead the congregation into what was to become perhaps, the most socially turbulent times of postwar years. His challenged the membership to take seriously and remember, “The windows of Westminster look out upon all the avenues of the world.” Motivated by this thoughtful challenge of outreach, the Westminster members began the first multiethnic ministry in the Synod of Southern California and the Los Angeles Presbytery. Giant strides in the fields of public education and social services resulted 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. Recognize the conditions; know that God s our help, and then understand that God calls His people to the work of reconciliation toward salvation of all humankind. After a pastor-people relationship of nearly 26 years, the Reverend Dr. James E. Jones retired and was 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. He reemphasized bringing compassionate comfort to the less fortunate at home and abroad and the responsibility of the church toward suffering humanity.
Reverend David Morris (grandson of Rev. Dr. Hampton B. Hawes and great-grandson of Rev. Robert Holman), Associate Pastor, joined with Rev. Brown in tackling unprecedented challenges and changes within and outside of the congregation and surrounding community. Under the combined leadership Westminster moved forward in the purchase of land to build a senior housing complex, and put into play the building of bridges of communication with other congregations and denominations. Rev. David Morris 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 2001. Reverend Glenn L. Jones was called to serve as pastor for an interim period in 2001 after Rev. Oliver Brown left and the church searched for a permanent pastor. He brought a strong commitment for studying the scriptures, and worshipping God with all of our talents. As pastor in our centennial year, he emphasized reconciliation: being reconciled to each other; to ourselves, and ultimately to God. Rev. Glenn L. Jones enhanced our worship through his talents, love for music, praise and worship of God. His strong dimension of spirituality helped and continues to move the church forward.
Westminster called the Reverend Virginia Brown in 2006 as Designated Pastor. She served as Westminster’s first female pastor. Under her leadership, Westminster continued to work through the unprecedented challenges of the new millennium; trying to meet the spiritual and social needs of the congregation and community.
The Reverend Dr. Charles Marks served as interim pastor from October 1, 2011 through March 31, 2014. He led the congregation with enthusiasm and spiritual integrity. Under his leadership the congregants started to embrace more fully its mission statement: In all we do and say let us: Glorify the Triune God – Prepare and Nurture Disciples – Serve beyond the walls of the church locally and globally.
On April 1 of 2014, The Rev. Carlton A. Rhoden began his pastoral leadership at Westminster. After a year, because of his forward-reaching approach to ministry and the synergetic relationship with the congregation, Rev. Carlton A. Rhoden was called and installed as Permanent Pastor.
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 establishment of the Westminster Presbyterian Church website were all established priorities and signs that Westminster is continuing efforts to live its mission.