Our Story

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As a dynamic faith community that has grown and changed over time, we have been writing the history of Westminster Presbyterian Church in the heart of Grand Rapids, Michigan for 160 years. Founded in 1861, we are a diverse congregation drawn from all parts of the metropolitan area. With over 1,200 members, we are a community of Christians committed to worshiping God, serving Christ through mission in our local community and world, and listening for the Spirit’s transforming movement in our midst. We are a member congregation of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Presbytery of Lake Michigan.

1861

A few months after the beginning of the Civil War, the Grand River Presbytery discerned a need for a Presbyterian church on the east side of the Grand River. Westminster Presbyterian Church began with twenty-five members from the First Presbyterian Church located across the river on Bridge Street. They asked Rev. Courtney Smith to become their first pastor and to help them found Westminster. Rev. Smith was known as an intellectual and a revivalist, characteristics that influenced the founding and personality of Westminster.

Westminster Presbyterian Church A.D. 1885 plaque
Old black and white photo of sanctuary

1867-1885

Their first church home was a rented facility, followed by a newly constructed building on the corner of Division and Lyons in downtown Grand Rapids. This served our congregation from 1867 until we moved to our current site in 1875. A chapel was constructed and the plans for a new sanctuary were developed by architect D.S. Hopkins. The new sanctuary was completed ten years later in 1885. This is the sanctuary that we worship in today.

1920 to Today

Westminster places social justice as a primary emphasis of the gospel’s demand. At least twice in our history, Westminster was offered the opportunity to move from downtown to the suburbs (once in the 1920s and once in the 1980s). On both occasions, Westminster stayed downtown to be a part of the community in need. Today, we remain committed to being a downtown church engaged in neighborhood ministries and seeking justice in partnership with a diverse array of institutions.

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Bananas and milk crates packed with food

Current Core Missions

Over the years we enlarged our facility—as the little church grew to its current membership. Our strength is in our people; Westminster is a congregation-led community with gifted staff members. We offer three core missions to the community, two of which are located in our downtown facility: the Downtown Food Pantry created in 1990; and the Westminster Child Development Center that began in 1969. Our third core mission, Camp Henry, began in 1937; it is a year-round camp located on Kimball Lake and over two hundred acres in Newaygo, Michigan.

Stained Glass

Westminster is home to twenty-three pictorial windows and three non-pictorial stained glass windows. For more information about the individual windows, their images, and their stories, please refer to our page on the Michigan Stained Glass Census.