A dialogue with the members of  Westminster Presbyterian Church, "the Oldest African American Presbyterian Church west of the Mississippi",  and the community's advocates for African American musical preservation, continuity and heritage.

Dr. Hansonia Caldwell, Moderator

Westminster Presbyterian Church
2230 W. Jefferson Blvd., Los Angeles

Saturday, October 16, 2004
10 AM - 12 NOON
Rev. Glenn L. Jones, Pastor
Dr. Gwendolyn Wyatt, Director of Music
Anthony L.V. Kendrick, Organist

AGENDA

  • An Aural Moment in African Diaspora Sacred Music History from the holdings of The Georgia and Nolan Payton Archive of Sacred Music
  • Introductions & Acknowledgements
  • Introducing the Georgia and Nolan Payton Archive of Sacred Music and The National Endowment for the Humanities Grant
  • A Preliminary Report to the Community – Jubilee Day at Dorsey High School
  • Introducing Westminster Presbyterian Church – Music, Musicians and History
  • Dialogue: Perspectives on Oral History and Preservation Efforts – A Town & Gown Imperative – Review of the Survey Document. Westminster Presbyterian Church Music Elders; Community and CSUDH student ethnographic archive liaisons; ADSM Board members

A Brief History Of Westminster Presbyterian Church

In October, 1904, a small contingent of worshippers grouped together for the purpose of organizing the first Negro Presbyterian Church in the western regions of the United States. The denomination was warmly received in Los Angeles. We learned that, on a Sunday afternoon the then Presbytery of Los Angeles gathered pioneering Christians in an assembly, which, in time became the Westminster Presbyterian Church.

Westminster’s first place of worship was located on the northeast corner of west 35th Place and Denker Avenue, in an area that was sparsely populated. Under the leadership of the Presbytery, which was instrumental in establishing the first pastorate of Westminster, the Reverend Robert W. Holman was installed as spiritual leader of the fledgling assembly, consisting primarily of those who came to Los Angeles with educational backgrounds acquired in Presbyterian schools located in the South. The slow process of introducing and building a viable congregation of Christian witnesses began.The Westminster congregation grew, and the need for a new pastor became evident. A call was extended through established Presbyterian procedures, and Reverend Hampton Barnett Hawes, a product of Presbyterian schools, was invited to provide ministerial leadership to Westminster. Reverend Hawes, a man of exemplary Christian character, served Westminster for 45½ years, establishing a tenure -of-service un equaled in the history of local Presbyterian churches. During the four decades of Reverend Hawes’ pastorate, which embraced the Great Depression, World Wars 1 and 11, recessions, epidemics, job discrimination, school segregation, and injustices within the church at large, Westminster experienced steady growth, and became a “spiritual anchor” to the Christian community. The spiritually impeccable Reverend Hawes led Westminster to new heights, and because of his powerful, profound ministry, he received an Honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Occidental College. One of his notable achievements was the acquisition of a new homesite for the congregation. Westminster’s present location was obtained after working through a maze of entanglements imposed by the community regulations and the United Presbyterian Church. Growth in membership continued, and until his retirement in l958, Dr. Hawes led the church in building the foundation of a strong and fundamental religious force.In 1959, Westminster selected Reverend James E. Jones, a graduate of Lincoln University with pastoral experience from St. John’s Presbyterian Church in Detroit to succeed Reverend Hawes. His challenge to the church was to “remember that the windows of Westminster look out upon all the avenues of the world.” As a result, Westminster began the first multi-ethnic ministry in the Synod of Southern California and the Los Angeles Presbytery, bringing also an ever expanding membership and an increasingly dynamic Christian witness. After a relationship of nearly 26 years, Dr. Jones retired, and was named Pastor Emeritus by his successor, Reverend Oliver Brown.Reverend Brown came to Westminster from a pastorate in New Jersey. He emphasized the responsibility the church has to humanity, and was instrumental in building bridges of communication with other congregations, denominations, and the community. He personally entered into cultural exchanges, and gave renewed impetus to youth ministries. He served as pastor for 13 years before resigning in the year 2000.

The church is now uplifted and inspired by the pastorate and musical talents of the Reverend Glenn Jones, who was appointed as Supply pastor in March, 2002. He brings, in addition to his pastoral acumen, an enhanced musical ministry. Our journey of faith goes forward—imbued with joy and a pledge to reach out to the “all of the avenues of the world.”

The Musicians of Westminster Presbyterian Church

Over the years, many musicians have served Westminster Presbyterian Church.  The Sanctuary Choir has been led by Louise Bratton, Jacqueline Broussard, Charles Dickerson, Herman Jones, Ursula Murrell, Keith Nevels, Charles Peters, Earl Raines, James Williams, and Dr. Gwendolyn Wyatt. The Gospel Choir has been led by Douglass Gibbs and Anthony Kendrick. The Children’s Choir has been led by Dolores Hammond, Philura Williams, and Arvis Jones. The Saxophone Quintet, The Gospel Reeds, was led by Edwin Stanfield and Louis Collins throughout the 1970s. The soloists have included Jacqueline Broussard, Lillie Telfair Davis, Owen Dean, Dorothy Grayson, John Grayson, Grace Jones, Charles Peters, Gladys Wilson Sharp, and Rosemary Stewart. The church organists have included James Calhoun, Jonathan Collins, Amanda Coulter, and Anthony Kendrick.

csudh logo WhiteThe African Diaspora Sacred Music & Musicians Program (ADSMM) is an archiving, research and performance program of the California State University Dominguez Hills Music Department , implemented in partnership with the Africana Studies Department and the University Library . The program is multidimensional, and includes the Georgia and Nolan Payton Archive of Sacred Music, the Dominguez Hills Jubilee Choir, and the African Diaspora Sacred Music and Musicians Network & Forum.

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