125 Years

Westminster Presbyterian Church is a designated Texas Historic Landmark that traces its roots to the first Protestant minister to preach on Texas soil. This year marks Westminster’s 125th year of worship in Nacogdoches, Texas.

Join us as we trace our roots with upcoming stories marking our outreach efforts in the past 125 years!

Have a story to share? Please send a message to wpc4u@suddenlinkmail.com.

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Support of charities and missions is an important part of what we do at Westminster Presbyterian Church. We encourage our members to be involved in a wide variety of mission projects in our community, including programs like Project Belize.

Project Belize is a non-proft corporation founded more than 30 years ago in Nacogdoches, Texas. Each year the agency sends a group of doctors, nurses, and volunteers to Belize. The group provides medical treatment to approximately 1,000 people living in the remote villages. The group has also welcomed several nursing students from SFASU, providing them with an excellent experience in cross cultural primary health care.

Prior to the 2018 trip, Westminster members met with more volunteers to help portion and pack medical supplies for the trip. 

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We encourage our members to be involved in a wide variety of mission projects in our community, including programs like Nacogdoches HOPE. 

Nacogdoches HOPE (Helping Other People Eat) is a non-profit organization that serves Nacogdoches area families in need. This Nacogdoches Area United Way partner organization serves around 1,000 people each month in conjunction with the East Texas Food Bank. Westminster members host an annual food drive for the program and serve as volunteers on site and on the organization’s board. 

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Westminster Presbyterian Church Youth are working with Love INC of Nacogdoches and Austin Heights Baptist Church together to gather food for Summer Meals in the Park.

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The Old Stone Fort was erected in 1779 (plus or minus a year) by Nacogdoches militia commander Antonio Gil Y’Barbo; and yes, our own Amanda Y’Barbo Perdue is a direct descendant of Commander Y’Barbo.

Though the Old Stone Fort at times had a military purpose it was never actually a fort. The original building, which was first located in downtown Nacogdoches, served the community in many ways. Commander Y’Barbo used the building as a mercantile and it was called the Stone House. In 1806 the building housed an import-export business that catered to indigenous tribes of the area. Over time the structure housed various government offices.

In 1826 the Old Stone Fort was seized by the Anglo population of Nacogdoches during the Fredonia Rebellion. The building has been used as a residence, a courthouse and for other commercial endeavors.

There was a time in 1836, shortly after Texas won its independence, when the Old Stone Fort was used for a Presbyterian Sunday School. The Sunday School was established by Sumner Bacon a newly ordained pastor in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Pastor Bacon moved to Texas in 1828 bringing Bibles and religious tracts, which were illegal at the time, since Texas was to be strictly Roman Catholic. Shortly after the Battle of San Jacinto, Pastor Bacon started the Sunday School.

The original structure was demolished in 1902, but some of the original stones were preserved. In 1936 a replica was built as part of Roosevelt’s “New Deal” work programs to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Texas. This replica was built on the the campus of Stephen F. Austin State College.

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In 1838, Richard Overton Watkins took over the responsibility for the Presbyterian Sunday School that was once housed in the Old Stone Fort. He continued leading the school and in 1840 Rev. Watkins became the first Protestant minister to be ordained on Texas soil. Rev.Watkins lived on a farm four miles north of Nacogdoches. In 1849 the Sunday School disbanded, and it would be 37 years before Presbyterians would organize again in Nacogdoches, Texas.

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Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s off to Mo they go!

Mo-Ranch​ has served as a Hill Country retreat center since 1949. This week visitors are enjoying the Mo-Ranch/PAM 2018 Worship and Music Conference. The 2018 theme is “Building a bigger table for the people of God.”

It’s wonderful to make space at your table for others, but at this conference people are exploring what it means to BUILD a table that accommodates and welcomes everyone. Facing challenges seen and unseen – ability, race, socio economic status, orientation, the list goes on… Each of God’s children are welcome and wanted.

As Westminster Presbyterian Church​ celebrates 125 years in Nacogdoches, Texas​, we echo this belief and invite ALL to come to the table. We have a space just for you!

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Westminster Presbyterian Church has a rich history of helping those in need. During World War I the church led Nacogdoches County’s war savings stamps campaign.

First issued in November 1917, the U.S. Treasury Department produced War Savings Stamps to help defray the financial cost of the United States’ involvement in WWI (estimated at nearly $32 billion). War Savings Certificates were interest-earning stamps that grew in value from the starting purchase price of $4.12 to $5 at maturity (January 1, 1923). Participants unable to purchase the $5 certificates outright, could save toward the larger stamp 25¢ at a time by collecting “Thrift” stamps in a bifold savings card (similar to current day grocery stamp saver programs). The WWI program raised about $0.93 billion and was lauded as a program that taught Americans the importance of saving every penny.

Today Westminster members continue to save their pennies. Collected dollars and cents are donated each Christmas Eve in a noisy, but gracious goodwill offering. The 2017 collection could be counted as 256,100 pennies, which added up to a donation of $2,561 for Nacogdoches H.O.P.E.

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“We have a powerful message to share, but does the message get lost somewhere between our own concerns, and standing up for our rights over and above those who are marginalized?” – Active Seeking, Westminster Presbyterian Church Pastor Steve Newton, Acts 1:1-11

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Westminster Presbyterian Church stresses music ministry, both in worship and in the community.  The choir, directed by Dr. Debbie Dalton, performed a beautiful anthem arranged by John Rutter on June 10, 2018.

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We believe that ministering to the hearts and minds of our congregation is one of the most important things we do at Westminster Presbyterian Church.

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Decades after meeting for Sunday School in the Stone Fort, Presbyterians reorganized in Nacogdoches. Famed architect Diedrich A. Rulfs built the church a one-story, rectangular, wood building with a modest facade.

The church later moved, but several of Rulfs’ buildings continue to contribute to the iconic charm of Nacogdoches’ historic downtown.

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Westminster Presbyterian Church moved to the current location – 903 North Street @ Power Street – in 1930.

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A 1936 Centennial bronze plaque marks the current site of Westminster Presbyterian Church as the former homestead of Juan Antonio Padilla. Some annals of Texas history say the birthplace of Padilla is unknown, but the plaque identifies him as “a native of Nacogdoches.”

Padilla served as General Land Commissioner for the state, was an official of the Coahuila and Texas government (historical titles vary), was appointed as a member of the General Council at the start of the Texas Revolution, and he was a friend to Stephen F. Austin.

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Carry on.

Can you identify the background photo?

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Westminster Presbyterian Church was home to Samaritan Counseling Center of Nacogdoches from 1979-2014.

As one of the first Samaritan centers established in the country, Nacogdoches’s Samaritan Counseling Center pioneered a push toward bundling counseling services. The non-profit organization provided quality, cost-efficient counseling, education, and consultation that recognized the inter-relatedness of mind, body, spirit, and community. People called on the center when they were having difficulty dealing with life situations. Therapists helped clients address wide range of issues, including stress-related problems, depression, anxiety, marital problems, and eating disorders.

Jan Rhodes

“The center was started in 1979 and had a really, really illustrious board, including the mayor and all sorts of important people,” said former Executive Director Jan Rhodes. “It was started by a local family, Robert and Elizabeth Kline. He was the manager at NIBCO INC here in Nacogdoches and he was transferred up to Elkhart, Ind., to work in the home office.”

Rhodes said the idea of the Samaritan ministry was established when Kline was in Indiana.

“Mr. Kline was transferred back to Nacogdoches and they brought the idea with them. So it was one of the first Samaritan centers in the entire Samaritan network.”

After providing 35 years of ministry, the Samaritan Counseling Center has closed, but the impact to the mental health of the Nacogdoches community was immense.

Rev. Jim Sparks was church pastor when the Samaritan Counseling Center opened at Westminster.

“Jim often told me (and the interim pastor and then Steve) that the Church saw the Samaritan Center as part of its community outreach.” Rhodes said. “I am forever grateful for the grace Westminster extended to the Samaritan Center.”

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This Loblolly Pine towers in front of Westminster Presbyterian Church at the corner of Powers and North Streets.

Nacogdoches, Texas was recognized with the Tree City USA distinction by the Arbor Day Foundation. Mature trees lining our town’s thoroughfare add to the charm of Nacogdoches, and this tree adds to the beauty of our historic church.

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Childhood hunger is a harsh reality in Nacogdoches. During the school year, some area children rely on school meals as their main source of food. These kids have limited access to nutritious meals during the summertime. Nacogdoches is one of many communities that comes together to fill the critical summer nutrition gap. 

Nacogdoches ISD delivers summer meals to a variety of different sites in the community – parks, apartment complexes, community centers and neighborhood hubs. Meals are provided for children ages 1 to 18 through partnerships with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Texas Department of Agriculture, No Kid Hungry and other program sponsors.

Love INC of Nacogdoches coordinates volunteers to gather additional food donations that help families supplement their pantries for weekend meals. Westminster Presbyterian Church and Austin Heights Baptist Church youth groups partnered in a recent food drive and worked with Love INC to deliver food and share fellowship with families in Briar Forest.

For an interactive map and schedule of 2018 Summer Meals, visit Summerfood.org.

Outreach is an important part of what Westminster Presbyterian Church has brought to Nacogdoches, Texas for the past 125 years. We encourage our members to be involved in our community and appreciate the generosity of those who donated to this service project.

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God’s Word can come to us in a variety of ways—not just through scripture and preaching. God speaks through many means, including music. The choir is intended to be representative of the congregation’s voices rising in praise or petition to God. Similarly, God speaks to us through the music of the choir. So when the choir sings, the people become instruments—instruments of the congregation and/or instruments of God’s Spirit blowing through them to sing the good news.  Follow Westminster Presbyterian Church at facebook.com/westpresnac to see a selection from the anthem on June 17, 2018, with guest director Ron Anderson.

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In 1893, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church organized Main Street Presbyterian Church. The organizing pastor was Rev. B.A. Hodges and the church had 12 charter members: A.J. Murphy, Martha V. Murphy, Mary Ida Murphy, Oscar F. Murphy, F.H. Burk, Ellen J. Burk, Mary Ann Wade, Nancy Vaught, Mary Ann Weaver, Dr. H.G. Long, Mrs. E.E. Long, and Alice C. Hodges.
 
According to the 1896 Biennial Report of the Office of the Texas Secretary of State, A.J. Murphy served as the County Treasurer.
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Lord God of the nations, you have revealed your will to all people and promised us your saving help. May we hear and do what you command, that the darkness may be overcome by the power of your light; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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A #MOment from the 2018 MOPAM Music & Worship Conference @ Mo-Ranch… The theme was “building a bigger table for the people of God.” Tables were decorated during art classes and during worship. Worshipers were invited to write their laments on the tables. The tables were also used for communion.

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The New Colossus
BY EMMA LAZARUS
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Follow Westminster Presbyterian Church at facebook.com/westpresnac to see a video of this anthem, with director Debbie Dalton.

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Westminster Presbyterian Church became part of the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America in 1907 when the Cumberland Church merged with Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

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We are grateful for the opportunity to support organizations like Presbyterian Children’s Homes & Services (PCHAS). PCHAS provides Christ-centered group homes, foster homes, crisis intervention and family preservation programs, and advanced education and after-care to children to families in need.

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Support of charities and missions are an important part of what we do at Westminster Presbyterian Church. We are grateful for the opportunity to help organizations like Brown Family Health Center (formerly Health Horizons).

This full-service family clinic started as a non-profit based organization that provided HIV/AIDS and related services in 12 counties in rural east Texas. The counties included in the service area are Angelina, Nacogdoches, Sabine, San Augustine, Shelby, Tyler, Jasper, Newton, Polk, San Jacinto, Houston and Trinity. Clinic services include dental care, health care evaluation, medical assistance, routine blood work, case management, buddy program, counseling, education and HIV testing, housing and utility assistance, insurance assistance, legal services, support groups, and transportation assistance.

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Goliaths come in all forms:
The disease you just learned about and now need to confront and contend with…
The serious surgery you are facing that understandably makes you afraid…
The loss of your job or the threat of unemployment, which undercuts your confidence and self-esteem…
The never-ending demands of parenting your children…
The loss of a friend, a loved one, a dear one…. “Goliath Never Had a Chance” (1 Samuel 17:10-11, 1 Samuel 17:32-37, 1 Samuel 17:48-49).

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There is a heavy emphasis on mission and many of our members serve Christ as volunteers in various help agencies in Nacogdoches. Many take time to help with other church programs such as Sunday School, youth and fellowship events. There is always a need for help in maintaining our historic building.

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The Presbyterian Church traces its growth and development from a unique group of Christian Churches that were founded on the ideals of the Protestant Reformation, and based on the concept of democratic rule under the authority of God.

The word Presbyterian comes from “presbuteros” the Greek word for “elder.” It refers to the system, in apostolic times, of choosing leaders from among the wisest members of the church.

Pictured (left to right) – 3 of Westminster Presbyterian Church’s 15 Ruling Elders: Terry Kline, Barbara Stump, Terri Moehring, and Teaching Elder (Pastor) Rev. Steve Newton.

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Many Presbyterians give credit to John Knox as the founder of the Presbyterian Church. Knox studied under John Calvin in Geneva and returned to his home in Scotland in 1559 where he established the Presbyterian faith. Soon thereafter, Scottish settlers brought Presbyterianism to Northern Ireland, an important stepping stone on the trail leading to America.

Knox worked closely with colleagues to publish three significant documents in his mission to promote Reformation in Scotland. He helped write the Scots Confession (1560). Knox was the main author of the Book of Common Order (1556-64). Knox also contributed to History of the Reformation of Religion within the Realms of Scotland.

Statue of John Knox in the New College, Edinburgh quad. Photo by Kim Traynor.

Inscription:
JOHN KNOX
1514-1572
ERECTED BY SCOTSMEN WHO ARE MINDFUL OF THE BENEFITS CONFERRED BY JOHN KNOX ON THEIR NATIVE LAND, 1896.

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The congregation of Westminster Presbyterian Church helped found the Nacogdoches Head Start program in 1968. Head Start was a component of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty. Johnson, a former school teacher, believed education is the key to shattering the cycle of poverty.

Head Start played an important role in promoting educational equality. When it began, most states did not offer public kindergartens, and the program aimed to prepare children for first grade. What started in Nacogdoches in a single church classroom has grown to serve more than 670 students in five East Texas counties.

When Charlotte Stokes accepted the position as director in 1977, the program was serving 60 students at Westminster. Under Stokes’ leadership, the organization thrived. Stokes retired in 2005 and the Head Start Center in Nacogdoches was renamed in her honor to the Charlotte Weaver Stokes Complex.

Stokes, the daughter of long-time Nacogdoches NAACP Chapter President Arthur Weaver, was born in Nacogdoches and attended E.J. Campbell School. In the summer of 2010, Stokes was interviewed for the East Texas African American Oral History Project about integration in Nacogdoches schools.Click the link to listen to the interview or read the transcript: http://www.sfasu.edu/heritagecenter/454.asp.

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In 1919, Rev. M.C. Johnson (WPC pastor, 1912-1923) represented Texas at the 131st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the USA. The group “met, according to appointment, in the Odeon, St. Louis, Mo.” [pictured]

Highlights from the meeting:
J. Willis Baer was elected the moderator – the first time in history a layman was chosen as the highest official of the church. (William Jennings Bryan, noted Presbyterian and former US Secretary of State, was mentioned as a possible candidate, but arrived after the election. He spoke and preached at the assembly events.)

Ahead of its time, minutes reveal the Board of Missions for Freedmen offered an example of how the Church was trying to address imbalance in educational opportunities. African American schools such as Harbison Agricultural College in Irmo, South Carolina – “one of the best equipped educational systems possessed by any branch of the [C]hurch with 480 trained teachers, 127 schools and 17,00 students” were funded by the Board.

The minutes also detail discussions about uplift work, women’s suffrage, capital and labor. The Inter Church World Movement and reconstruction in the U.S. and abroad were hot topics that made national headlines. The church also voted to endorse President Woodrow Wilson, a ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church.

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Many of our members serve Christ as volunteers throughout the Nacogdoches community. Nancy Niehaus donated a painting to support SFA Friends of the Visual Arts Scholarships through the 12×12 fundraising event.

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Cunninghamia lanceolata, commonly called China fir, grows well in The Garden Capital of Texas, far from its native forests of China and Taiwan. This mature tree graces the front lawn of Westminster Presbyterian Church at the corner of Powers and North Streets.

Nacogdoches, Texas was recognized with the Tree City USA distinction by the Arbor Day Foundation. Mature trees lining our town’s thoroughfare add to the charm of Nacogdoches, and this tree adds to the beauty of our historic church.

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“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10

Worship is served by many gifts. Music and art were two shared this past Sunday. Click here to view a video excerpt of worship. 

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The first worship service held in the current church building took place on November 23, 1930 under the leadership of its pastor Rev. A.J. Crawford. Rev. Crawford served the church from February 1926 to January 1941, the longest pastorate at the church until that time.

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Pastor Steve Newton has served Westminster for 15 of its celebrated 125 years!

“Oh, how time flies. This past Sunday, July 15, I was with my immediate and extended family, over forty folks in all, celebrating my mother’s 90th birthday. It was a joyful time, to recognize a life that has loved so many people and has had a positive effect on everyone who knows her. I was so focused on that particular event that it completely slipped me that on July 15, 2003, I officially began my ministry at Westminster Presbyterian Church. I now have fifteen years behind me at a church I love, and look forward to year sixteen with hope of meaningful worship, caring community, and productive mission. Oh yes, there is also a lot of good food at fellowship meals. Thanks to all who put up with me, and for the opportunity to serve Christ with the Westminster folks.”
-Steve

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Did you know Fred McFeely Rogers (AKA Mister Rogers) was an ordained Presbyterian minister?

Rev. Rogers earned a Masters of Divinity degree from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and was ordained in 1963. He never served a traditional pastoral role in a church, but was instead charged to continue his ministry with children and their families through the media. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood reached millions of kids across many generations with episodes running from 1968-2001.

John 17:22-23

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