Westminster Presbyterian Church:
On the evening of January 22, 1946, 70 members, including several elders and deacons of the first Presbyterian church of Gainesville, met in the home of Mrs. Annie Scott, 326 S. Denton street. The purpose of the meeting was prayer and discussion concerning how a matter of conscience might be resolved. These members had become very disturbed about the theological liberalism that had been asserted in the denomination since the early 1920's. In more recent years, it had developed into blatant disbelief regarding the infallibility of scripture, the virgin birth of Christ, his miracles, and other essential beliefs of our faith.
At that time in history, there were small Presbyterian denominations that were determined to cling to the "faith of our fathers." Among them was the Reformed Presbyterian Church in St. Louis, MO. A pastor of that church, Dr. Francis Schaeffer, attended the meeting in Mrs. Scott's home. He eloquently addressed the assembly concerning the issues involved. Dr. Schaeffer, in later years, would become the world famous founder of the L'abri fellowship in Switzerland, plus a renowned theologian and Christian writer.
The meeting resulted in the organization of the Bible Presbyterian Church. The church had no regular pastor for almost the entire first year. Ministry in the word was led by their own elders or by supply speakers from Dallas seminary.
The first meeting place was in the chapel of the Leazer-Keel funeral home, at the corner of Grand Avenue and E. California streets. After a very short time, a lease was secured on part of the old Lindsay House Hotel, located at the corner of California and Denton streets. The church was still meeting in that building when, during the autumn of 1946, Dr. Robert G. Rayburn completed his tour of duty in the chaplain corps of the U.S. Army, and was called as the first pastor.
During Dr. Rayburn's ministry, a downtown coffee house mission and a jail mission were instituted. The church purchased the property of the Will Scott estate. The purchase included almost all the land now owned by the church, plus the old two story, frame, Scott mansion and outbuildings. Near the Denton street corner of the lot, behind the wrought iron fence, was a large concrete goldfish pond. An ornamental cast iron water fountain stood in its center. That same fountain now stands in its new pool in the courtyard in front of grace hall. The church met in the Scott mansion for worship and Sunday school.
In 1948, the church purchased a chapel building. It had become surplus when Camp Howze, a large U.S. Infantry training base, northwest of town, closed. The building was moved intact onto its present location at the corner of Scott and Denton streets. A Dallas architect and Gainesville native, Will Scott Richter, donated designs for the front porch, the steeple and other amenities. A local building contractor, Bill Ratcliff, was employed to oversee the improvements, including the foundation and brick veneer.
After the Scott Street church was well established, Dr. Rayburn resigned the pulpit to become involved with teaching and administration in the denomination's educational institutions. He was succeeded by the Rev. Herbert Anderson. During Rev. Anderson's pastorate, the small indebtedness of the sanctuary was retired and the congregation increased in number.
Rev. Anderson was succeeded by the Rev. Nelson Malkus. During rev. Malkus' pastorate, the manse was constructed and the Gainesville Christian Kindergarten was organized. The kindergarten was first envisioned as an interdenominational effort, so the first board of directors included a Baptist and a Methodist. The kindergarten, however, was so blessed with success, the other churchmen resigned in order to form pre-school groups in their own churches. Since that time, the Gainesville Christian Kindergarten has been a ministry solely of our church. (Ed. Note: Gainesville Christian Kindergarten closed upon the retirement of long-time teachers, Louise Thurman Lewis and Jean Tutt at the end of the 1998/99 school year.)
The Rev. Malkus resigned in January, 1957, to go to a new work in Nebraska, and the Rev. Kyle Thurman came in March, 1957. He remained as pastor for thirty-one and a half years, until the Lord called him home. God greatly blessed our church during this time. The church roll exceeded 200 names and the average Sunday school attendance, for many years, exceeded 140. In 1964, the old Scott mansion was demolished and Grace Hall (the new education building) was constructed. Some time later, additional property on N. Denton street was purchased to provide entrance into the paved parking lot. Rev. Thurman had a weekly radio program for many years, and when time became available on the local television cable facility, our Sunday morning worship services began to be televised. Under Rev. Thurman's diligent and devoted leadership, many efforts were undertaken to plant new Reformed and Presbyterian churches. The Texas locations were Sherwood Shores (on Lake Texoma), Denton, Sherman, North Dallas, Lake Whitney and Austin. Other locations were in Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas. Some of these works have borne fruit in abundance.
In 1959, when the Bible Presbyterian Church merged into the Evangelical Reformed Presbyterian Church, our church changed it's name to Westminster Presbyterian Church. When this denomination merged with the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), we were delighted to be a part of a theological environment which maintained the principles and upheld the standards upon which the organizing members firmly stood in 1946. Following the death of the Rev. Kyle Thurman, the Rev. Danny Ketchum assumed the pastoral position. He served until march, 1992. Our last pastor, Dr. Fred F. Guthrie, Jr., Came in November, 1992, and served through February, 1996. He left to join the staff of ark-net, a Christian internet organization in Atlanta, GA.
Our current pastor, Darrell McIntyre, came to us in August 1999. Under his leadership, we are looking forward to continued growth, particularly in our emphasis on god-centered worship, christian education and world-wide missions outreach.
We trust that those who read these pages will become as excited as the present members about continuing and building, through the grace of God and by the power of the Holy Spirit, the work of this church which had its beginning 60 years ago.
Contributed by ruling elder D.J. Murphy