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In 1883, Elizabeth McKinney and Rev. James Bruce, of First Presbyterian Church (then located at Main and Madison), initiated discussion of planning a Sunday School in a new residential area west of Sheridan Road, then the Peoria City limit. The Westminster Sabbath School was first located at Russell and Garfield. The school grew and prospered, and in 1884, relocated to the site where Dingledine Music Building of Bradley University now sits.
Years later, the members of the Sabbath School petitioned the Peoria Presbytery to form a new congregation. The petition was granted and Westminster Presbyterian Church was organized with 24 members on June 1, and incorporated on June 18, 1897.
Mrs. Elizabeth Griswold, who had an interest in the small congregation, bequeathed land on the western end of her farm on Moss Ave. She instructed that a church be built there, not to be a monument to her, but rather to be for the purpose of continuing God’s work in a church – like edifice.
The construction of Westminster Presbyterian Church was concluded in 1898. The architect, Herbert Hewitt, designed an English Gothic structure with Norman spire. Other than periodic upgrades, this church remained unchanged until 1985 when it was destroyed in a fire.
Until the new sanctuary was built, worship services were held in the fellowship hall of the William R. O’Neill Parish House across the street. The Parish House was constructed on the property sold to the church by the Wilson family in 1953. The architect of that building was Westminster member, Cletis Foley.
The current church was completed and dedicated in April 1989. The architect of the new building was Ben Weese, a member of the Chicago Seven, a first-generation postmodern group of architects in Chicago. The design of the new sanctuary allowed for the placement of the new organ, which gives a visual sense of beauty allowing it to speak directly to the user. The organ was designed and built by Pieter Visser of Visser-Rowland Associates. The acoustical design of the sanctuary lends itself well to live music and presentations.
Throughout the history of Westminster Presbyterian Church, the congregation has always been thankful for the heritage of God’s servants who have been faithful to the call of worship, fellowship, nurture, compassion, and its missions.
Reference: History of Westminster Presbyterian Church of Peoria, Illinois; R. M. Munns and T. H. Kent
“Why am I a member of Westminster Presbyterian Church? Two words keep floating up in a rather persistent way – “home” and “family” – and I realized that it is an inescapable fact that is what this church means to me. During my 40 years here, so many life events have happened and Westminster has been there for me through all those times – good and bad. It has been my home and family. They say “home is where the heart is” and I’ve found the heart of Westminster to be as open and warm as a family’s!”