Our History – The First Fifty Years
Westminster Presbyterian Church gathered under the leadership of the Rev. David Currie on February 22, 1947, with 33 enthusiasts who were members of two Austin Presbyterian churches – First Southern (now Central Presbyterian) Church and University Presbyterian Church. On Monday, February 24, the first service was held at the Church of the Good Shepherd which had graciously offered its building for midweek services. Sixty-four signatures were on the petition requesting permission of Presbytery to become a new congregation. On March 31, the request was granted and three weeks later, on April 23, Reverend David Currie was installed as pastor of our now 76-member congregation of the Presbyterian Church in the United States.
Groundbreaking for Westminster’s new sanctuary occurred on February 22, 1948, and the dedication was performed on Sunday, September 12, 1948. The membership grew to 255 Presbyterians within two years.
The Rev. Roy Sherrod succeeded Rev. Currie as pastor of Westminster and was installed on May 6, 1951. By early 1952, another 61 members had joined the Church, bringing the total to 312. Westminster’s first decade saw significant growth in membership, ministries, building, and in staff, as educational, music, secretarial, and custodial staff were added as the church grew. During Rev. Sherrod’s ministry, a new educational building was dedicated on May 19, 1957, only months before his departure.
The Rev. Albert Burke ushered in the second decade of Westminster Presbyterian Church and was installed February 16, 1958, as our third pastor. In January 1965, after the General Assembly acted to permit the ordination of women the previous year, five women were ordained as officers of Westminster Presbyterian Church. Serving as Elders were Margaret Gregg and Ruth Fainter. Lou Griffis, Connie Moore, and Betty Pojman were elected as Deacons. That same year, the first associate pastor was called to Westminster. The Rev. Boyd Schlenther joined the Rev. Al Burke in pastoral leadership and was installed as associate pastor in October, just weeks before the subsequent sudden death of Rev. Burke. Reverend Schlenther carried on with his pastoral duties for the next seven months until he accepted a call to another church. The search for our fourth pastor continued until the call of the Rev. Joseph Cochran succeeded on August 13, 1967.
The ministry of the Rev. Cochran spanned seven years and included the leadership of three associate pastors: the Rev. John R. Evans, the Rev. Lonnie Dillard, and the Rev. Bill Woods. Our membership rose to 577 in 1967. Many outreach programs were developed during the next few years, including the beginning of Extend-A-Care Austin.
In March 1976, Rev. Cochran resigned and five months later, the fifth pastor of Westminster was called to begin our fourth decade. The Rev. Dr. Tom Cutting, a professor from Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia, delivered his first sermon on January 16, 1977. During the thirteen years the Rev. Dr. Cutting was pastor, the church grew in membership to more than 700 members and opened the doors of Westminster Presbyterian Day School in the fall of 1977. The Rev. Frank C. Ehman Jr. became the associate pastor in June 1978 and served in ministry along with the Rev. Dr. Cutting and Christian Education Director Linda Tyler. In 1983, Westminster became part of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) when the Presbyterian Church in the United States and the United Presbyterian Church reunited after more than 100 years.
The fifth decade saw the call of the Reverend Laura S. Mendenhall as our first woman pastor. She was installed in March 1991. The Rev. Dr. Mendenhall served the church for nine years until she accepted the call to be the first woman president of Columbia Theological Seminary. Serving with her in pastoral ministry was the Rev. Ehman. Upon his resignation, the Rev. Ronald L. Floyd became associate pastor in August 1994. During the ministry of the Rev. Dr. Mendenhall, the church celebrated its fiftieth anniversary.