A Brief History of Webster Groves Baptist Church

bldg dedicatBecause of the efforts of two women, Webster Groves Baptist Church now
joyfully celebrates its 90th anniversary serving this community.

In 1913, Mrs. J.F. Lockett and Mrs. F.U. Whitis visited every Baptist in Webster Groves they knew, and found twenty-three willing to meet on March 18, 1913, to discuss the advisability of organizing a Baptist church in Webster. The group decided to start the work as a Mission Sunday School, which would meet every Sunday afternoon, and elected officers.  They were L.E. Stark, superintendent; J.R. Black, assistant superintendent; Everett Pettingill, treasurer; and Mrs. Dora Whitis, organist.

The next Sunday twenty-one persons began this work in the Suburban School of Music, now the Theatre Guild of Webster Groves, on Newport and Summit Avenues. By June 1913, forty persons attended the Sunday school.

The growth and interest made it apparent organization was needed, and on June 20, 1914, a council of the churches of the St. Louis Baptist Association was called to meet with the Webster Groves Baptists and advise about the organization of a church. The meeting was presided over by Rev. S. E. Ewing, St. Louis Baptist Mission Board superintendent. After considerable discussion, this council unanimously endorsed the proposition to organize a Baptist church. After the council adjourned, the Webster Baptists were called to order, and the organization was perfected with a constituent membership of thirty-nine.

About this time, Rev. Joseph Sskwar, a William Jewell College senior, was called to serve as pastor during the summer. The church began to hold regular services, morning and evening, in the Suburban School of Music.

Sometime around August 1913,  Rev Sskwar had to return to college, and Rev. Harold L. Reader was called as pastor.

At the time of the 15th anniversary in 1928, the church membership was nearly 650.

Gradually a building fund was provided, and in 1938 the Board of Finance proposed a plan to raise $10,000, which was accepted by the church. The financial campaign was a success. The church appointed a Building Committee. Mr. C.L. Thurston was chosen as the architect. The beautiful new sanctuary and remodeled building was dedicated February 1941. The Mother’s Memorial pipe organ was presented to the church and later remodeled.

After a record pastorate of 31 years, Dr. Reader closed his work with the church on August 15, 1944. The church called as pastor Rev. Jerry White, who began his work with the church on September 1, 1944. The church had a membership of 840 at this time, with 445 enrolled in Sunday School.

During Rev. White’s pastorate the debt on the new sanctuary and remodeled building was paid, and the property adjacent to the church on the north was purchased and remodeled as a parsonage. Many improvements were made at this time throughout the church. An outstanding one was the refurnishing and redecorating of the church parlor by the Women’s Missionary Council. Rev. White closed his work with the church in January 1956.

The Rev. Gerald E. Young, who had been associated with the church since July 1955 as associate pastor and youth director, was called on September 12, 1956, to serve as pastor. He closed his work in the fall of 1957, when he resumed his college studies.

On October 6, 1957, Rev. G. Elmo Purvis became pastor. A brick parsonage at #3 Girard Drive was purchased in September 1957. In 1958 and 1959 a parking lot was cleared and black-topped. the old parsonage was remodeled in the spring of 1958 to be used as an education building. Purchase of the property adjoining the church on the east, 609 Oakwood in 1960 provided additional educational space and room for future expansion. 

On January 15, 1959, the church, for the first time, ordained deacons. On this occasion twenty-three men were ordained. This number included those who were serving terms as active deacons and others who had previously served. All men serving as deacons were now ordained.

Rev. Paul Smith was called as associate pastor on June 1, 1961. He served in the capacity of Music and Youth Director. During this time the youth program included the second largest camp program in the St. Louis Baptist Association.

The church observed its 50th anniversary in June 1963, and at this time the membership was 591.

The church sponsored its second mission church in 1964 in Butler Hill, which was constituted as a church on September 14, 1969. This was almost 50 years after Webster Groves Baptist Church sponsored the first mission. the Butler Hill church broke ground for its sanctuary on July 31, 1966.

Saddened by the death of Rev. G. Elmo Purvis, May 29, 1972, the church moved onward. Rev. Darrell Atkins served in the interim.

Rev. R. Joe Breshears was called as pastor in February 1973. He served until October 1979. From October 1973 until May 1979, the church provided the community with a pre-school program three mornings a week, called the Christian Day School. Our youth were involved with a puppet ministry under the leadership of Alan Stevens, the music and youth minister.

The basement Sunday School classrooms were remodeled in 1974 and 1975.

When Rev. Breshears left in 1979, the church called Dr. Homer DeLozier as interim pastor. He served one year before Rev. Phillip Hotsenpller was called to pastor in January 1981.

A complete remodeling of the kitchen was finished in April of 1982.

The choir loft and nursery was remodeled in 1983.

When Rev. Hotsenpiller left the pastorate in October 1984, the church called Rev. Jeffrey Vann in September 1985. During this interim period, Rev. William Skasick served as pastor. Rev. Vann served two years, leaving this pastorate to become the first pastor commissioned by the church to serve as a foreign missionary. His commissioning by the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention was held in December 1987.

During the years of 1983-1987, the youth made four mission trips, working in Colorado, Virginia, and South Carolina,. They were led by Rev. Hotsenpiller, Brad Pilkington (music director), Craig Hembree (youth director), Ken Brown (youth co-ordinator) and summer missionaries, John Henderson and Jill Kuykendall.

Rev. Dwight Jackson was called in February 1988, the 75th year of Webster Groves Baptist Church. He came to lead the church after serving as a foreign missionary for seven years in Burundi and Tansania, 1980-87.

The church celebrated its 75th Anniversary on June 26, 1988, and its membership was 218. Seven members made a mission trip to Providence, Rhode Island in July 1989 to build a food pantry, repair an inner city church, and conduct Backyard Bible Clubs at city apartment complexes.

In 1988, WGBC sponsored its third mission church, Glory Baptist Mission. Dr. Randy Dick and a congregation of forty-eight met at the American Legion Hall in Kirkwood and WGBC became the Mission’s sponsor. Over the next year and a half, the mission grew in size and spirit.

After a time both groups felt that a merger might be possible, and on January 28, 1990, the Glory Baptist Mission and Webster Groves Baptist Church voted to merge. The first joint service was held on February 4, 1990. Rev. Dwight Jackson served as senior pastor, Rev. Randy Dick as Associate pastor. Bro. Dick left the church to pastor a church in Pima, Arizona.

Webster Groves Baptist Church has been active in the formation of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the Baptist Fellowship of Missouri. Our congregation is committed to participate in missions.

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