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Westminster: Echoes of Faith and History

Celebrating a 25-year legacy | The congregation gathers at a reception to pay its respect to Anthony Kendrick, the Westminster organist who played for 25 years.
Strong Foundations | Westminster Presbyterian Church stands on 2230 W. Jefferson Blvd and is the oldest African-American Presbyterian church on the West coast.
Jefferson Library: A Home with a History Jefferson Library: A Home with a History
The Jefferson Branch Library is the only structure along Jefferson Boulevard featured on the National Register of Historic Places. The building, with its rich history, was frequented by distinguished members of the African-American community while they were growing up. Today, the library remains a second home to the children in the Jefferson Park area.
Murals Bring Life and Color to Jefferson Murals Bring Life and Color to Jefferson
The murals along Jefferson Blvd. not only beautify the community, but they also bring community members together through the messages and feelings they set out to portray. In placing their unique images on the wall, the artists behind the murals, many of whom grew up or have spent a lot of time in the community, turned old buildings into bright, meaningful spectacles.
Harold & Belles: Gather, Greet and Grub Harold & Belles: Gather, Greet and Grub
Harold & Belle’s is a Creole restaurant on Jefferson that serves as a local hangout for people who have lived in the community for years. The restaurant was opened by Harold and Belle Legaux in 1969 and is still owned and run by the same family.

By Anita Little

Reverend Brown hums softly to herself as she sits behind the thick mahogany desk of her upstairs office, writing her next inspiring sermon. Mementos and keepsakes from years gone by clutter her workspace, a sliver light being tossed on them by an open window.

“How long we’ve been here,” she repeats, giving a short pause.

“Well, I’ll figure it’s been a hundred, no…105 years,” Brown finished with a nod and a smile.

The history is in the walls when you walk into Westminster Presbyterian Church. From the black and white photos of former reverends in the foyer to the antiquated paintings of black saints in the meeting hall, the building is imbued with the experiences of past generations.

Westminster Presbyterian has played an influential role in the history of the Jefferson Park community and has been a staple of South Los Angeles since it was founded in 1904.

The church had rough beginnings. South Los Angeles has always been known as a hub of racial tensions and the Jim-Crow era of which the church established its humble roots proved to be a challenge.

“Before we moved to our current location on Jefferson Blvd, we were located at Denker and 35th until the late 1940s. Back then, the area was a mostly white neighborhood and after World War II, it became even more upper class,” said Brown.

This presented problems for the predominantly black congregation. When they attempted to buy more land across the street for their growing church, they were met with fierce opposition from the white community and finally, to reach their dreams of expansion, they moved. They chose Jefferson Boulevard specifically since, at that time, the area was underdeveloped and “ethnically virgin.”

“The church finally found a nice neighborhood over here in Jefferson Park. So the congregation left 35th and Denker and carried everything, chairs, tables and equipment, and walked all the way over here to our new home,” said Janice Prenner, a parishioner has attended the church since 1955.

“Would have been a sight to see. A long street parade of people carrying white lawn chairs and bibles down Jefferson.”

Westminster Presbyterian has remained at its current location since it made the move in 1949, becoming a respected institution in community through its charity drives and neighborhood outreach programs. The values, the traditions and the people stayed the same at Westminster, but the “ethnically virgin” community around the church did not as the area became increasing black and Latino with the passing decades.

Finally, in 1992, came the race riots.

“It was terrible to see that kind of violence among black Angelenos. For several days, I was glued to my television set, everyone was,” said David Archer, a parishioner since 1992.

The poor race relations and ethnic violence shown in the Rodney King riots pushed Archer to make the change.

“If there is any place where all of us should be united, it’s in our faith. White churches, black churches, Latino churches, it lost meaning to me. We should all be one under God.”

Archer left his former predominantly white church and joined the Westminster congregation.

“When I came here, I wanted to bring people together, and on some level, I feel like I’ve done that. I love these people. They’re family.” said Archer.

“I’ve never looked back.”

A builing with history | Westminster Presbyterian has been a staple of the community since it was founded.

Smiling faces of Westminster | Reverend Virginia Brown, center, stands with two of her parishioners.