Long ago, in 1874, a young man on a horse stood on the cliff overlooking the Spokane River valley, staring down at what was to become Washington St. in downtown Spokane and wrote in his journal:
“I dismounted and spent several moments enjoying its grandeur and beauty. Here seemed to be the setting of the elements of an ideal city—even a corner of Paradise. To the east and west the panorama of the tranquil and majestic Spokane Valley stretched before me, while beneath lay an extensive pine grove, golden with the wild sunflower, and the ear caught the melodious murmur of the series of waterfalls.”
Henry Cowley was that young man, and Henry and his wife Lucy, with their four children came west and made this land their home and built a school, at the invitation of the Spokane tribe to be their teachers. Henry and Lucy also started the church that we now call Westminster Congregational United Church of Christ.
Westminster has a long history in Spokane as the
oldest church in the city.
Since our humble beginnings, the people who have called Westminster their spiritual home have endured fires, economic disasters, wars, the Baby Boom, the economic high times of the late 20th century and the difficulties of our own days and challenging times! They have known heartache and joy sharing in the ministry of this church, serving both the people of Spokane and one another.
Westminster was founded in 1879 with the principle of openness to all. We recognize that every church struggles to be what Jesus called us to be: loving, welcoming, compassionate, forgiving and justice seeking. But we believe these truths are at the core of this church, ever since 8 Anglo adults and 2 Spokane tribal members chartered the congregation.
Westminster has seen boom and bust. Westminster has grown and has shrunk, and grown again.
In every time period the people who are Westminster have tried to live out love of God and love of neighbor, as Jesus called us to do.
After 134 years we believe we are doing that still. We invite you to join us, come and see for yourself, experience the hospitality, inclusion and welcome that await you in Spokane’s first church.
A Brief History of Westminster
1879 – First Congregational Church chartered in the home of Rev. Henry Cowley.
1881 – First church building built at Sprague and Bernard.
1890-1893 Church building built at present location at 4th & Washington. Westminster Presbyterian merges with First Congregational.
1927 – Major expansion – round turret replaced with two square towers giving the castle appearance.
1963 – Westminster votes to join the newly formed alliance of the United Church of Christ.
1978 – The church is entered into the Washington State National Registry of Historical Buildings.