Inside the First RP Church of Denver cir.1890
Over its 40-year existence, Westminster Reformed Presbyterian Church has been a “sending” congregation. A brief look at its history will explain why.
In February 1970, a presbytery commission disorganized the Denver RP Church, an inner city church that began in 1890 and enjoyed many fruitful years of ministry before its decline. At the same meeting, the commission called Rev. Paul McCracken to come to the Denver area to begin a new mission work in the growing Denver suburbs. After an initial survey, Paul chose Westminster, a city of 111,000 people northwest of Denver and near the Rocky Mountains, and moved his family here in September 1970.
Paul McCracken with his family cir. 1970
In January 1971, a morning worship service and classes were begun in a local school gymnasium, and about two years later on March 31, 1973, the Westminster Congregation was organized with 36 members.
In 1974, the congregation purchased a large ranch style house along with 6 acres of land on 112th Ave – then a country lane. The three-car garage was converted into a meeting room and the rest of the house was used for classes, fellowship and the pastor’s study.
Over the years this church-house became a home for many people, not only for those who attended the meetings of the congregation, but also for various singles, married couples who needed assistance, and even a Laotian Hmong refugee family.
Bob & Cheryl Hemphill cir.1991
In 1995, the congregation set forth on a building project, which lasted for 7 years and culminated in a new building dedicated in 2003. We now have a strategic location along 112th Avenue – now a busy thoroughfare – and a thriving community college and city library next door.
Paul McCracken pastored us for 16 years from 1970 to 1986; Marty Wilsey for five years through 1990; Bob Hemphill for 16 years through 2006; and after a two-year period without a pastor, Shane Sapp ordained and installed as our pastor on April 22, 2009.
Pastor Shane Sapp, his wife Kelly, their children Grover and Clementine
So, why a “sending” congregation? Well . . .
Westminster began an extension work in Colorado Springs in 1981, centering around the Bob Mann and Bob Wager families, who had been active members of Westminster. Soon the congregation was organized and in 1986, Paul McCracken left Westminster to become the pastor in Colorado Springs. Today, the “Springs RP Church” is a thriving congregation of 165 people, with remaining ties to Westminster as our first “daughter” congregation.
As our second outreach, in 1999 services began in Longmont, a city of 86,000 about 40 minutes north of Westminster. In 2003, the Salt and Light RP Church was organized. Westminster contributed three elders, a deacon and several seed families to this daughter congregation. Former Westminster pastor, Marty Wilsey, was subsequently called to be Salt and Light’s first (and current) pastor.
Pastor Bob Hemphill and his wife, Cheryl, moved from Westminster to Laramie, Wyoming in 2007 to start a new work there under the oversight of Midwest Presbytery. Westminster and Longmont both supported this effort with financial help and with members attending services there on a rotating basis. In January of this year, the Laramie RP Fellowship was organized as a mission church with 19 charter members.
While it is true that God is the One who calls His servants to pastor new churches, Westminster has played a role on the “sending” side of the equation by providing many of our members and all three of our former pastors (Paul McCracken, Marty Wilsey and Bob Hemphill) to minister in and pastor the three outreach congregations in Colorado Springs, Longmont and Laramie respectively.
We praise God for his work among us over the last 40 years – really the last 120 years – starting with the former Denver congregation and now extending His church up and down the Rocky Mountain Front Range; and we look forward to the ways he will guide, bless and use us in the days to come.
~ Elder John Duke
(Adapted from an RP Witness article published in 2010)