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Westminster Presbyterian Church 
Dream Turned Into Reality


 
 

God Builds No Churches  by Edgar Guest

God builds no churches.  By His plan 
That labor has been left to man.
No spires miraculously arise;
No little mission from the skies
Falls on the bleak and barren place
To be a source of strength and grace,
The humblest church demands its price
In toil and human sacrifice.
 

Architect's Rendition
Architect's Rendition of New Sanctuary

  

A Dream Turned into Reality

The dream of a second Presbyterian Church in Medford was on the mind of D. Kirkland West not long after he was called in 1950 as pastor of First Presbyterian Church. He had been a missionary in China before and after World War II.  Not long after arriving in Medford, West became chairman of the National Mission Committee for Southwest Oregon Presbytery.
 
In 1951, in his own name, with his own funds and on the recommendation of a representative of the Board of National Missions, he bought six and one-half acres of land for possible future use as a church site. It was near the intersection of Crater Lake and Grandview Avenues.

Between 1951 and 1998, not everything worked out as envisioned. But other events for this congregation on Medford's east side have been more than the founders could have imagined at the time they launched a new Presbyterian Church. 
 
Consider the opportunities presented to John Dellenback, a charter member and then a lawyer practicing in Medford.  Before he returned to retire in Medford, Dellenback had a chance to serve as director of the U.S. Peace Corps from 1975 through 1977 and later to provide leadership for World Vision, the Christian humanitarian organization which is on the front lines ministering to the hungry and sick at many locations around the globe.
 
Consider also opportunities unfolding for Matt Singley, a young man who grew up in the congregation and learned mission through youth group Mexican work.  In 1998, at age 24 Singley returned to Mexico as he has in years since graduating from high school.  He is one of the primary leaders in a dynamic project which changes lives for participants while providing testimony of Christ's love to a village hundreds of miles distant from Medford.
ยท 
In the Rogue Valley towns and in the global community, the first 40 years of Westminster Presbyterian Church became a story of people taking very seriously the direction to "Go ye into all the World, and preach my Gospel" -Matthew 28:19
 
Kirk West's first try at expanding Medford Presbyterianism didn't work.
 
The site was abandoned.  It was in the Medford airport approach zone.  Robert A. Brewer, clerk of session for First Presbyterian, said in a report to the congregation that the coming use of "jet planes would make it (the Grandview site)... undesirable or hazardous. "   Grandview Avenue was history by 1955 when Brewer's report summarized consideration and abandonment.   West had already found another east Medford location and needed only fins supporters to make the dream their own.
 
West had a history of reaching out to Medford's expanding east side. He also gained a reputation early in his ministry by going where the unchurched were, which included the bastion of the eastside's social scene in those days. Brian Mullen recalls the worship services West held early Sunday morning in the locker room of Rogue Valley Country Club, reaching "the guys who were not going to church but were going to play golf."
 
Beck/Bismark Property
Beck/Bismark Property
 
The present six acre site at the end of Glen Oak Court at Groveland and Oakwood was purchased in 1953 by an unnamed person and Elder George Flanagan for $45,000.  It took several years for the second church movement to become reality with the new congregation assuming legal responsibility for the property.  During that time it remained a farm and grazing area south of established east Medford neighborhoods.
 
Herb J. Grey's family in 1942 moved to 42 S. Barneburg, across from the Oakwood site. "The country was barely inhabited," he said. "The east side of Barneburg, beyond East Main was developed. From Oakwood south were mud trails." 
 
The property was owned by Carl Bismark Sr. After he died, his widow married Fred Beck.. Grey recalls that most of the buildings were constructed after the end of Word War II, probably in 1945-46. A frame house, now the Scout Building was remodeled from a surplus structure moved to the site from Camp White. Bismark first lived in the block house.  It was demolished to make way for the present anctuary.  He created a stock pond where the south parking lot is, supplying it with water from the artesian well which is also covered by the samctuary foundation.  The Youth Building was the barn. The rest of the site was pasture, some irrigated with an artesian well that was later capped. 
 
Flanagan purchased the property from Mrs. Beck.  Synod of Oregon guaranteed the loan to buy the land from Flanagan on the condition that  Westminster would be an "Honor Church"  for ten years.  That meant giving at least one-third of annual income to mission each year which helped replenish the Synod Loan Fund.   Westminster made its guarantee for two years, and when it appeared the goal would not be met the final year a member made up the difference to complete the obligation. 
Trimming the Trees Records at First Presbyterian indicate the site was approved and a fund-raising drive launched in 1954.  But by 1955 all was on hold as Protestant denominations sorted out policy on how to best serve the growing east side of Medford. The Presbyterians, with land in hand, did a bit of work while the debate waged in Medford and elsewhere.
 
A series of work parties in 1958-59 readied the land for construction. Stewart Milne recalls that all of Bismark's fence posts were set in concrete; it took hours of work with a truck to pull the posts. Milne says he and Bud Pedley disposed of the concrete chunks on the site, and with a smile declined to say where. With Mel Lattie, an orchardist, loaning ladders and pruning saws, crews of men methodically trimmed dead wood and mistletoe from the oak trees growing on much of the lot.

 

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