A Brief History of Westminster


On the last Wednesday in September of 1964, a group of interested West Knoxvillians met to discuss the possibility of establishing a new Presbyterian church in the Lyons Bend area. Meeting with this group were Dr. J. Witherspoon Dunlap, Secretary of the Church Extension of Knoxville Presbytery (U.S.), and Frank Slagle, an elder in the Gatlinburg Presbyterian Church. Thereafter, Wednesday night services were held in various homes in this area. The following names were suggested for our church: John Knox, John Calvin, Riverside, Fellowship, Lakeview, Providence, Northshore, and Westminster.

On November 14, 1964, at Rocky Hill School on Morrell Road, a new Sunday School and Preaching Point for this area were organized. Dr. Dunlap acted as organizing pastor, and Miss Bessie Mae Stribling, Synod's Church Extension Worker, assisted him by conducting a survey and visiting more than 900 homes in the area. During this period Sunday School began at 9:30 a.m. and a morning Worship Service at 10:45 a.m.

The Steering Committee requested on December 8, 1964, that a petition be circulated to organize a new Presbyterian church. On Sunday, December 20, at the morning Worship Service, a special offering was received to purchase our church lot (5.5 acres at that time).

Westminster Presbyterian Church was the name chosen, and with Ruling Elders, Board of Deacons, and Trustees elected, the new church was officially organized at 4:00 p.m. on February 7, 1965, at Rocky Hill School. With the petition submitted to the Knoxville Presbytery were 88 names. Westminster closed its charter membership roll on Easter Sunday with 98 names, the largest such charter membership in the history of Presbytery.

It was also on Easter Sunday, April 18, 1965, that William C. Mounts accepted the call to become the first pastor of Westminster. (Mr. Mounts was born in Dallas, Texas, and was educated at Columbia Theological Seminary.) On June 13, Dr. Dunlap, whose assistance and leadership had been the foundation of Westminster, served his last Sunday as organizing pastor, and Mr. Mounts conducted his first service as our new pastor on July 4.

A Building for the New Church

By the end of May in 1965, the congregation had already elected the Building Planning Council. Six months later this committee enthusiastically reported that over half of their goal of $250,000 had been secured in pledges from the cvongregation (21 families) and a grant from the Home Missions Committee. The following February the plans for the building were unveiled by the architect, Bruce McCarty. The ground-breaking ceremony was held three months later, on May 15, 1966, as a continuation of the morning Worship Service on the church property.

On Christmas Eve of 1966, Westminster Presbyterian Church opened its doors for our first service in the newly built chapel. In the short period of only sixteen months, this church had been conceived, nurtured, and born into a reality!

The building complex thus began with a chapel (designed to have a dual function as chapel/fellowship hall once the sanctuary was built), connected by a covered cloister to the office and educational building. (A drawing of the entrance to the cloister is Westminster's logo, which is encountered throughout this Web site.) The McKinnon Room and kitchen wing were added in 1978.

The Catharine Marsh Memorial Organ was introduced on Easter Sunday of 1969. For twenty-seven years the Marsh Organ was used for Sunday worship services, then held in the chapel, and this lovely instrument continues to be used there for small weddings and memorial services, as well as for other special services.

The New Sanctuary

The new sanctuary, built when the congregation outgrew its worship space, was dedicated in May of 1996. The architect was again Bruce McCarty. Like the chapel, the sanctuary is rectangular in shape, with a high ceiling and high clerestory windows. The organbuilders, Richards, Fowkes, and the acoustician, Richard Boner, collaborated with the music staff and the Design and Construction Committee of the church to effect resonance and clarity in the room that would benefit all aspects of worship, including music. The heavy wall construction and coffered ceiling of thick plaster are integral parts of this design.

The magnificent organ in the sanctuary, Richards, Fowkes and Company's Opus 7, was installed and voiced beginning in September of 1998 and was dedicated on May 2, 1999, with a recital given by Robert Clark, who had served as the consultant. The sound of the 33-rank instrument (25 stops on two manuals and pedal) is inviting and enveloping, inspiring us all to do our best hymn singing as we worship the Lord.

The New Connector

In the summer of 2004, the new wing connecting the sanctuary with the original building was dedicated. The "New Connector" contains the Schilling Gallery (named for our Minister Emeritus, Fritz Schilling, who retired in 2004) and new offices for the staff. This building phase also included a new kitchen, the front plaza and beautiful waterfall, and the columbarium with a perennial garden. The architect for the new wing, as for the original building and the new sanctuary, was Bruce McCarty.


Rev. William C. Mounts (August 1965 to September 1973)

Rev. Richard Paddon (Interim)

Rev. D. Cameron Murchison, Jr. (June 1974 to July 1977)

Rev. Dr. John McKinnon (Interim)

Rev. James L. Carter (April 1978 to September 1984)

Rev. Don Brandon (Interim)

Rev. Dr. Friedrich Schilling, Jr. (September 1985 to August 2004)

Rev. Eade Anderson (Interim)

Rev. Dr. Buran F. Phillips (February 2006 to the present)

Associate Pastors

Rev. Emily Townes Durham (July 1986 to June 1988)

Rev. Christina Berwanger Carrasco (October 1999 to May 2008)

Choir Directors and Organists

Paul Faulkner, Choir Director (February 1967 to March 1969)

William Brice, Organist and Choirmaster (April 1969 to July 1981)

Peter J. Van Eenam, Organist and Choirmaster (November 1981 to the present)

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