The history of Westmoreland Church is a story of action inspired by faith.
The church began in 1886 as Mount Pleasant Congregational Church on Newton Street in Washington, DC. At that time, Mount Pleasant was a village with unpaved streets within the District, remote from the city.
The original membership of nineteen grew rapidly reflecting the expansion of the city of Washington and growth of the Congregational denomination in general. A new building was completed on Columbia Road and 14th Street in 1904 with a gymnasium and bowling alleys – a sign of Westmoreland’s progressive ways.
Westmoreland has had twelve senior ministers. The second, M. Ross Fishburn died at age 42 of typhoid fever.
In 1911, a new organization was formed called the League of Service. It was designed for business and professional women, at that time mainly teachers and government employees, who wanted to contribute but were unable to attend daytime meetings. Again, a forward-thinking way of meeting changing times.
In 1926, Moses R. Lovell, the church’s sixth senior minister decided that the midweek prayer meeting be substituted with field trips to various social agencies to learn more about the needs of the city. About this time the Young People's Forum was launched with great success.
During the Depression, the church worked to find jobs for people. The minister then, Russell J. Clinchy, was instrumental in persuading President Hoover to establish the Emergency Relief Commission, which was the first agency to distribute public funds.
In the late 30s and 40s, as Washington expanded, the church began to think about a new home with more parking in a new neighborhood. In 1943, the church selected its current site on Westmoreland Circle, just across the street from the DC line. Construction began in 1948, delayed due to the unavailability of materials during World War II.
In the meantime, a ramp at the main entrance in Mount Pleasant had been built so that President Franklin D. Roosevelt could attend both the funeral of Secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox, and the wedding of Harry Hopkins, his close friend and advisor.
The new building was completed at a cost of $403,708 which included land, the Western Avenue parsonage, furnishings, etc. The Aeolian Skinner organ was installed in 1957.
Between 1949 and 1955, our church school enrollment increased from 92 to 553, largely a result of the baby boom. An education wing was added to the building. In 1957, enrollment peaked at 765 with sixty teachers.
The church welcomed and included people in many ways – a Men’s Club, a regular Kids’ Night, the 20-40 Club (an active and long-lived young adult group), and the Couples’ Club, which appealed to older adults. The church sponsored scout troops for 65 years and held a day camp in the 1950's with a peak enrollment of 550 campers. The Westmoreland Players nurtured talented actors and directors for nearly twenty years.
In 1958, our congregation made the decision to join the new denomination called the United Church of Christ.
During the March on Washington in 1963, Westmoreland voted to provide housing and food for participants, just one of numerous outreach efforts during the turbulent 60's.
After the riots in DC following Martin Luther King’s death, Westmoreland partnered with Lincoln Congregational Temple to create the Lincoln-Westmoreland Housing Authority, now a stand-alone non-profit agency that was the first faith-basd housing project in the nation.
In 1983, the church created the Westmoreland Volunteer Corps – a program that selects five recent college graduates each year to work in social service agencies in the DC area.
In 2006, the membership of nearby Briggs Memorial Church, an American Baptist congregation, voted to join Westmoreland. The Briggs Center for Faith and Action was created – and we enjoy a close partnership with that foundation and their work for social change.
In 2012, the church voted to join a coalition of congregations working support equal marriage rights for all citizens of Maryland. The church was used a phone bank and advocacy organizing location. The measure passed. In 2013, Rev. Timothy Tutt officiated at the first legal same-sex wedding to take place in Westmoreland Church.