Western Boulevard Presbyterian Church History
Prepared for New Hope Presbytery Meeting at WBPC in 2008
Many blessings have happened as we have evolved into an anchor Presbyterian Church in the West Raleigh area. After World War II, the West Raleigh Presbyterian Church off Hillsborough Street responded to a community survey which cited the need for a new church in the Western Boulevard area of newly expanding neighborhoods. Over the years, we’ve gathered at three locations near Western Boulevard, which stretches from downtown Raleigh to Cary.
On Forsyth Street, the first meeting place for an “outpost” Sunday School was started in an old garage with a potbellied stove, and a greasy concrete floor, that was leased for one year for $1.00 as a total rent. On the 2nd of November 1947, 23 enthusiastic people began gathering each Sunday morning for Sunday school. Money was eventually raised for our first property at Garland and Chaney Roads, along with an old army barracks that they moved and made into a little white chapel with a steeple on top. On the 3rd of April 1949, 53 charter members were received into the newly organized church known as Western Boulevard Presbyterian Church. In September 1953 we opened a weekday Kindergarten which has emerged into our present Western Boulevard Presbyterian Preschool. About that time Southern Railway was retiring their train bells after the steam engines were dismantled and replaced by the new diesel engines. We were fortunate to receive one of the bells for our little steeple. The first tolling of the church bell was on “Good Friday” on April 14, 1957, when our membership had grown to about 200 people.
So the little church grew until the chapel was outgrown and in 1956 we purchased our present property on the corner of Lorimer and Kaplan Drive, still just a few blocks from Western Boulevard. The new Education Building was built and our first worship service was held on Easter Sunday, April 2, 1961. Our sanctuary was built later and dedicated in June 1977.
Our stained glass windows were added during the Sanctuary renovation, which added to our single beautiful round stained glass window above the chancel area. The renovated Sanctuary was dedicated in May 2001. In May 2005 we proudly dedicated the new Bell Tower, which now houses our old train bell that had been stored in the basement for many years. It had only been used once on this property during our 50th Anniversary but it is now rung every Sunday morning to announce our worship services.
In September 2008, along with our regular Traditional Worship Service, a second service was added. The Alternative Worship Service meets in the Fellowship Hall of the Education Building. All of these things have been done to the Glory of God!
Congregation and Leadership:
From the beginning, we have been blessed with many talented leaders and personalities in our church. Our location in the Capitol City of Raleigh, which contains people connected with local and state government, with Research Triangle businesses, and with major state universities and private colleges, provides us with a diverse, interesting and creative congregation. We have one active Charter Member, Mr. Brady Jefcoat, who provides us with rich spiritual entertainment, and lots of history.
Six pastors have led us over these sixty years. Robert Bluford was only a ministerial student at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond when he began conducting services in 1948, along with other volunteer ministers and laypeople. Our little congregation liked him so much that they all traveled to Virginia in a caravan to get him to become our first pastor.
Here is the list of pastors who have served us well:
Robert Bluford, Jr. – November 1951 – August 1957
Russell B. Fleming – September 1958 – March 1970
Edgar D. Byers – June 1971 – February 1993
James Sledge – August 1995 – December 2000
James B. Lambeth, Jr. – April 2002 – October 2003
Betty Connette – February 2005 –
“As we see to more fully realize our mission for the immediate future, we prayerfully, and in a spirit of joy and hope, commit to enhance our current ministry.” — Vision Statement (2007-2014) WBPC
Handout at Sixtieth Anniversary Celebration – 2009
Ministers of Western Boulevard Presbyterian Church
Robert Bluford, Jr November 1951 – August 1957
Bob is remembered for literally helping build the first church. He was part of the work crew that built the church. Bob also built up the membership by visiting in the area and inviting people to join the church.
Russell Fleming, September 1958 – March 1970
Russell is remembered for all of his efforts to see that the Education Building with the Fellowship Hall which served as a Sanctuary was built. He is also remembered for his work with youth and his junior sermons from Wingdom.
Edgar D. Byers, June 1971 – February 1993
Many members think of Ed when they look at the chancel window each Sunday with its strong statement that Christians are to serve others. Members also remember Ed and Yvonne and the many kindnesses shown by them in times of illness and death of family members. The Sanctuary was built, our newsletter (CONTACT ), WNL (Wednesday Night Live), food bags for the needy, all began during his ministry.
David Garrison – Interim – January 1994 – July 1995
David showed us how to move forward after the departure of Ed, on whom we had all come to depend.
James Sledge, August 1995 – December 2000
James is remembered as an excellent teacher and for spearheading the renovation efforts on the Sanctuary. During his ministry Stephen Ministry, Kids Café and WIHN began.
Richard Nystrom – Interim – March 2001- March 2002
Jim Lambeth, April 2002 – October 2003
Jim is remembered for his love of children, which he demonstrated by taking the time to get to know the children in the church family. Members were extremely sad that his time with WBPC was so short.
Richard Nystrom – Interim – January 2004- January 2005
Richard helped our church heal following the death of Jim Lambeth. He has many talents. His book, A Book of Uncommon Prayer, is still being used by many members.
Betty Connette, February 2005 – present
Betty is thought of as being sincere and very caring. She is well known for the love and compassion she shows to families in times of illness and to families as they grieve the loss of loved ones. A second informal service began during her tenure.
Bruce Grady – Associate Minister – November 2008 – present
Bruce is appreciated for his cheerful smile and beautiful solos. He is presently developing our informal service.