Westminster is a Presbyterian congregation in downtown Buffalo comprised of members from every corner of Western New York. Our open and progressive community is welcoming to all, regardless of age, race, socioeconomic status, sexuality, gender identity, citizenship status, or religious affiliation.
Worship is at the center of Westminster’s life and ministry. Our primary purpose is to praise and glorify God, which we do each week at 8:15 AM in the Holmes Chapel (with Holy Communion), and at 10:30 AM in our historic sanctuary with a full, fifty-voice choir and resounding Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ. Our worship seeks to honor the mind and heart as we rejoice in music, advocate service, and encourage personal growth. We also offer three adult education tracks and Sunday school for children. In that spirit, we hope you choose to join us!
In addition to our love of God, our devotion to social justice brings our congregation together. Westminster stands committed to building a stronger, healthier Western New York through advocacy, volunteer work, and outreach:
Westminster also embraces interfaith collaboration for the common good. We have strong relationships with Temple Beth Zion, Congregation Shir Shalom, The Islamic Society of Niagara Frontier, The Muslim Public Affairs Council, and the Buffalo Chapter of the Zen Mountain Monastery of Eastern New York and Brooklyn.
As part of the 2021 "Light the Path" Annual Campaign, members shared their connection to Westminster,
and why they find the church meaningful to their lives.
In high school, I remember playing violin with the Greater Buffalo Youth Orchestra in the beautiful sanctuary at Westminster. After four years away at college, I returned to Buffalo and had many more opportunities to play at Westminster. Although I originally came for the music, I found Westminster’s values align with my own. I recently became a member and am grateful for the new young adult ministry. I enjoy connecting with people my age and the activities that have been offered. Thank you, Westminster, for the music and community that you offer!
Our path to Westminster began when the Marriage Equality Act became New York State law in June, 2011. While our faith in God is foundational, we both had experienced rejection by the denominations we cherished. Nonetheless, we were optimistic that Westminster as a More Light congregation might consider having our marriage ceremony within the church.
The next weeks and months revealed that the Holy Spirit was working within our midst. Dr. Yorty and the Session explored the spiritual, legal, and financial challenges of allowing a pastor to perform a same-gender marriage when the larger denomination was still a few years away from accepting that. Concurrently, we worked hard to articulate our hopes and expectations for marriage within a community we never imagined could really welcome us.
The Holy Spirit made a grand intervention about a month before our wedding date. Mary and I attended the PLGC More Light national annual meeting held in Rochester that year. It was a moving reintroduction to our Faith as well as a joyful reminder that God’s Love really is for EVERYONE. Although we didn’t know anyone there, three people from Westminster found us and surrounded us with amazingly unmistakable warmth and welcome. That experience, followed by so many more, told us that we were on the right path to finding the spiritual home we each had yearned for.
We joined Westminster Presbyterian Church a few months later and continue each day to be grateful for the Fellowship, Spiritual Strengthening, Hope, and Love that we find here.
Westminster caught me by surprise in 2013 with the Christmas Eve service. The music was exceptional and the atmosphere beautiful and calm. Over the next few years I attended various concerts and, encouraged by a few choral friends, joined the choir in the fall of 2016. As those initial months passed it was not only the music ministry that drew me closer to WPC, but the message I heard each Sunday morning, including conversations about ongoing outreach throughout Western New York. I had not been a practicing Presbyterian since my childhood, but my spiritual and mission interests were becoming more apparent. On March 26, 2017, I attended an Inquirer Class and became a member. Since then, I have embarked on a spiritual journey while attending “Year With the Bible,” and have enjoyed learning and volunteering as a docent during stained-glass tours of the Sanctuary. Westminster has enriched my life in more ways than I could have possibly imagined.
Working as a Deacon at Westminster has given me a higher sense of purpose both spiritually and emotionally. I have developed enriching relationships with others who have been called to serve our congregation and community. As deacons, we take pride in serving others through an unyielding dedication and commitment to the church and its members.
To me, being a deacon means being a part of a community. I have found joy and prosperity in creating bonds with the members of the Westminster family. I am proud to act as a role model on behalf of the church as I continue to strengthen my relationships with those affiliated with Westminster and the Buffalo community.
The youth group is important because in this time of quarantine there really isn’t much social interaction other than zoom and virtual contact. The youth group is changing that. We have held socially distanced slushee circles and a field trip to enjoy time together at the zoo. People need that social interaction, especially right now, and relationship building is a priority of our times together. (Erik)
The youth group is very important especially in these times. During COVID-19 people need social interaction. And they can’t keep getting them from the friends we have already seen. So that’s why it’s good to have a variety of different types of personalities and people to connect with in our lives. The youth group had multiple connection circles that brought people together to talk and build relationships. For another excursion we went to the zoo I think everyone had a great time looking at the animals and talking to one another. A part of the zoo was the dip and dots treat when we had a chance to sit down and talk with some new people and maybe just have some time by yourself to re-adjust and relax. The youth group has helped so many people look at life in a new way and just to be a better person overall as we grow together in our faith life. (Calvin)
I always leave worship with something new to think about, to reflect on, and perhaps to strive for in my own life.I had not been involved in a church since childhood. After the divisiveness and vitriol of the 2016 election, I found myself feeling depleted and sad. I felt a need for some sense of hopefulness, but was not sure where or how to find it. Somewhat coincidentally, I attended Christmas Eve service at WPC that December. Everything about the service – the inspiring music, the beautiful sanctuary, and especially the thoughtful and moving sermon- felt calming and uplifting in a way that I had not experienced in a while. I started attending Sunday morning services, and eventually joined the Church in 2018. For over two years, I have continued to treasure the sense of peace and rejuvenation that I get from the Sunday services, and feel that I have been enriched through them. I always leave worship with something new to think about, to reflect on, and perhaps to strive for in my own life. Along with this, I have enjoyed being a part of the vibrant and engaged congregation and have valued the opportunity to be a part of an organization that is deeply and sincerely committed to the Buffalo community.
In my 57 years at Westminster, several experiences helped light my path to faith, including tutoring in the ENERGY program, and helping Donald Etulo and Ebinda Zacharia publish “A Place to Pray,” recounting their journey from the brutal chaos of civil war in Congo to joining Westminster after more than a decade as refugees without a spiritual home. As Clerk of Session in June of 1983, I reported our decision to “make homosexuality a non-issue” for leadership--as well as membership--by becoming a More Light Congregation. For the next two years we were “corrected” by our Presbytery and by the General Assembly’s Judicial Commission. I represented our interests at Presbytery meetings, joined other members visiting area Presbyterian churches to explain our commitment to Christian inclusiveness, and responded to over 80 letters criticizing our action. In the end, Westminster did indeed shine “more light” on one of the pivotal cultural issues of our time.
Forty Buffalo residents founded Westminster Church on September 3, 1854, with a deep Christian commitment and great faith in the future of our city. On August 26, 1858, this small band of Christians laid the cornerstone for what is essentially the same sanctuary we presently use for worship.
The early years were marked by the courage and vision of our congregation. By the 1870s, Westminster had launched several programs, laying the foundation for our longstanding tradition of Christian outreach to the community. We formed several missions, chapels, and Sunday Schools and began a Young People's Association and a Women's Missionary Society to provide gifts for local and overseas missionary efforts. Projects included work with local Native Americans and Sunday school missionaries in the Midwest and the establishment of Westminster Hospital in what was then Persia (now Iran). In 1894, the congregation founded Westminster Community House to provide social services to Buffalo’s immigrant populations in need. At the time, Westminster Community House was the second settlement house in the country.
Westminster’s vanguard social justice efforts continue today in the form of numerous volunteer projects, an afterschool tutoring program, community collaborations, and WEDI, our program to help reduce socioeconomic barriers to success on Buffalo’s West Side.
Forty area neighbors, including local Christian businessman and civic leader, Jesse Ketchum, built the church on land donated by Ketchum just beyond what was the northern boundary of Buffalo—then a city of 42,000 people. The current building replaced the parish chapel of 1847. Designed in the Romanesque Revival style by Buffalo architect, Harlow W. Wilcox, and built by master mason, Henry Rumrill, the church building features light yellow brick, likely to have come from Ketchum's native Canada. Distinctive features include small brick arches in the cornice, reminiscent of the Lombardy architecture of northern Italy and a 200-foot steeple. The bell from the original chapel, marked A.G. Buffalo, 1850 (Adam Goode Brass and Bell Foundry on Ohio Street near Washington Street) was hoisted into the steeple, where it hangs today.
The original muted leaded windows were later replaced by stunning gothic revival stained glass reminiscent of grand cathedrals of Europe. Altogether, there are 31 masterpieces by four of the leading artists associated with the gothic glass revival in America: Henry Willet of Philadelphia and Wilber Burnham, Charles Connick, and Joseph Reynolds of Boston.
The Parish House, built in 1918, housing the Parish Hall and Case Library, resembles a Norman keep. Behind Westminster is the restored Victorian stable for the Rumsey residence, home of the beloved Westminster Early Childhood Programs.
The most recent additions include the West Entrance, dedicated in 2011 and designed by the Buffalo architectural firm Hamilton Houston Lownie. The bright and accessible structure serves as the focal point and connection between the campus buildings while maintaining the church's architectural integrity.
From planning an event to check requests, find all of the forms and documents that pertain to Westminster’s operations here, in one convenient place.