Westport Presbyterian Church
201 Westport Road Kansas City, MO 64111
We are an Historic Congregation Celebrating Over 180 Years of Service: 1835-NOW!
Our Faith Is Over Two Thousand Years Old – Our Thinking and Our Vision Are Not.
The mission of Westport Presbyterian Church is to discern God’s activity in the new millennium; to follow Jesus in ministries of service, healing, justice and prayer; and to make the city a better place for people to live, work and worship.
A Brief History of Westport Presbyterian Church
(From the church website)
In 1835, the same year John Calvin McCoy filed the plot of his “dream town” called West Port in Independence, Missouri, the Rev. Mr. Robert Sloan organized the Westport Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Tradition says the congregation was organized in a log school house at what is now 42nd Street and Pennsylvania. The young church struggled through the next fifty-eight years with various meeting places and itinerant supply preachers. The first building was completed just after the Civil War at 706 Westport Road, one of the highest points in the area.
The Rev. Dr. George P. Baity’s, first sermon was preached to an apathetic congregation of only forty-six people on July 2, 1893. Under his leadership, the church membership grew so much that a new building was needed. In March, 1896, a brick building was erected and dedicated on the present site. On January 11, 1903, in the middle of the night, the building burned to the ground. The present stone building, including the sanctuary, chapel, and rooms above these spaces, was dedicated on October 2, 1904.
In March, 1973, The Rev. Ronald L. Patton, age 32, came to lead Westport Presbyterian Church. He continued the strong emphasis on service to the Westport Community and was active in the Presbytery and at the national level, working for the reunion of the “northern” and “southern” bodies of Presbyterians. Westport Presbyterian, originally part of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, had been a leader in the union of that church with the Presbyterian Church in the USA in 1906. A 1958 merger between that group and the Presbyterian Church in North America created The United Presbyterian Church in the USA. In 1972 Westport Presbyterian encouraged the first meeting of the “northern” and “southern” General Assemblies in the same place at the same time. Rev. Patton was on the national committee which worked toward reunion of these two main bodies, which was achieved in 1983 to create The Presbyterian Church, USA.
In October, 2010, the church celebrated its 175th anniversary.
A catastrophe struck the church on Dec. 28, 2011. A terrible fire! The fire completely destroyed the church, the sanctuary, chapel, and the large three-level wing known as the Goodman Building. Fortunately, no one was killed or injured.
The church has been completely rebuilt and the original stone walls are included in the new structure.
All of the windows in the church were saved from serious damage during the fire with the exception of the “Rose” window facing Westport Road. Each of the existing windows has been beautifully restored by Tomas Ball and are now placed behind protective glass. The windows on the east and west walls of the sanctuary were installed when the church building was constructed in 1904 and are mounted in their original wooden frames. (Unfortunately, the windows on the east side of the sanctuary are currently part of an interior wall and do not get illumination from the outside.)
The windows facing Westport Road on the north, and those relocated to the chapel area at the south end of the church, were designed and fabricated by Willet Studio of Philadelphia in the mid 1950’s. An interesting feature of the pair of large windows facing Westport Road is that from the interior of the church all of the lettering is reversed. The intention was, and still is, that these windows and their text might be easily seen and read from the outside, thereby reaching out with Jesus’ spiritual messages to the Westport community.
In 2016, a new organ built by the Pasi Organ Builders of Roy Washington was installed.
Windows along the west wall of the sanctuary:
There are three groups of tall, triple-paneled, Gothic style windows along this wall. These windows, like those on the east wall, were fabricated and installed around 1904 when the building was constructed. The designer and fabricator are unknown. Each window contains a memorial dedication.
Starting at the rear of the church-
The first triple set of Gothic style window panels:
The first panel in this window is dedicated to David S. Self and Elouise A. Self.
The center panel is dedicated to Alexander Waskey.
The third panel is dedicated to Nancy B. Waskey.
The second window in this series includes panels dedicated to Elizabeth A. Briant and George B. Briant
The first panel is dedicated to Elizabeth A. Briant.
The center panel in this window simply reads “In Memorium.”
The third panel in this triple window is dedicated to George Briant.
The final triple-paneled window on the west wall is dedicated to C. E. Duncan, Rev. Albert A. Moore, and Mr. J. P. Reymond.
The windows on the left and center are dedicated to C. E. Duncan and Rev. Albert A. Moore.
The third window, dedicated to Mr. J. P. Reymond, is partially obscured behind the new wall.
Windows along the east wall of the sanctuary:
There are also three triple sets of windows on the east wall of the sanctuary. Before the fire this wall was an outside wall and the windows were illuminated with natural light just as they are on the west wall. Now this wall has been incorporated into the church’s expanded structure and the wall is inside the building. As a result, these windows are not adequately illuminated for the purpose of taking photos. Hopefully these windows will be illuminated at some time in the future. For this reason I have not included a full record of the windows on the east wall. Here are a few examples of some of the windows I was able to photograph.
This window is dedicated to Charles H. Means, C. G. Means and Anna Irvine Means.
Another is dedicated to Mrs. G. W. Caldwell and includes two panels with scriptural references.
The text “Behold I Am Alive for Ever More” is in the first window.
The center window in this grouping is dedicated to Mrs. C. W. Caldwell
The text “Because I Live, Ye Shall Live Also” is in the third window.
Two additional windows on the east wall are dedicated to : Alonzo A. Goodman and Hanna W. Goodman. The middle window is marked simply “In Memorium” [No images here]
Windows on the north wall, facing Westport Road:
In the 1950’s two beautiful double-paneled windows, designed and fabricated by the Willet Studios of Philadelphia, were installed.The subject of the two windows on the right are “I Am The Good Shepherd” and “I Am the Light of the World.” In the small window above these two panels, we read “I Am the Resurrection and the Life.” On the left we find another double-paneled window depicting Jesus and the texts “I Am the Living Water” and “I Am the Bread of Life.” In the small window above we find the text “I Am the True Vine”.
A fascinating feature of the windows is that they are installed “in reverse” so that the text may be read by those viewing the windows from the outside. I have pictured some of the windows as they are viewed from inside the church, but I have reversed others so that the text reads in its normal fashion.
The featured texts of the two windows on the right are
“I Am the Good Shepherd “ and “I Am the Living Light.”
“I Am the Good Shepherd” (John 10:11) 1954
“I Am the Light of the World” (John 18:12) 1955
“I Am the Resurrection and the Life” (John 11:25)
The featured texts of the two windows on the left are
“I Am the Living Water” and “I am the Bread of Life.”
“I am the Living Water” (John 4:14) 1955
“I Am the Bread of Life” (John 6:35) 1955
” I Am the True Vine” (John 15:1)
The Chapel area at the south end of the church
There is a small area at the rear of the sanctuary that serves as a chapel. All of the windows in the chapel area were fabricated by the Willet Studio of Philadelphia.
The center Altar Window was fabricated and installed in 1948.This window was dedicated as a memorial widow to the memory of fifteen young men from this congregation who lost their lives in the Second World War. Their parents asked that a memorial window be provided to combine the themes of sacrifice and resurrection.
The four additional windows were fabricated and installed in 1952.
The first window on the left represents Communion. Symbols of the Cup, Wheat (Bread), and Grapes recall Jesus’ provision for five thousand in the wilderness where His bounty multiplied the few loaves and fishes into sufficient supply. These symbols also recall the Last Supper. The Greek word across the bottom (IXYC ) means fish and is an acrostic for the Greek phrase ” Jesus Christ, Son of God, Our Saviour.” Matthew 14:13-23
The second window represents Marriage. The cross (symbol of the Saviour) signifies His blessing on the two rings (emblems of the plighted troth). While the candles symbolize the light of the new home. St. John 2:1-11 and Ephesians 5:22-29
The third window represents Prayer. Here, the symbol of the incense burner, formerly a necessity to cover up the odors of the burning animals at the burnt offering, has now become a symbol, in the rising smoke, of the ascent of our prayers to God. Psalm 141:2
The fourth window represents the sacrament of Baptism. Baptism is the sign and seal of God’s gift of Salvation. In this window we see the Dove of the Holy Spirit, a shell and the water used in the baptism ceremony.
In the center of the south wall of the chapel area, a beautiful and complex window, also by the Willet Studio of Philadelphia, focuses on Jesus Christ’s redeeming sacrifice and Resurrection. This window was installed in 1948.
The dominant figure is Jesus Christ, shown as the Risen Lord, with the wound prints on his hands and feet. This is the victorious figure of Christ having come from death and the grave. He is shown as the Risen Savior of all mankind. Angels are shone above the cross, some with the winding cloth which was removed when He rose from the dead, another bringing the crown of victory. Above all hovers the symbol of the Holy Ghost, who is come to serve mankind and return Our Lord to heaven. The arc of figures at the back of Christ represent the whole mass of humanity looking to their Lord for salvation.
On one side below that is the Centurion, who, when he saw Jesus on the cross gave the great testimony “Truly, this is the son of God.” The three empty crosses are there teaching the lesson of great humility and shame that Christ was to endure by being crucified between two thieves.
On the opposite side is the empty tomb and the angel who announced to the women who came to seek Jesus “He is risen. He is not here.”
At the base of the cross is the rainbow symbolizing that the only hope for the salvation of mankind is Jesus’ death and resurrection. The crown of thorns and the nails driven through His hands and feet are also shown at the base of the cross.
At the very bottom of the window is the Ecce Agnus Dei. On the Book of Life are seven seals which have been broken, and the book is open for all to read “Behold the lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world.”
At the two top corners of the window are the Bursting Pomegranate, on the left, and the Phoenix, rising from his ashes, on the right. Both are early symbols of the Resurrection. Working through the field of the window is the text from John 3:16 “For God so loved…”
The border is a vine treatment referring to the Tree of Life “And the leaves of the tree…”
This congregation and our community are fortunate to have rescued and restored these moving expressions of faith, memory, and spirit. For more than one hundred years a precious heritage has been preserved and will continue to inspire all who worship and come together in this sacred space on Westport Road in Kansas City, Missouri.
William Willet, an artist and leader in the American Gothic Movement, founded Willet Studios studio in 1898. Working with noted architect Ralph Adams Cram, William created traditional designs that rivaled the works found in the finest European Cathedrals. In 1910, Willet was invited to compete for the large chancel window in the Cadet’s Chapel at the United States Military Academy at West Point. After winning the competition, Willet Studios was selected to design and fabricate all of the stained glass windows in this large cathedral-like building. Because the cadets desired to give window sections as class gifts, the commission lasted 66 years and became the longest continuing stained glass commission in American history. William’s son, Henry Lee Willet, took over the studio after his father’s death. Under Henry Lee’s guidance, the company expanded from a regional studio to a national studio, with completed projects in all 50 states and 14 foreign countries. Willet Studios experimented with new techniques, and in the 1950’s, Willet Studios was one of the first American studios to design and fabricate faceted glass windows. Willet Studios also developed the famous sculptured gold window technique and experimented with different methods of laminating stained glass. Under Henry Lee’s leadership, Willet Studios became known and respected throughout the stained glass world. In 1965, E. Crosby Willet, the son of Henry Lee Willet, became the President of Willet Studios. Under his leadership, Willet windows were created for many of the major churches and cathedrals in the United States including the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. and Saint Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco. In 1977, Willet Studios became a division of the Hauser Art Glass Company. In 2005, the company changed its name to Willet Hauser Architectural Glass to more accurately reflect the long-term direction of the business. In January 2014 Associated Crafts of Arizona purchased the Winona-based Willet Hauser Architectural stained glass studio. Associated Crafts is operated by John Phillips Jr. whose father worked for the Hauser brothers back in 1974. The Philadelphia based Willet Hauser Studio continues to operate from its home in Pennsylvania and the Winona facility continues to operate from its Minnesota location.
My deep appreciation to Rev. Scott Myers, Bob Russell, Deanna Caps and Donna Kaye Campbell for their assistance with this documentation of Westport Presbyterian Church’s beautiful stained-glass windows.