Our History

Westminster Presbyterian Church
Escondido, CA

This is a story of a Church. Not just any Church, but a very Special Church which was called into being because there were people who cared. People who cared about the Presbyterian Witness, that it could be heard in Escondido. For many years Presbyterian families had asked the Chamber of Commerce, the Mayor, the newspapers, and the Newcomer’s Club, “Where is the Presbyterian Church?” There was no Presbyterian Church. So Presbyterian families united with other Faiths, went to San Diego, or just forgot about going to Church at all.

Can we say it was People who cared? Yes, but it was also God who cared. It was the Spirit of God who moved the hearts of Two Escondido Families early in 1956, who, unknown to each other, contacted the Church Extension Committee of Presbytery requesting a Presbyterian Church in Escondido. Just eighteen months before, this Presbytery had made an unfruitful survey of the area and decided that the time had not yet come for a Presbyterian Church in Escondido. Now the Spirit of God was moving; the two families independently asking for the Committee’s approval could only mean that the Hand of God was in the movement.

Now was the time to test the Faith and the interest of the people in this adventure with God. On June 15, 1956, Thirty four people met with the Presbytery’s representative, The Reverend Mr. Chester Tolson, then Director of Missions and now the Pastor of the Village Church, in Rancho Santa Fe. The proposal for a New Church was discussed with much enthusiasm and sincerity by the group and plans began to form. A Site for the Church needed to be selected by the Presbytery and so several families along with Mr. Chester Tolson and Reverend Robert Thomas looked over various pieces of property. A Site was selected and a final purchase of this Site was consummated by Presbytery in October of 1956. The Reverend Robert Thomas, organizing Pastor of the Church was officially sent to the field to help organize a Church in October of that year. The interest grew. A Steering Committee was chosen to work with the Presbytery and with the Pastor to guide the Church through its organization until Officers could be elected. This Group faced many difficulties, but these were all met as challenges,- and by work, faith, Prayer and co-operation the Dream became a Reality. A suitable Name for the Church must be selected. A suitable place of Worship must be found, as well as a place for Fellowship dinners and Church get togethers. A home for the Minister and his family had to be found. Step by step God led the Group to find the answer to each problem. On November 7th, 1956, sixty four People met for a potluck supper, to become acquainted with one another, and to hear from Presbytery, and officially from the Organizing Pastor.

On November 25, 1956, the First Worship Service was held in the small Chapel of the Seventh Day Adventist Church on Fourth and Orange Street. This meeting was attended by 105 People, and as Church attendance increased, the Sunday Worship was moved to the main Sanctuary. More people were called into the work of the Church, Ushers, Choir Leader and Organist, Choir Members and Church School Superintendent and Teachers.

(The Church was chartered March 10, 1957)

In January of 1958, less than two years later came the challenge of moving forward toward a Church building program. A building fund committee and building planning committee laid this project on the hearts of the people and the fund began to grow

On February 9th, 1959, a ground breaking ceremony was held at Juniper and Idaho Street, and the First Service in the Chapel of the Newly Built First Unit was held on August 25th, 1959

On March the 10th, 1962, after five years, our Church Fellowship now numbered over Three Hundred and Fifty Souls, a dream accomplished. Our church continued to grow and Joyce DeGraaff was installed as our new Pastor in 1986 replacing Reverend Thomas, our organizing Pastor.

A Contemporary Service with a Praise Band and Singers replaced the Traditional First Service in the summer of 1990. Six years later, the Congregation voted to call Jim Rauch as Pastor to replace Joyce DeGraaff who had been called to Medford, OR. Construction of our new Sanctuary was completed in February 2007 and the 2,300 pipe Schantz Organ was installed 2 months later, another dream accomplished.

Perhaps the thrill of a difficult adventure has faded for some of our Members. Some have lost their sense of Mission; the realization that we are carrying on God’s work that is vitally important to us and to our Community and our World. May we remind ourselves that God has called everyone of us to be His builder. He asks that we continue to turn to positive tasks of love and self-giving Service. The Lord asks us to build His House with Him, He now asks us to be Faithful Laborers, so that the Church will not have been built in vain.