Mission Statement & History
West Side Presbyterian Church is a welcoming community with varied backgrounds, talents, and ages, bound together by a common faith in God as revealed in Jesus Christ, our Lord. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we are dedicated to celebrating God's love, nurturing individual growth, sharing our faith, and serving the needs of others.
A Short History of Our Church
Today West Side is a congregation serving 1,500 people with an active nursery school and youth program. We have a strong musical tradition, which is served each Sunday in our worship, but also in concerts through the years. The church also has a strong history of the arts and have recently inaugurated a new art gallery for the visual arts, in addition to our long-standing tradition of drama. We contribute to more than 50 mission activities each year and create mission opportunities for our youth and adults.
These components of West Side have been part of our tradition since 1912, when the congregation came together out of a group of residents who wanted a church on the other side of town from the existing Presbyterian church.
West Side's first services were held at Ridgewood's Parsons School in 1912. The church school was organized soon afterwards. The original church, known as "The West Side Collegiate Church," had 68 charter members and shared a pastor with First Presbyterian Church of Ridgewood.
On December 29, 1912, the cornerstone was laid for a new church on the site of the present building. It was built at a cost of approximately $8,000, plus furnishings, and formally dedicated in April, 1913. The first pastor was Dr. Isaac J. Lansing. After his death in 1920, Rev. Albert George Butzer became pastor in 1921.
The original church building was moved across Hillside Place to the current parking lot to make room for a new church building and parish house, which was erected in 1923, at a cost of $225,000.
Dr. Arthur Morris Hughes became pastor in 1933 and by 1937, West Side's 25th anniversary, the membership numbered 1,521. In 1953, the Chancel Choir was formed and made its debut on October 4, Worldwide Communion Sunday. Dr. Melvin R. Campbell became senior pastor in 1958, the same year that the Christian Education building was built and dedicated. In 1962, the original wooden church building was demolished, and the parking lot enlarged. The purchase of the 7.5 acre adjoining Kraft estate in 1965 allowed plans for a youth center to be developed. "The Barn" was dedicated in 1971 and now serves as a welcoming center for our youth and other groups, who use it as a supplementary meeting space.
Stephen D. Geckeler became pastor in 1979, followed by Rev. Michael Pulsifer as senior pastor in 1992. The Rev. Kent Smith joined West Side as Associate Pastor of Christian Education and Youth in 1993, the same year the 75th anniversary of the Austin Organ was celebrated. The sanctuary and auditorium were renovated in 1993-94. Midweek Taize worship services began in 1999, the same year that Building in Faith, the capital improvement campaign was launched.
The renovations from Building in Faith were nearly complete when the church sanctuary and auditorium were destroyed in a disastrous fire in January, 2002, which also left the Christian Education building badly damaged. Plans for rebuilding began immediately, while worship services were held at Immaculate Heart Academy in Washington Township, and other church business was conducted at one of 18 off-site locations offered by other congregations and organizations.
Architects Herbert S. Newman & Partners of New Haven, CT, were selected to design the new church facility. Construction began in 2003 and the rebuilt sanctuary complex was dedicated in June, 2006. The new Nichols & Simpson pipe organ was installed and dedicated a little over a year later, in October, 2007.
A more detailed history and timeline is available in "A History of the West Side Presbyterian Church," written for the 90th anniversary celebration in 2002. In 2012, the church celebrated its 100th year.