HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, WBTS!
Ephesians 2: 12-22; Matthew 28: 16-20
Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, there was a glimmer in the eye of the Creator. God loved the world so much! God had given the human race all the beauties of nature; and God gave them something more: free will! How else could the created ones choose to love and honor the Creator? Of course, there was a downside: they could choose not to. The chance was taken. The First Testaments in our Bibles—also called the Old Testament—gave examples of God’s chosen people trying to keep the Commandments, and failing. Then another covenant, that is, arrangement, was offered by God, but that one could not be kept either. It happened again and again and again. God then decided to come to Earth, in the form of one called “the Son.” The mother of this son agreed to the arrangement, and was given the name to call her son: Jesus. That event is recorded in what we call “The New Testament!” Jesus grew up and, in due time, he was baptized and began his unique and controversial work on earth. In three years time, he did what is recorded in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John: maybe more! Then powerful people believed that his style of welcome, love, and justice was more than they could take. So they silenced him on a cross—or so they thought. As God had planned, on the third day Jesus arose from the dead and the world was never the same! Even our calendars were designed to begin in the year priests thought he had been born.
The news of a risen Savior was Good News! It lit Pentecost fires of passion not only around Jerusalem, but because faithful disciples were filled with God’s Holy Spirit, they took the news to other places; places like Damascus and Ephesus; to Corinth and Athens; to Philipi and Thessalonica; to Rome, and finally to virtually “the ends of the earth.” They went in part because they felt sent by Jesus, as Jesus sends you, and Jesus sends me. He commissioned them: gave them their “orders” in a manner of speaking. He said “Go into all the world, making disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” He was with them, through the gift of God’s Holy Spirit! He is with us, through the gift of the same Spirit! And so they began to start gathering as people of “The Way.” That’s what followers of Jesus were first called. It was in Antioch of Syria that The Apostle Paul, and another believer named Barnabas, “met with the church, and taught a large company of people; and in Antioch the disciples were for the first time called “Christians.” (Acts 11:26) Paul had already taught what the spiritual foundation of a church should be. When he wrote to the new Christians in Ephesus, he wrote these words: “Remember that at one time you were separated from Christ, … and strangers to the covenant of promise. [But] he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near …. So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief cornerstone.” (Ephesians chapter 2)
Churches should be grounded in Christ! The Church (the one that has been planted all over the world) if it is a true church, is grounded in Christ. Christ is the cornerstone, as he is of this congregation! The founders of this congregation decided the cornerstone, right outside, should include those words! Disciples all over the world started to tell others about Jesus; to tell what they believed; to invite others to be baptized and start a new life in Christ. And people did that! And Christianity grew, and it still grows! Yes there have been times in ages past when the fields of faith have been filled with thorns, and weeds, and the one who distorts truth and tries to pull people away from the true God. That is still the case! So we must never let up in teaching, reaching, and welcoming people to know Jesus as Lord.
Well over a hundred years ago, Presbyterian Christians were here in Daytona Beach. There were Christians of other denominations of Christ too. But today we honor the ministers, elders, deacons, and members of the First Presbyterian Church of Daytona Beach, who took the Great Commission of the Jesus seriously. They not only grew; they not only baptized; they planted new churches; to the north! To the south! (That was us!) To the east? No; that would have been the Atlantic Ocean! And to their west! In October of 1946, a small Sunday School outpost was begun by that church on the South Peninsula in the unincorporated area of Wilbur-by- the-Sea. Classes were held for a year; then weekly prayer meetings were held. All of those events were the Gospel seeds being planted to grow this church! All of that work was to fulfill the Great Commission proclaimed by our Lord Jesus; all of those churches chose to be founded with Christ Jesus as the chief cornerstone! And so the spread of Christianity continued in 1946, and it culminated in the forming of a new congregation. Forty-two people started meeting as a church in February of 1955 at the Wilbur by-the-Sea Clubhouse. In May of that year, the church was chartered by St. John’s Presbytery! It was a new birth from our mother church! Since that time the church has called four pastors: Richard Saurbrun, Clay Doyle, Larry Parker, and Jeff Sumner; they have called one Associate Pastor: Cara Gee. The church has had three interim pastors: Davis Thomas, Ed Albright Sr., and Ed Rowley; Westminsterhas hired two Parish Associate Minister: George Painter, and Richard Hills! The church has been blessed by the regular work of elders, deacons, members, missionaries, and teachers. The church, over the years, hired persons to direct our choirs to the glory of God. One soloist listed in a 1956 bulletin was long time member Reid Morrison! The soloist at the dedication of the Fellowship Hall—who later became one of the church choir directors—was Malcolm Hubert. His daughter, Jeanne Keiper, sings in our choir today! And her mother was church secretary beginning in 1958! You see, the legacy of long-time connections to Westminster continues! Our church has been blessed with fine organists, pianists, and others instrumentalists who offered music to praise our Triune God; has had five Directors of Christian Education: Chris Endsley, Karen Armistead, Barbara Ehrgood, Peggie Painter, and Mary Ann Sumner. In 60 years, this church has had just four secretaries: Kay Hubert, Bonnie Heaton, Cora Fletcher, and Kristin Downer! We have had three librarians: Harriet Nace for the longest period of time. But we have had hundreds of teachers and hundreds of choir members who have served their Lord here! We have had hundreds of youth missionaries and six persons enroll in a seminary for Christian service. Dozens of loving nursery teachers have cared for God’s youngest; and we’ve had faithful members—with their hands, and minds, and means—create this house of God as a place where the church—followers of Jesus—can meet. Currently four charter members are still active members of Westminster: Marianne Timmons Sabakta, James Hunt, Frankie Tresher Hughes, and Bill Schildecker! And others are with us today! As we learned today, many are also here who joined sometime in the fifties, sixties, seventies, and beyond! We give thanks to God for them, and for all others here who have had a part in keeping our eyes on God and our hearts saved for Jesus Christ. Today we celebrate the carrying out of the Great Commission. Last year alone we added 58 new members. We reaffirm that we ground this congregation with Jesus as the chief cornerstone. And we pledge not to rest, but to continue to reach others with the Gospel.
Happy anniversary, Westminster By-The-Sea! To God be the Glory! Amen.
In the very first printed bulletin (which we have in our archives and was hand typed!) for February 13th, 1955, this is written:
“The name ‘Westminster’ was suggested by an elder. Perhaps you will agree with him that it challenges us to uphold a great tradition.”
The Westminster Confession of Faith, part of which we will use today, was written at Westminster, London, where one can visit Westminster Abbey today! Let us sing “Christ is Made the Sure Foundation” to the tune, “Westminster Abbey.”
Jeffrey A. Sumner May 31, 2015