The Founding of Westville Christian

The founding members of Westville Christian were influenced by the leadership, the writings and the teachings of Thomas and Alexander Campbell.  And so, in December of 1858, they formed this congregation.  An historic brick meeting house was erected within one year and is still in use as our sanctuary today.  Since its earliest days, Westville Christian has welcomed all those who believe in Jesus Christ as Savior and who seek a place to serve the Lord.  An interesting note about Westville’s history is that during the chaos of the Civil War, our Communion Chalice was stolen and carried North by a Union trooper.  Fortunately (and mercifully), it was returned many years later and is on display at the church today.

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is a denomination founded on American soil by early church leaders on the frontier.  Mostly Presbyterian ministers, they sought to reach the pioneer settlers and bring the word of faith to them in their newly-established communities.  As they wrestled with the confining restrictions of creeds and policies from their European roots, they found it necessary to break with established tradition in order to minister more effectively in their wilderness settings.  Rev. Barton Stone in Logan County, Kentucky sought community with other believers and made unity a polar star of his work.  However, rather than forming another divisive sect, he dissolved his congregation “into the Body of Christ at large.”  A father and son team, Thomas and Alexander Campbell, established a congregation in what was then the far northwest corner of the state of Virginia.  Now it is the “spike” area of West Virginia (Bethany) – very close to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Wheeling, West Virginia.  Both the Stone and Campbell followers became a movement to restore basic Christianity to a world where Church polity and politics had nearly strangled the essence of the faith.  A ceremonial merger of the Stone-Campbell groups was made in early 1832.  The great evangelist of the movement was Walter Scott who visited congregations all over the frontier teaching his famous “Five-finger Exercise” to children and adults.  Alexander Campbell became the great scholar, writer and debater in the Restoration Movement.  He founded Bethany College and emphasized the importance of study in matters of faith.

For its first one-hundred years, Westville Christian remained a one-room Meeting House.  Sunday School rooms were built and dedicated in July of 1954.  Then, in recognizing the need for growth and additional space for the 21st century, the Education and Fellowship halls were constructed and dedicated in February of 2001.  The total facility has served the needs of the congregation and community in many ways since the dedications of 1859, 1954 and 2001.

Westville Christian Church continues to seek a wide fellowship offering open, weekly communion and inviting all to come and discover the goodness of the Lord our God and the richness of the message of Christ Jesus.  We cooperate ecumenically with other churches and offer our facilities for community activities of all kinds.  We believe this demonstrates the neighborly, friendly spirit of Westville Christian Church.

The structure of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is four-fold.  (1)  Individual, autonomous congregations form the essential level of the church.  Each congregation selects and calls its minister to serve in a covenant relationship.  Each congregation determines its mission priorities and its activity calendar.  (2)  Next, small groups of Christian churches band together to form a District Level.  Various enrichment activities are sponsored by the District each year for the benefit of all the churches and their members.  (3)  The Regional Level is led by a called minister and headquartered in Lynchburg, VA.  There are approximately 109 churches participating in the extended Virginia Region.  (4)  Finally, the General Level is led by the General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada.  We are known as the United Church in Canada, but the Christian Church (DOC) has active functions all over the world.  Our denominational identity statement is stated in contemporary terms as follows: “We are Disciples of Christ, a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world.  As members of the one body of Christ, we welcome all to the Lord’s Table as God has welcomed us.”