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Monday, June 17, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Westminster Congregational, Spokane’s oldest church, will celebrate anniversary with just completed 3-part hymn

By Emma Epperly The Spokesman-Review

As Westminster Congregational United Church of Christ prepares to celebrate 140 years, members of the congregation will honor its history Sunday through art and music.

Westminster Congregational United Church of Christ Senior Pastor Andy CastroLang thought a great way to celebrate the milestone would be to commission a hymn.

“I say this about my congregation, we like to celebrate together,” CastroLang said. “I think it’s a very hopeful congregation and loving – so for us to celebrate 140 years of ministry and service is a great thing but we are hopeful about the future.”

The hymn turned in to a three-part piece titled, “Our Time Together.” The piece has three parts – a past, present and future. Native American flute music, fiddle and heavy percussion showcase the progression of the congregation through time.

The historic church was chartered on May 22, 1879, and the stone sanctuary was completed in 1927. The sanctuary is often used as a rehearsal space for a variety of music groups because of its acoustics.

Janet Hubbard, Westminster’s organist, wrote the piece which includes the choir, organ, bell choir, cello, violin, percussion and other musicians.

Hubbard has been a church musician at Westminster for six years and is also on the faculty in the Spokane Falls Community College music department.

Hubbard wrote the music with an emphasis on the connection that members have with the church and each other.

The piece follows the church’s theme this year of past, present and future.

The piece representing the past was performed for the congregation earlier this year and is titled, “We live and we serve.” Hubbard focused on love and service in the part representing the present titled, “Gather round.” The piece that represents the future was completed just three weeks ago and is title, “The rhythm of our lives.”

Verne Windham, Westminster’s choir director on and off since 1986, hopes it will continue to be used in the church’s music repertoire.

Windham and Hubbard, along with other musicians, performed the past portion of the piece this fall and have been rehearsing this weekend’s performance in its entirety for about three weeks.

“There’s so much about celebrating a legacy of 140 years, when you’re very existence has paralleled the rise of the city,” Windham said. “Within the art it’s the idea of celebrating not only the religious aspect of the church but also the civic aspect of the church.”

Karen Mobley, an adjunct professor at Whitworth and the former city arts director, said Westminster is a “rich and engaging community.”

Mobley mobilized both the congregation and community art scene to create an installation for the 140th anniversary celebration.

She asked artists to create work that expressed their faith journey. Community members helped Mobley install a new art hanging system throughout the church that will allow for a lasting art display.

Mobley hopes viewers will sense the connection between visual art and their spiritual practice. The installation includes a variety of mediums including painting, photography, calligraphy and drawing.

“I want people to have a sense that while we are 140-year-old church, that we are very present and relevant and that has to do with both people’s practice as religious people and as artists and musicians,” Mobley said.

For Pastor CanstroLang, the celebration is a chance for her congregation to feel a “hope and renewed spirit of enthusiasm for our work in the city.”

The Westminster Congregational United Church of Christ 140 year celebration will take place will start at 2 p.m. Sunday at the church, 411 S. Washington St. There will be speakers and a performance of “Our Time Together” with a reception to follow.

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