Watson Terrace Christian Church

The Watson Terrace Christian church was created in 1952 as a result of the merger of two Disciples congregations in southwest St. Louis, Clifton Heights and Winona Christian Churches.  Clifton Heights, the older of the two, was established in 1907 under the leadership of the Reverend G. E. Ireland, City Missionary for the Disciples.  The Reverent Elihu F. Harris was called to be the congregation’s first pastor in 1908.  Harris was to remain pastor for 37 years, until his death at 93 years of age.  Harris, a skilled carpenter and with abundant assistance from others, erected the first edifice at Tamm and Marmaduke in 1909, utilizing materials salvaged from the World’s Fair.  Following World War II, the congregation consisted of 144 members and an annual budget of $12,000.

With the assistance of the Clifton Heights Christian Church, the Reverend E. L. Owens, a Disciple minister, established a new congregation, the Southampton Christian Church, in 1932.  A store building at 4618 Macklind Avenue became the first home of the congregation which consisted of 14 members.  The congregation quickly grew to include, by the end of 1934, a total of 54 members.

The congregation made three changes of location in the next two years, resettling on the corner of Winona and Hereford in 1936 and changing its name to Winona Christian Church.  The move cost the congregation $6,821.72, the cost of the lot, the building and needed repairs.

As the decade of the 50’s opened, both congregations were faced with the need to expand or relocate.  The two congregations’ natural amenity and geographical proximity led to a meeting in December of 1951, to discuss with W. Elbert Starn, Executive Secretary of the Disciples Council of Greater St. Louis, the possibility of merger.  Less than a year later, September 1952, the congregations voted on a proposal which was approved in each instance without a dissenting vote.  The new congregation agreed to build on five lots which had been purchased in early 1952 by Clifton Heights.

In order to diminish dissension, the pastors of both congregations, Oscar P. Campbell and J.H. Bullock, tendered their resignations.  The Reverent O.T. Foster became the first pastor of Watson Terrace in 1953.

The Watson Terrace Christian Church at its beginning boasted 336 charter members.  In a special service in March 1956, worship attendance was recorded at 332 and church school at 257.  The total active membership was 290.

Upon completion of the education unit, the congregation moved from temporary facilities in 1955, to 4205 Watson Road.  In 1964 the sanctuary unit, including the administrative and service corridors, was completed.  The total cost of the education unit and furnishings was $170,000 and that of the sanctuary was $258,000.

The congregation’s first decade was one of growth, but toward the end of the second decade the beginnings of decline which would continue through the 1980’s could be seen.

In the late 80’s members discussed the possibility of closing, but congregations don’t die easily!  In 1989, the Watson Terrace Day Care Center was opened, utilizing the  classrooms of the educational ministry.  In 1990 church growth became a primary focus, targeting young adults, which has resulted in increased membership and ministries on the road to renewal and revitalization.

At the close of the 90’s, the faith community focused intently on spiritual growth, development of ecumenical and interfaith relations and looking to the future in determining its ministry in southwest St. Louis.