Westwood Christian Church is closing its doors and has signed a letter of intent to sell the building and property to the City of Westwood, according to the city and the church.
The congregation dissolved at the end of October after 67 years at the church on Rainbow Boulevard in Westwood. Joe Walker, who had served as interim pastor for the last two years, said a Spanish-language congregation that has been holding services in the church for the last three years will continue to meet until the sale is complete.
The church and its grounds are especially strategic to Westwood because they sit just south of the city’s Joe D. Dennis Park on Rainbow and just to the east of Westwood View Elementary School. The city has used open ground between the park and church for some city events.
Mayor John Yé, in the latest city newsletter, indicated the city was discussing the purchase of the property in conjunction with planning to upgrade the park. In the same newsletter, the mayor said the city is talking with the school district about joint planning as it relates to Westwood View, the park and the church property.
Rev. Walker said the size of the congregation attending services at Westwood had dropped into the 20s by the end. Most of those have now joined one of two nearby Christian churches. “It was supposed to be a neighborhood church,” Walker said, therefore “it was always small.” At its peak the congregation was well more than 100.
Walker said the “rule of thumb” now is that it takes a congregation of at least 150 to support a full-time pastor. Most of the groups that used the church for meetings have left, Walker said. A woman who offered piano lessons in the building was moving out this week.
While the church could have received more money from a private sale, he said, this is a move to return it to the community. Walker has now moved on to his next interim church assignment.
Westwood City Clerk Fred Sherman said the city is working through financing options and may have a proposal ready for the city council in January. All the options for how to use the building are still on the table, including leasing it out, shorter-term rentals, or closing it up, he said.
The property is critical to the park master planning, he indicated, because of the limited space at the park. The church “has been very gracious to let the city use the space on the north end” over the years, Sherman said. He noted that the school district also is going through a master facilities planning process. The city has been a strong advocate for Westwood View as the school survived school closings in recent years.
For decades, the Westwood Lutheran Church sat just across the street in Mission Woods from Westwood Christian. Both churches opened in the same era and both saw their congregations dwindle before closing. The former Lutheran church was purchased in 2011 and is now home to a Latin Mass Catholic congregation.