After the turn of the century, a Norwegian immigrant to the United States settled in the Ballard area of Seattle. Tobias Tennesen and his family began to meet in a cottage prayer meeting with others who did not feel at home in denominational churches. By 1905, a lot was purchased on Jones Avenue and a small wooden structure was built. The Jones Avenue Church was composed primarily of Scandinavian immigrants and their children, so services were conducted in the Scandinavian languages. This congregation emphasized prayer and praise with a particular interest in global missions.
In the late 1940s the church experienced rapid growth under the ministry of Roy Johnson. The congregation moved from their old facility on Jones Avenue to a new place of worship, also in Ballard, called the Philadelphia Church. Throughout the decade of the ‘50s the church continued to grow. They considered expansion plans, but discovered that 75 families had moved to the northern suburbs of Seattle and the potential of a church plant became a possibility. A search for property was initiated and the site of the church on Edmonds Way was purchased.
The core group of the new fellowship conducted a ground-breaking service in 1958 that launched the construction of the first Westgate Chapel building. Ray Anderson, a building contractor and developer, headed up the construction project assisted by many volunteers. Reverend Roger Anderson, a former missionary to Liberia and elder at Philadelphia Church came aboard to assist in the building project and to provide spiritual leadership for this new congregation. Several members of the Philadelphia Church board moved to the Edmonds area and labored together with others on the new church plant. Philadelphia Church asked them to serve on their behalf as the governing board of the branch work.
Excitement built toward Sunday, June 7, 1959, Westgate Chapel’s first Worship Service. About 75 people gathered to recognize that God had planted the church as a lighthouse in this new community. A dedication service was held on June 22, with Pastor Roy Johnson and many lay people from area churches in attendance.
The new congregation continued to grow. Pastor Roger Anderson served in a temporary capacity to set the church in motion and now advised the board that they should begin a search for a permanent pastor. After interviewing a number of candidates, the board felt they should extend a call to Pastor Anderson. He accepted the call and he and Louise began their new role on December 15, 1959. Pastor Roger Anderson was bi-vocational until 1962 when the church was able to support him as the full-time pastor. It was on June 7, 1962, the church was recognized as a nonprofit corporation by the State of Washington – three years to the day from the first service in the new building!
During the decade of the 1960s, the church grew under the leadership of Pastor Anderson. Various programs were instituted in the congregation to minister to the community. At the heart of the new pastor’s ministry was global missions. A former missionary to Africa himself, Pastor Anderson carried a burden for Liberia, West Africa. Westgate Chapel took on the responsibility of building a mission station and Bible School in Sinoe County which eventually became the Sinoe Bible Institute. A three year training program for national pastors was birthed. The first missionaries from Westgate Chapel were Pastor Osborne and Jane Arnes. Additionally, a missions outreach was started in Uruguay, South America, with Bible teaching, radio and printing ministries.
Pastor Roger Anderson made the decision to step down from leadership in early 1973 after fourteen years of ministry at Westgate Chapel. During the next few months, Erv Collingridge, a missionary recently returned from the mission field, provided pastoral assistance while the leadership began to search for a new Senior Pastor. Reverend Alan Caple was called to be the pastor in November of 1973. He and his wife Marlene originally came from England via Vancouver, Canada. Pastor Caple brought with him a strong commitment to evangelism and developed a vision for reaching the community.
In 1975, the original sanctuary was remodeled, but the facility became increasingly unable to handle the growth. A campaign was launched to purchase houses along 228th St SW to expand the church’s parking lot and provide room to construct a new sanctuary. The need for a new building was apparent, but finances were a major hurdle. Estimates for a new building approached one million dollars. There was only one financial institution that was willing to loan the church the money and even this was the result of a senior loan officer taking a special interest in the project. This in itself was a miracle of the Lord! Several hundred thousand dollars were also raised within the congregation. Construction began and the new building was completed in 1980. The first service was on Palm Sunday of that year. Two Sunday morning services were conducted, concurrent with adult, youth and children’s Sunday school classes.
The 1980‘s were a time where the Lord put Westgate Chapel through His refining fire. Pastor Caple stepped down from leadership at Westgate Chapel in the summer of 1981. Reverend Robert Anderson of Chicago, Illinois, having recently felt lead of the Lord to provide care for churches in transition, provided interim leadership for Westgate Chapel. Pastor Anderson brought with him a healing presence and was a source of strength to the Westgate Chapel family. The leadership of Westgate Chapel began a pastoral search process that led them once again to Canada. Pastor Donald Carmont was serving a congregation in suburban Vancouver, British Columbia. He was invited to meet the Westgate Chapel congregation and a call was extended to him in June of 1983. He served Westgate until 1987.
Pastor Carmont’s tenure can be characterized as a blend of excellent expository preaching and program development. In 1986, Sonrise Chapel, under the leadership of Pastor Dan Hammer was planted in Everett, Washington. Sonrise grew into a vibrant congregation, moving from a school building into a large complex on Airport road in Everett. Sonrise continues to be used by the Lord to reach the Everett area with the gospel and in mission efforts to many nations.
During the latter half of 1987, Pastor Bob Anderson once again provided interim leadership for our congregation. As a pastoral search began, the congregation was led by a number of sources to a young pastor in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The church in Cedar Rapids was experiencing a move of God and it didn’t seem like an ideal time for this pastor and his family to move out to the Seattle area, but eventually he consented to come to Westgate Chapel and meet the congregation. In January 1988, Pastor Alec Rowlands, his wife Rita and their daughters Vanessa and Kathryn, visited Westgate. The church extended a call to them and they arrived in March to assume pastoral leadership of Westgate Chapel.
The key characteristic of Pastor Alec’s ministry has been his call to prayer and revival. This was on his heart when he came and it remains a vital component of his vision. The Lord made this vision a reality when, in response to His moving in the Sunday morning service of August 23, 1992, the leadership of Westgate Chapel made the decision to transform the Wednesday evening service to a weekly all-church prayer meeting. Starting first on Wednesday night, and then moving to Tuesday night, the prayer meeting is our most important corporate meeting of the week. This significant change has allowed God to transform the lives of our congregation in mighty ways.
In 1994, Evergreen Community Church, under the leadership of Pastor Mark Morrison, was planted in Bothell, Washington. Evergreen Community Church has prospered and grown as a congregation, moving into a beautiful new building in Bothell in 2005.
The congregation was shocked on Sunday, October 26, 1997, to arrive at the church for Sunday services only to find that an arson fire had triggered a destructive blaze in the old building and heavily damaged the newer building with smoke. That afternoon the congregation met in borrowed facilities, seeking the good in the midst of tragedy. The fire all but destroyed the old building, rendering it unusable. After meeting several weeks in other auditoriums, the congregation was able to worship once again in the Westgate Chapel sanctuary. The fire destroyed most of the Christian education space so adjustments were made for classes to meet in a variety of facilities off campus.
God did bring good from the midst of evil. Congregational leadership looked to the Lord for wisdom regarding the future of our facility and ministry. As a result of prayer and discussion, the congregation voted to construct a 53,000 square foot facility to replace the space that was lost in the fire and to expand room for ministry. The burnt old building was demolished in February of 1999 and the construction process for the new Community Ministry Center began.
In 1999, the church mission was re-articulated: “Westgate Chapel exists to glorify God by being the community of faith in worship, in the world, and in witness.” With God’s faithfulness, presence and power, it is our desire to reach the Northwest and the world with the Good News of Jesus Christ.
The Lord has called Westgate into a closer walk with Him. He is changing us from being “loving workers” in His Kingdom to something that could be better described as “working lovers.” He has emphasized the principle of Know, Be, Do: To truly Know Him, allowing his presence and the knowledge of our Lord to continually Being transformed into His image, out of which we Do of His will and word to carry out His call upon us as a congregation.
In September of 2000 we had the joyous privilege to move into our new Community Center debt free. The congregation rallied after the fire and with the assistance of many, we were able to dedicate this building to the work of the Lord. Then on February 28, the Seattle area experienced a 6.8 magnitude earthquake. While there was little damage to our building, the structural engineer realized upon inspection that there had been an error in construction. Modifications were made and what started as a real construction concern ended with the full completion of the third floor.
A monumental shift in our strategic planning for the congregation began in May of 2001. The pastoral staff and board recognized the importance of getting away and presenting the ministries of Westgate to the Lord three times a year. Little did we know at the time that the Lord had commanded Moses to do the same. Ex. 34:24 “I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your territory, and no one will covet your land when you go up three times each year to appear before the LORD your God.” From these prayer retreats, the Lord has given the staff and board direction that has transformed the focus and direction of ministry at Westgate Chapel.
Sound the Alarm was launched in 2004 from Westgate’s pastors calling to the pastors of Washington State to prayer and repentance for the purpose of revival. Over 1100 pastors have joined the network of pastors believing for revival in Washington State.
In 2006, under the direction of Pastor Ron Brooks, a beautiful five acre property with a 6600 square feet, 11-room facility was purchased and refurbished to become a resident home for those struggling with addictions. In July of that year, New Heart Place was dedicated as a resident discipleship home for adult men seeking lasting freedom from a lifestyle of addictions through the life -changing power of God’s Holy Spirit.
Westgate is continually led by the Holy Spirit into wonderful opportunities and new territories. We have heard the Spirit of the Lord say, “there is oil in the house (2 Kings 4).” Whether it is ministry to our community through Regional Missions Food Bank , our Preschool Ministry to children, through our amazing Worship Ministry, our Global Missions program that has expanded to five major regions of the world, or through the Children’s, Youth or Adult Ministries, Westgate continues to see the blessing of the Lord upon its people as corporately we have endeavored to stay in the council chamber of the Most High God and to seek His will for our church and for our families. We can truly say; “God has been good!”