The Story of Wilshire
On June 14, 1951 , a group of 55 Christians intent on building a new Southern Baptist church met at the home of Dr. and Mrs. Winston E. Carswell. Charter membership was closed after one month with a total of 123 members. Initially, Sunday morning worship services were held at the former Wilshire Theater (located at the corner of Skillman and Mockingbird). Other services and Sunday School classes were held in various business in the Lakewood area.
Since her founding, Wilshire has had four pastors. Following the leadership of these four men, Wilshire has grown steadily in membership, facilities and influence in the community:
- Huber L. Drumwright (October 7, 1952, through June 1, 1955)
- Ralph Langley (October 2, 1955, through February 25, 1958)
- Bruce McIver (November 30, 1958, through December 11, 1988)
- George Mason (August 29, 1989, to the present)
Under Drumwright’s leadership, Wilshire purchased the present three-acre tract at 4316 Abrams Road and constructed the first education building. Later, the first Sanctuary (now McIver Chapel) was constructed. During these early years, membership grew to more that 400 members, and Doryce and Ross Coggins were the first Wilshire members to be appointed as foreign missionaries.
Langley guided Wilshire’s continued growth as additional facilities were constructed. During his years, the church ordained its first deacons, had more members appointed as foreign missionaries, and membership exceeded 1,200.
During the next 30 years, Wilshire made great advances under McIver’s tenure. Membership increased to more than 3,000 and the church recorded more than 1,000 baptisms. Ground was broken in February 1965 for the present Sanctuary, which was dedicated in 1966. With the growth that continued, Wilshire needed more education space. An addition to the education facility and a refurbished chapel were completed in 1982. At the church’s 35th anniversary on Oct. 19, 1986, the chapel was named in honor of McIver. He was honored with the title pastor emeritus when he retired at the end of 1988.
When Mason became pastor in 1989, the church faced many new challenges of a new day. Both the community and the times were changing. Wilshire's location originally was a thriving community of young families, new homes and businesses. By 1989, a mature congregation found itself in a community with questions about the future. Mason led the church to pursue a comprehensive study of long-range opportunities and mission objectives. Wilshire decided to remain where it was and become a brighter beacon in the community.
In 2009, the church celebrated the senior pastor’s 20th anniversary, along with occupancy of two major renovation and expansion projects. The new Community Hall opened in the summer of 2009, providing a place not only for church fellowship but also for community events. In the fall of 2009, the new music wing opened, including a 200-seat Choral Hall, enlarged rehearsal rooms for ensembles and instrumental groups, offices and space for the Wilshire Academy of Fine Arts. In 2010, the church opened a modern-day expression of an old church tradition. The Columbarium at Wilshire provides a meditative garden setting for inurnment of cremated remains—a new twist on the old church cemetery.
In 2011, Wilshire marked its 60th anniversary with publication of a history book, Blest Be the Tie.