A new era in began Sunday as minister Keith Stuart led his first service.
The theme of Rev. Stuart's first service was, "You can go home again." The chosen text was the parable of the prodigal son.
In that sermon, he spoke of how not only was the younger, prodigal son lost, but so was the elder son with his hurt and resentment. The father brought both of them home with unconditional, limitless love, Rev. Stuart said.
Rev. Stuart is hoping to create a feeling of home for his new congregation.
"We want people to know there is a role for them here, and to see that a community of faith is home wherever they are," he said.
Rev. Stuart was unanimously chosen in March by the church's search and call committee, which was charged with finding a new minister after the 2011 deparure of Scott Patterson, who had served for 20 years.
Rev. Stuart comes to Westlake from First Congregational United Church of Christ in Mt. Vernon, where he had been minister for 10 years. He and his wife, Cindy, had two adult children.
The committee had received about 60 applications for the position, said member Mike English.
Technology changed the selection process, said Dave Brugh, another committee member who had also been on the committee that selected Rev. Patterson.
"Twenty years ago, we couldn't go on (applicants') church websites, read their writings, or see online videos of their sermons," he said. "Being able to do that this time helped a lot in narrowing the field."
Rev. Stuart was one of just two candidates interviewed. Brugh said Sunday's service confirmed the group's choice.
"One member came up to me just now and said, '(Rev. Stuart) leaves you with something you can take home,'" he said.