History and growth of Lancaster United Methodist Church
Growing through the years to serve Jesus Christ in the Antelope Valley
The congregation of the Lancaster United Methodist has been organized in the Antelope Valley for over 130 years!
It has been a central meeting place for residents as well as a place of spiritual strength and connection with God through Jesus Christ.
As the oldest protestant congregation in Lancaster, God has blessed countless families in the good times and the bad. It's buildings have housed countless generations of children, youth and adults as they became faithful followers of Jesus Christ.
Present Sanctuary of the Lancaster United Methodist Church when we recently celebrated Pentecost, the gift of God's Holy Spirit in Jesus Christ.
1700's - 2000 A.D.
As a Christian denomination in the Protestant tradition, the United Methodist Church started as the Methodist renewal movement in the American Colonies and then spread quickly throughout the early United States from revolutionary times.
It was an offshoot of the Church of England and had it's roots in the Wesleyan movement of the early 1700's led by Rev. John Wesley.
Here's a brief video about the faithfulness, the innovation and the dedication that the early Methodist Christians had in frontier America.
Lancaster Blvd in the 1930's
In 1827, Jedidiah Smith, mountain man / frontiersman, hunter, trapper, author, cartographer, explorer and a methodist (who carried a bible where ever he went), was part of the first recorded anglo group to enter the Antelope Valley. He was followed by John C. Fremont in 1844 who made a scientific observation of the valley.
At that time, an estimated 80,000 Pronghorn Antelope lived in the valley, giving it it's name. In 1882-85, the valley lost 30,000 head of antelope, due to unusually heavy snows in both the mountains and the valley floor. That snow fall drove the antelope toward their normal feeding grounds in the eastern part of the valley. Since they would not cross the railroad tracks, many of them starved to death. (wikipedia)
After the Southern Pacific Railroad was completed in 1878, the Antelope Valley began to draw farmers and ranchers into "colonies", rural developments that set up around the valley with names like Del Sur, Esperanza, New Scotland, and Maynard. Many of these names are still around in our elementary schools.
So in 1884, the same year that the town of Lancaster was laid out, a methodist congregation that would become the "Community Methodist Episcopal Church" was brought together by Rev. H. R. Stevens. In 1886, various small groups of methodists were brought together in Esperanza, (near today's Antelope Acres) and plans were made to offer worship and learning opportunities on a regular basis.
In 1894, a major drought came to the valley and drove many families out. Of those that remained, most moved to the water stop on the railroad to the east that was called Lancaster.
The struggling congregation first met in homes, then in the grammar school building across from the old Western Hotel on Lancaster Blvd and finally in the Western Hotel itself. The activities of the Community M.E. Church soon became the major social center of the the Antelope Valley.
As the population grew around the turn of the century, the community "fathers" agreed that there would be a division of the population centers to the various protestant denominations. The Congregational Church would build in Mojave. The Presbyterian Church in Palmdale and the Methodist Church would build in Lancaster.
In 1907, this early structure was constructed on Date Street in the block north of Lancaster Blvd. The downtown Fire station now stands on the property. Lancaster Blvd. was then called 10th Street and this location was 3 blocks west of Sierra Highway and the railroad line, in the heart of Lancaster.
It served not only as the worship center for the Methodists, but as gathering hall of many, for frequent community meals, and all sorts of other community occasions such as weddings, welcomes and celebrations.
Later, in 1953, this building was sold to the Beth Knesset Bamidbar (founded 1951) and used as the first Jewish synogogue in the Antelope Valley.
A major milestone was reached in the growth of the Community Methodist Episcopal (M.E.) Church.
In the 1920's, as the church reached out and was filled with many members of the community, we constructed a major facility right in the center of Lancaster, (on the north east corner of Lancaster Blvd. at Date Ave). The church owned the whole corner lot!
A 90 year old quilt marks the occasion as the congregation would put early AV residents on the quilt for a donation! In this way the kitchen was completed.
A list of the total operating budget for the church for the following years gives an interesting story of the growth of the church and of the area:
The main worship center / Sanctuary was built in 1966 and added to the earlier buildings that inclulded John Wesley hall and the education buildings.
Clergy assigned to the various congregations that became LANCASTER: UMC
LP denotes Local Pastor, Parens () are Retired Appointed Pastor or non-conference menters. Appointments usually begin July 1 unless otherwise noted.
Antelope Valley 1884 (H. R. Stevens);
85 (C. B. Pershing); 86 G. S. Umpleby; 87 Supplied; 88 Adam Bland; 91 E. S. Robertson; 92 (W. 0. Askins); 93 B. F. Wolffe; 96 S. P. Sowden; 96 Supplied; 97 E. H. Dupuy; 98 No record; 1908 (E. R. Yost); 09 (Cornelius Epp); 10 J. H. Amis; 13 (W. L. Dexter); 15 S. L. Todd; 16 A. H. Bolton; 17 J. Crawford Trotter; 18 (C. W. Green); 19 D. K. Burnham; 21 S. Phillips; 22 O. C. Laizure; 23 J. M. Ocheltree; 27 H. E. Hooper; 30 Randall B. Scott; 33 R. W. Plannette; 37 Carl B. Johnson; 41 T. A. Ray; 42 (Jan) Harold Loy; 46 Fay H. Prince; 51 F. Bruce Ellis; 54 Leonidas I. Brock; 59 Edmund R. Warne; 63 (Feb) Dorsey Allen; 72 (Dec) David G. Rogne; 79 (Jan) Kenneth L. Heflin; 86 Richard Burdine; 92 Kenneth Heaton; 93 J. Robert Stimmel; 99 (Mar) (Kenneth L. Heflin); 99 James C. Ledgerwood; 2007 (Feb 1) Frank Sablan; 09 (Mar 22) (James Brewster – Interim RA); 09 Warren B. "Terry" Van Hook
Associate Ministers: 1957-58 Charles Maloney; 58-62 Millard W. Wolfe; 62 (Nov)-63 Roland Brammeier: 63-65 (George Wolverton); 64-65 Paul F. Crockett; 65-67 Marshall S. Lindsay; 67-68 J. Edward Burn: 68-71 Vernon W. Bradley; 71-72 (Oct) Kenneth G. Heaton; 73-76 Paul H. Enns; 76-78 R. Norton: 80-82 (Sep) Michael Pugh: 83-86 William S. Cutter; 86-90 Mary Beth Birgelaitis; 90-92 Cathy S. Wright; 01-07 Kathy Ledgerwood-LP; 07 TBS; 2011 Jason Woodell-LP
Megumi Kai: Japanese Ministry: 1997-98 (Benjamin Seishi Nonaka); 98 TBS; 04 Aki Urakawa-LP; 07 TBS
The 30's and the Great Depression were a challenging time for the whole nation. The congregation responded by pulling togther and keeping their pastor in town with bake sales and dinners. The Ice Cream Social was begun to bring together people of the whole valley and except for years of WWII, continues until this day.
Is was in 1939 that the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Methodist Episcopal Church South merged, healing some of the spiritual divisions that had remaind since the Civil War.
During the 1941 slump, the church went through a drastic test. A loan balance of $6,200 was declared past due and was "called" for immediate payment. Members secured personal loans, mortgaged their homes, and drained savings accounts to pay the debt. Many of those dedicated people are still members of the congregation in 1979.
World War II brought an expansion of Muroc Field into a major Army Air Force Base. The congregation responded by bringing in the soldiers into their homes for family dinners and friendly surroundings. Many of the members visited the base in USO sponsored activities.
in the 1960's
The Antelope Valley has had it's share of "boom" times and "bust" time.
When water was plentiful, agriculture flourished. Crops and Orchards were filled to capacity with grains, vegetables and fruits.
When defense budgets were large, aerospace flouished with cutting edge technology and factories that turned out fighters, bombers and commercial airliners.
When housing prices were low and supplies plentiful, communters moved in.
Through all these ups and downs, the Lancaster United Methodist Church congregation has provided a place to come closer to God in Jesus Christ, raise families in a faith centered environment, reach out in many, many mission projects and have fun and fellowship during it all.
Downtown Lancaster during the 1960's
Once again, explosive growth in the Antelope Valley resulted in a congregation growing outside it's walls. In 1954, property was purchased on J near west 10th ave and we moved out to the "suburbs" of Lancaster.
J Street had previously been known as Del Sur Road.
First a multi-purpose building was constructed. Worship services were held in the room now named "John Wesley Hall" and during other times it was used as the social hall.
The north section of the Church School building was started and completed that year. The south wing was occupied two years later in 1956.
Attendence at Easter Services in 1958 was 1,000.
In 1963, plans for the present sanctuary were approved and it was completed by 1964. At that time the Church was known simply as the Community Methodist Church of Lancaster.
The Lancaster Preschool was begun in 1965 and has served the community with high quality childcare and nursery care first through a co-op format then a full fledged pre-school. In 2005, the preschool went through a major renewal and became the Footprint Christian Children's Center.
In 1968 the Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC) and the Evangelical United Bretheran Church (EUB) merged and became the United Methodist Church (UMC). At that time the name of our congregation was changed from Community Methodist Episcopal Church to the Lancaster United Methodist Church.
The Church continued to grow with the town of Lancaster and the mortgage for that expansion was burned in 1995.
Below is the Original Master Plan, circa 1953, with the building committee listed underneath on second page. Around 1955, the education wing and the social hall (John Wesley Hall) was built using this plan. Note: Ave. J runs along the left side of this plan. (Please open images in a new tab to see full detail.)
The 1953 Master Plan was modified in the 1960's to reorient the Sanctuary/Worship Center to be parallel to Ave. J and so open to the parking lot on the west.
Photo of Sanctuary/Worship Center circa 1990.
The Megumi Kai (Fellowship of God's Grace Japanese Congregation) was begun in 1970 with members of military families stationed at Edwards Air Force Base. Chioko Talbert and Beryl Frane led a Prayer Group. Elaine Woodcock worked with Cioko organizing the women.
Services were often bi-lingual: Japanese and English.
For many years the women led the dancing at the Asian Appreciation Days at Edwards AFB.
Our Megumi Kai Church has been a significant cultural center for Asian-Americans ever since.
Lancaster United Methodist church is now working on reaching out to the growing Latino community by offering Hispanic friendly activities, studies and worship events.
In 2006, the Grand Foyer was dedicated which greatly expanded the gathering area and provided year around protection from the heat of summer and the cold of winter, as well as the winds of spring and fall.
With this addition, Lancaster UMC has continued it's service to the community with weekly worship and Sunday School as well as bi-weekly hot meals to the hungry serving over 500 a week (in existence for over 20 years), prayer services, a counseling center, youth and children's spiritual education and the Footprints Christian Children's Center (in existence for over 47 years.)
The Education building is being upgraded and programs such as FIVE ALIVE Community Outreach have been added. Missions have expanded along with the Footprints Christian Children's Center, Sunday School and Adult Christian Education Classes.
In 2011, a 3-5 year Vision was adopted that identified Education: both Christian and Secular, Poverty and Hunger, and Multicultural Outreach as significant goals God was calling us to.
One new effort from this Visioning was the offering of Immigration Workshops for immigrants to become citizen's of the United States. Donna Horn lead a team of people putting on two workshops a year!
2016 saw a new outreach to the Chinese Community inaugrated with the leadership of Rev. Ray and Rose Sung. Beginning with seven people on the first Sunday in July, it rapidly grew to over 30 by November first by offering study, a Ping Pong Club and Sunday worship.
Also in the summer of 2016, our Sunday School became "SPARK" and adopted the rotational model of useing art and other involvement activities to experience as well as learn about Bible stories.
-2017 A.D. - and beyond!
We're looking forward to an expansion of our Hispanic Ministries.
In 2013 is was estimated that 47% of the employable workforce living in Lancaster and 54% of the employable workforce of Palmdale commuted down the hill to the Los Angeles metropolitian area.
"Soup Kitchen" serves
500-700 each week!
For over twenty years, the Community Kitchen Crew has been serving meals to the hungry and homeless.
Every Monday and Thursday, rain or shine, the doors to John Wesley Hall are opened and the words: "Jesus invites you to eat!" are proclaimed.
Singles, families, young and old alike stream in to receive life-giving food and to share in the gospel of love through Jesus Christ.
Sanctuary Symbolism by Shirley Sayles
"Stained Glass" windows and the Symbols they contain
Pieces of broken colored glass can be useless debris or in the hands of an artist can become beautiful symbolic windows which enhance worship and go into the hearts of the worshipers. That is what happened in LUMC’s sanctuary. Each window tells a story. This symbolism helps worshipers center their thoughts and prayers on our awesome and always creating God.
The stained glass windows were all installed in the sanctuary when it was built in the early ‘60s, using natural light to enhance their beauty. When the Grand Foyer and coffee area were added, windows on the south and east sides of the building which were external became internal. A series of skylights and bright light from the Grand Foyer were part of the design so that natural light still shines through the windows
In the chancel the large cross over the altar speaks of a crucified and risen Lord whose love knows no bounds.
The dove is one of the most ancient symbols of Christendom. The Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove at the baptism of Jesus. Thus, the dove over the altar symbolize the Holy Spirit coming upon us. The three doves are arranged in the tradition of the Easter Orthodox Christians to show the movement of the Holy Spirit down to us.
The original background behind the cross was made of mother of pearl tiles. Unfortunately, some of the tiles became damaged and replacements were not available. Local artist and church member Doug Oliver designed and supervised the construction of the current background which represents the epiphany, the birth of the Christian church.
Outside, the twenty-seven foot gold cross on the tower stands eighty feet in the air for all to see. Through the generosity of a member family, the original gold leaf which had deteriorated was replaced with a special gold paint so that it again shows bright when hit by the sun all day long.
The sixteen foot gold mosaic cross on the west wall is a thing of beauty.
On the West wall of the Grand Foyer, over the original entry to the narthex are twelve crosses making LUMC a “Church of Crosses.” They represent Jesus and the twelve apostles who helped to take the Gospel into the world. Those crosses were designed into the south wall of the Grand Foyer above the entryway to the Narthex.
The cross, a hated symbol of an oppressive rule, has become a symbol of salvation for Christians. That the cross is empty means that we serve a living and victorious Christ. The four wooden crosses placed in the North, East and South windows of the Grand Foyer were designed and lovingly constructed by Mike Struckman, a member of the congregation.
Take time to look at the use of various colors of wood in the crosses.
COLOR AND THE CHURCH "SEASONS" - A Yearly pattern
Further symbolism is found in the color of the altar paraments, the cloths and hangings put on the altar and pulpit. They are changed according to the "Church Season" of the year.
ADVENT-CHRISTMAS-EPIPHANY We start the Church Year with Advent and the color Purple (or sometimes Blue) It's a season of the four Sundays before Christmas. Purple symbolizes penitence, watching or fasting.
The twelve days of Christmas follows with it's celebration color of White. White signifies light and purity and is symbolic of the perfection of the Godhead. White is also used for Easter, Holy Communion, Baptism, Trinity Sunday and other special Holy Days.
The Sunday that ends the Christmas season is Epiphany, the celebrating the Magi's visit to Jesus. It's color is green. Green is symbolic of hope and growth in the Christian life.
ASH WEDNESDAY - LENT - HOLY WEEK-EASTER-PENTECOST There is a break in the seasons until Ash Wednesday. While it's specific color is Black, it starts the season of Lent which once again uses Purple for preparation, fasting and penitence. Holy Week continues the color Purple until Easter, except for Good Friday, which is Black. Pentecost is the Sunday that ends the Easter Season and it's color is Red. Red symbolizes Christian zeal and fire as well as the work and ministry of the church.
Often after Pentecost the colors are kept Red until Advent starts again in November.