April 7, 2013: 100 years & still rising! The first 40!

Posted on : Apr 4th, 2013 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

For about the first 40 years of our ministry, we were a pretty traditional church with a very traditional ministry.  Our Church was formed to reach out to middle class folks who lived in very middle class homes in our middle class neighborhood.  Our church had a choir, a ladies’ missionary society, children’s programs, men’s groups, very traditional worship, and was almost all white/Caucasian, as was the neighborhood.  At the time, the area we know today as “West Hollywood” was known as “The Town of Sherman.”  That’s because the Shermans owned all the land!

Our church was organized on Nov. 2, 1913.  One month later, December of 1913,the lot at the southwest corner of Sunset Boulevard and Martel Avenue, known as 7350 Sunset Blvd., was purchased from Frank P. Sherman and Corrine Sherman (husband and wife) for…..(take a deep breath!!!)  Ten ($10.00) Dollars!  Yup, $10!!!

Here’s a picture of what the area looked like in 1920:

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The intersection of Santa Monica and Crescent Heights Boulevards, circa 1920. Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library Photograph Collection.

Here’s what Sunset Blvd looked like in 1939!  My, oh my, how we’ve changed!!!

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The Sunset Strip in 1939. Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library Photograph Collection

We had it first!

The original name chosen by those who founded the church was “Hollywood Presbyterian Church.”  The folks at “First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood” who used the nickname “Hollywood Presbyterian” weren’t too happy with that, so the Presbytery of Los Angeles “convinced” our folks to name our Church “West Hollywood Presbyterian.”   The name was chosen because we are located on the west side of Hollywood.  The City of West Hollywood did not come into existence until 1985. And just for the record, we are technically in the City of Los Angeles.  We are one block outside of the City boundary of West Hollywood.  When WeHo City officials chide me about not being within the City boundary, yet using “their” name, I remind them we had it first!  As best as we can tell, we were the first “West Hollywood” anything!

During the last 100 years, West Hollywood Church has gone through many changes.  We’ve had four distinctly different “congregations,” at least 4 distinctly different ministries, three different buildings, and who knows how many different neighborhoods. You name it and almost everything has changed here, with one exception.  Since 1956 we’ve only had two pastors!  Yup, that’s me and my predecessor, the Rev. Dr. Ross Greek.  Now that’s pastoral stability in times of intensive change!

We at West Hollywood Church would not even “be” today were it not for those 54 persons who gathered in a store front at Gardner St and Sunset Blvd on Nov. 2, 1913 to form our church.  Nor would we “be” who we are today were it not for the bold, creative visionary leadership that began with our former pastor, the Rev. Dr. Ross Greek.  Ross led this congregation through a sea of change – both spiritually and in terms of neighborhood change.

Next Sunday (April 14)  Allan Rohlfs will be with us as our guest speaker.  Allan is the last link we have to our living past.  He was the young Lutheran Seminary Intern who served here in 1968.  He was here during the beginning of our ministry with the gay community and at the height of the social rebellion against the war in Vietnam.  He was here the year the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated and was part of our church’s tireless efforts for racial justice and equality.  He was here for the beginning of the feminist revolution and the “Make Love Not War” generation that began the sexual revolution in America. He has a wonderful story to tell!  You won’t want to miss him on April 14!!!

God has a unique way of leading us forward into the future, and fortunately this church has been very open to where God is leading.  But were it not for the Saints of God who went before us and shaped the way – none of this would be!

This year we will celebrate our 100th anniversary focusing on five key experiences in our ministry.

  • the first 40 years:  1913-1953
  • the Counter Cultural Years – Ross Greek’s living legacy and ministry – 1960-70’s:

Allan Rohlfs, Seminary Intern, 1968.

  • The first mainline gay and lesbian ministry in an American Church:

The Lazarus Project (1977) and ministry of West Hollywood Presbyterian Church.

  • Our Church responds to the HIV/AIDS pandemic  (1985-1996)
  • A Church of the 21st Century (2000 – to now). Becoming UCC.

Our theme for this 100th anniversary celebration is:

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“Do Not Abandon That Confidence of Yours.”

Hebrews 10:35

What a living witness we are to the resurrection!   100 years and still rising!  This will be an exciting year!

Easter Blessings!

Dan

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