Community Church_ Corona del Mar_ CA Church History

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					Community Church                                                                      Church History
Corona del Mar, CA

                       Community Church, Corona del Mar, CA
                                 Church History

Introduction - "Most of what follows is true." (1).............................................. 2
"Get a group of women together..." ................................................................ 2
Our Church Is Started..................................................................................... 3
Schrock........................................................................................................... 5
"To a church's parish...".................................................................................. 6
Growing Pains ................................................................................................ 7
The Reverend and the Colonel....................................................................... 9
The Union ..................................................................................................... 10
Moving Forward in Faith ............................................................................... 13
Years of Change........................................................................................... 14
Doing the Possible........................................................................................ 16
On To Our Next Quarter Century.................................................................. 18
Years of Growth............................................................................................ 19
Years of Pain and Healing ............................................................................ 22
You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet............................................................................ 25

Community Church                                                             Church History
Corona del Mar, CA

Introduction - "Most of what follows is true." (1)
        There are several written accounts of the early days of Community Church, Congregational.
The dates and people involved in events vary from account to account. Some of these differences
were easier than others to resolve. As an example of a resolvable difference, the original ground-
breaking was shown to have taken place on three different dates: February 25th, a Sunday; February
28th, a Wednesday, or February 29th, a date that doesn't exist, in that the year in question was not a
leap year. This choice was solved by checking the bulletin for Feb. 25, which noted that the ground-
breaking would be held after worship. In other cases, such as the date of the first meeting of our
founders, for which four separate dates were found, I chose to be general, rather than guess which of
the dates would be the correct one.
        In terms of the various conflicts that have afflicted our church, I'm sure there will be
different recollections of what took place. I've made every effort to be as accurate and fair as
possible in these instances.

"Get a group of women together..."
         Mrs. Frances Cox, a widow with four sons, had been trying to get residents of Corona del Mar
interested in starting a church for a number of years. In the early years, the nation was in the Great
Depression; now it was World War II that occupied everyone's minds. A popular point of view was
that Corona del Mar was not a "church town." In reality, many residents did not attend a church
because wartime gas rationing severely limited their ability to drive to churches in other communities.
         In September, 1942, Mrs. George Lewis stopped by the Cox home. During her visit, she asked
if any progress was being made in organizing a church. Mrs. Cox shared her frustration, but added
that she had received encouragement from the Rev. Raymond Brahms of Laguna Beach. When she
asked him how she could go about starting a church, he replied: "Get a group of women together and
most anything will start."
         "Well, that's easy enough. Let's do it," replied Mrs. Lewis. "I'll get my neighbors and you get
yours. When could we meet?"
         They decided to meet the following week at Mrs. Cox's home, which stood on a bluff
overlooking Newport Harbor and the Pacific Ocean.
         "They came, ten of them. All enthusiastic and asked me to be chairman," recalled Mrs. Cox.
They named themselves the Capilla (Spanish for chapel) Circle, outlined their goals and set the date
for another meeting in two weeks. (See Appendix B for the roster of the Capilla Circle's charter
         They quickly organized themselves into committees and elected officers. Meetings were held
at different homes on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month. The pattern for these
meetings was for the women to begin arriving in the mornings, when they were available. They would
socialize and work on wartime sewing and knitting projects for the Red Cross. At noon, they would
have lunch, which was prepared by the hostess and then they would get down to the business of
organizing their church. The minutes from the previous meeting would be read, followed by the
Treasurer's report, the Red Cross Report and the reports of the Membership and Sunshine committees.
         They would also take up a penny offering. At their meeting on October 7, 1942, which was
the first time an offering was taken, they collected 47 cents. For the first time they had a treasury.
         Now there was no stopping them.
         Their immediate goal was to provide a place in Corona del Mar where children could attend
Sunday School and where people could become interested in helping to establish a church. They knew

Community Church                                                              Church History
Corona del Mar, CA
the latter would take some time, so they began a series of Vesper Services on November 22, 1942.
The services were held in Baltz Chapel by the Sea, a funeral parlor on Pacific Coast Highway between
Marigold and Narcissus avenues. These services were held on Sundays at four o'clock in the afternoon
so ministers from surrounding communities, or chaplains from local military bases, could conduct
         The search for a place to hold Sunday School continued into 1943. The owner of an
unoccupied house on Jasmine Avenue, near Fourth Avenue, gave her permission to use it. It was a
one-room structure that had been moved onto the rear of the lot. It sat in a forlorn field of weeds with
no dwellings on either side of it for two blocks, and had no utilities, plumbing nor furniture. Instead of
being discouraged, the Circle members saw it as their chance to make a start and went to work.
Buckets of hot water had to be brought over in cars. They swept down cobwebs, scrubbed the
building from floor to ceiling, and sterilized every inch of the place. Husbands of Circle members
repaired the roof and constructed a gravel walkway. Heavy, unbleached sheeting was purchased and
made into curtains to subdivide the house into four classrooms.
         In her notes, Mrs. Cox remembers: "During the process of renovation, a little girl, about five
years old, came running from her nearby home, with the happiest look on her face and asked: 'are you
really going to have a Sunday School? I will come.'" When she was informed that they were, indeed,
working on a Sunday School, the child pitched in and helped with the weeding.
         When the clean-up was completed, they placed a sign in front that read: Corona del Mar
Community Sunday School.
         Classroom materials were donated by another church and furniture was provided or built by
some of the husbands of Circle members. A piano was purchased for $50 and a wood-burning stove
was installed.
         The women were then sent out into their neighborhoods in the community to go door-to-door
to invite children to attend the Sunday School.
         In November, 1943, more than 20 children crowded into the house and attendance soon
reached 40. The size of the program was only one problem that faced the early teachers. Since many
of the children had never been to Sunday School, their knowledge of the Bible-- and Christianity for
that matter-- was limited. One four-year-old had never heard any mention of God, Jesus or the Bible.
It must have pleased the women of the Circle to see their Christian service meeting a serious need in
the community.

Our Church Is Started
        It seems strange that minutes of those early Capilla Circle meetings are very detailed as to who
hosted their semi-monthly meetings, how many items were completed for the Red Cross, how much
money was in the Treasury, and what was served for lunch. But the notes contain no mention of
exactly when the Sunday School classes began. There is also no indication of exactly when the
property on which they planned to build a church was purchased, how much they paid for it, and
where the money came from.
        The popularity of the Sunday School program led Circle members to focus on starting a
church. In February, 1944, two lots on Heliotrope Avenue were purchased and a few months later, a
third was added. Early records indicate that the purchases were "far-sighted and a very good buy."
        The Circle members now began to discuss the matter of affiliation: which denomination would
they choose? Although very few of the organizers had Congregational Church backgrounds, that's
where they decided to affiliate. Once again, it is not clear as to why, but money seems to have been a
factor. Its proper title was the Congregational Christian Churches, and it was in a position to make the

Community Church                                                             Church History
Corona del Mar, CA
best offer. (See Appendix C for a brief history of the church) The Congregationalists proposed a
$3,500 grant and a $6,500 loan to be repaid over 10 years, as opposed to a $900 offer from the
         On February 27, 1944, they met with Mr. Nelson Drier, Superintendent of Southern California
and the South West (cq), who explained the beliefs of the Congregational Church and how to approach
them for fellowship. Later that month, he arranged for them to meet with the Rev. Perry F. Schrock, a
retired Congregational Minister, who he felt might be persuaded to help establish a church.
         Our records show that "In March, 1944, an evening meeting was held with Mr. Drier and Rev.
Schrock and his wife. A very enlightening meeting to all present, as Rev. Schrock reviewed the
history of the Congregational Church."
         Rev. Schrock had served at churches in Washington and Oregon before coming to Southern
California. Here, he served as the minister at First Congregational Church of Santa Ana for 25 years.
Poor health had forced him to retire.
         His health soon improved and he was persuaded to act as Interim Superintendent of the
Conference. When Mr. Drier took over that position, Rev. Schrock stayed active as Pastor-at-Large.
Included in his experience was the building of a church in Washington.
         Although he was not dictatorial, the Rev. Schrock was a very strong and intense individual,
exactly the kind of a personality that was needed to start a church during World War II. A determined
individual was needed to obtain hard-to-get building materials at a time when everyday necessities
were being rationed as part of the war effort.
         He began conducting Sunday morning worship services on May 28, 1944 at Baltz Chapel by
the Sea. On the evening of June 7, 1944, a meeting of the Church Organizing Committee was held at
the home of Mrs. Lewis. The meeting minutes read: "Discussion as to name of the new church
organization, after much thought and many names offered, the one which seemed to find favor was
Corona del Mar Community Church Congregational." Our first slate of officers was elected with the
Rev. Schrock becoming our first Moderator.
         On Sunday, September 10, 1944, the church was formally organized with 54 Charter
Members. (See Appendix D) Our first annual meeting was held at Mi Casa Restaurant on Balboa
Island on January 11, 1945. The dinner meeting was attended by 80 members and friends of the
church. The minutes mentioned that eight new members had joined the church on Dec. 10, 1944.
Among those joining were Rev. and Mrs. Schrock and Miss Margaret Scharle, who was to become our
first organist.
         The minutes also mention that "Mr. Schrock was unanimously called as pastor and he
accepted." He had initially planned to get the church started in his capcity as Pastor-at-Large and then
turn the pulpit over to another minister, but had clearly changed his mind, to the delight of his new
         Because the funds available from the Church Building Society and those raised by the Capilla
Circle weren't sufficient to build a church, the Rev. Schrock approached James Irvine, Jr. for help.
Irvine owned the ranch land surrounding Corona del Mar and plans were underway to begin
developing it. The Rev. Schrock explained to Mr. Irvine that a church in Corona del Mar would help
attract families to the community, which would benefit his development plans. An arrangement to
match funds donated to the building of the church was finally offered to the congregation by Mr.
Irvine, and accepted.(2) The capital campaign was underway.

Community Church                                                              Church History
Corona del Mar, CA

         Now the Rev. Schrock's experience, strength and determination would prove essential. He was
about to take on the United States government.
         The church asked for a construction permit from the War Production Board in Los Angeles. It
was denied because "It would not contribute to the War effort." The Rev. Schrock retorted to the
Board: "How can cocktail bars and saloons be given priority over a church?" When no response was
received, he wrote directly to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. A letter soon came back from the War
Production Board in Washington D. C. suggesting that the church re-submit its application. The Los
Angeles office again denied the request. This was seen by many in the congregation as an attempt by
the Production Board to "save face." The Rev. Schrock wrote another letter to Washington, which,
according to his recollection, "pulled no punches." Not long after that, a letter was received from the
Los Angeles Board approving the allocation.
         After church services on Sunday, February 25, 1945, the members of the congregation left the
funeral home on Coast Highway that served as their church, and took a short stroll to their property on
Heliotrope Avenue for a ground-breaking ceremony. Mrs. Lewis, who represented the Building
Committee, the Rev. Schrock, and Robert Horn, who was Chairman of the Deacons, turned the first
shovels of earth. Construction was underway on the first building of our church, Pilgrim Hall.
         Pilgrim Hall was the first church structure in Corona del Mar. It was designed as a single-story
building that was to house the church office and a Fellowship Hall with a small kitchenette. It would
be used for church meetings, dinners, Sunday School, and had a stage which could be used for other
church programs. Taken from the New England architectural style, it was located across the back of
our property, where Hougan Hall is now sits. (See Appendix E)             Rev. Schrock favored the New
England style because he felt it fit in with the community, and it could have a bell tower. He had spent
25 years at a church that didn't have a bell, and he was determined to have one.
         On July 1, 1945, the new building was formally opened. Nearly 200 members and friends
crowded into Pilgrim Hall to hear Rev. Schrock give a sermon that highlighted the endeavors of the
congregation. Imagine those 200 people, crowded into an area about the size of the choir room. Even
with the press of the congregation in that small space, it's easy to believe that every one of them was
thrilled to be there.
         Sunday services then returned to Baltz Chapel by the Sea and Pilgrim Hall was used for all the
other church functions, including fund-raising events. At a church meeting on July 5, 1945, Gus
Grupe made his report. He was Financial Secretary and Chairman of the Building Committee and he
reported that this first unit of our church had cost $9,839 to build at that point. Materials had now been
allocated for the first sanctuary. The sanctuary was to run in an inverted "L" shape from Pilgrim Hall
out to Heliotrope, in about the center of today's patio, located in a spot that now would be between the
current sanctuary and Mertz Hall.
         On Sunday, August 12, 1945, the members of the congregation again took the short walk from
Baltz Mortuary to the Heliotrope property. Work on the sanctuary had progressed to a point where the
steeple was nearly completed. Those assembled that day heard our church bell ring for the first time.
         At its completion, the sanctuary was a shallow version of what we worship in today. It
consisted of the narthex and a nave, or seating area, with 22 pews. The chancel was narrower than it is
today because of the hallways that led back to Pilgrim Hall. The bass and tenor sections of the choir
sat on the left side with the organist and the alto and soprano sections sat on the right. Because Rev.
Schrock wouldn't allow the Choir Director to stand in front of the altar and cross, the sah also sat on
the right. This presented a sight line problem for the choir members who were sitting on the same side
as the Choir Director. The problem was solved by mounting a mirror above the choir pews on the left,

Community Church                                                              Church History
Corona del Mar, CA
allowing the musicians on the right side to see directions given by the Choir Director, as she stood
among them and they faced out
across the chancel.
        In 1946, 611 Heliotrope Avenue became the permanent home of Community Church,
Congregational. Dedication ceremonies, held over a period of three Sundays, began on January 6th.
A special 3:30 p.m. service was held on Sunday, January 20th to dedicate the organ.(3) The program
from that service notes:
        "When we planned our new building, space was provided for the installation of a pipe organ.
Few of us had any ideas that it would be possible to install an organ immediately. That was something
to work for later. But Miss Scharle gathered together a volunteer, unofficial 'Organ Committee.' This
Committee proceeded to raise the funds and purchase an organ. And here it is!" The program notes
indicated that of the $5,086.20 cost of the organ, all but $694 had been raised by the time of the
        A newspaper article about the event reported: "To Miss Scharle goes most of the credit for a
splendid pipe organ, the first one in the district."
        Membership by this time had reached 100 and our second Annual Meeting was

"To a church's parish..."
         During all of this activity, the Capilla Circle continued to meet. They had deeded the land over
to the congregation as soon as our church was chartered. The task of organizing and building the
church was now the responsibility of church committees. The Circle became our first auxiliary
organization and continued to sponsor food sales, bazaars, dinners, card parties and other fund-raising
         After serving as Chairman of the Circle for three years, Mrs. Cox stepped down and Mrs. O. Z.
Robertson, better known as "Billie", took over the leadership in May, 1945. In October of that year,
members of the Circle changed their organization's name to the Women's Society of Corona del Mar
Community Church. They still meet as of this writing, and are known as the Women's Service
Fellowship, an appropriate name for a group of women who continue to provide service to our church
and who enjoy the fellowship of one another.
         In the early years of Community Church, these determined women continued to be a powerful
force in the church's development. The commitment to charity work, which started with the wartime
Red Cross sewing projects, continued. During the early years of our church, the Women's Society
sometimes contributed more to benevolences and building funds than the church did.
         As the church grew, a new source of income for this group resulted from hosting wedding
receptions in Pilgrim Hall. The number of weddings at Community Church in 1947 had increased by
10 over the previous year and now totalled 19.
         In May, 1947, a letter arrived addressed "To a Church's Parish in Corona del Mar, U. S. A."
Members of a German family, who had lost all their possessions due to "war events", had tried
everything they could to obtain materials with which to make quilts. They apparently had goose
down, but had been unable to get any mattress ticking, a necessary ingredient for encasing the feathers
in comforters. They explained their plight to a soldier who, for reasons we'll never know, suggested
they write to this faraway California church. The Rev. Schrock turned the letter over to the Society
members and the request was filled.
         The women were also involved in raising money to purchase shoes for Japanese children.
These two single acts of non-judgemental kindness to people who had so recently been our nation's

Community Church                                                            Church History
Corona del Mar, CA
foes was remarkable, given that the church at the time owed money on both a first and second
mortgage. The women of the Circle and the Society displayed a strong Christ-like spirit of giving to
others in need that continues to this day in the members of the Women's Service Fellowship.
        Early in their existence, the women organizing the church adopted for their slogan, "Lord, Thy
will be done through me." By our second year, a great deal of God's work had been accomplished.
The inspiration of Mrs. Cox, the encouragement of Mrs. Lewis, the dedication of the Capilla Circle,
the labor of the men, the financial help of the Congregational Church and the experience of Rev.
Schrock had created a church. All that has followed has been an easy task by comparison.
        In January, 1946, a newspaper article about this new church read: "Most of the $20,000
building fund was raised in cash, but with furnishings, the church represents an investment of
$35,000." The church continued to grow in membership and programs. On January 6, 1946, a new
membership class of 24 was brought in. James L. "Les" Steffensen and his wife, Mary were among
them. She was to become our first Choir Director and he sang in the Chancel Choir for 15 years. Les
was an active member of the church, business and political life of Corona del Mar for several decades,
and was also the bass soloist on many occasions.
        By the time of the third Annual Meeting on January 8, 1947, the budget had grown to $4,863.
The largest expense, $2,400 for the Rev. Schrock's salary, was small compared to salaries paid by
other churches at the time. He had planned well for what he thought would be his retirement and
refused to be compensated at a higher pay rate.
        Once it was built, the church was too small for the programs it needed to offer. Sunday School
classes for younger children were held in Pilgrim Hall but classes for high school youth were held in
nearby homes. The church began to focus on expansion. A structure that could house Sunday School
for children of all ages, and a larger meeting hall for the congregation was planned. Rev. Schrock,
who had already served much longer than he had originally intended, felt a new, younger leader could
better handle the challenges of a building program.
        In November, 1949, at a church business meeting, it is recorded that "Mr. Legg read a letter of
resignation of Mr. Schrock. Mr. Sargent moved that we accept with deep regret and it was seconded
and carried unanimously." The minutes also reflect that he was relieved from his duties as Moderator
and elected Pastor Emeritus.
However, it seems Rev. Schrock's leadership was still needed because minutes of a meeting held in
February, 1950, show that he was still serving as Moderator. At that meeting, it was decided that the
church should provide a parsonage for the new minister. A motion was approved which ultimately
lead to the purchase of a three-bedroom home at 618 Orchid Avenue for this purpose. The purchase
price was $13,750 with $8,400 coming from a bank loan, $4,000 from the Congregational Church
Building Society, and the balance from our congregation.
        In March, 1950, a call was issued to the Rev. Paul Edward Babbitt, a minister at the United
Church in Eagle Rock. He was to start his ministry at Community Church in July of that year at a
salary of $3,600 per year, plus the use of the parsonage.

Growing Pains
       After church on Sunday, June 18, 1950, Rev. Perry F. Schrock stepped down as our Pastor and
Moderator. The following week, Rev. Paul Edward Babbitt took the pulpit. One of his first
recommendations was to add a second worship service to the church's schedule. An 11 a.m. service
was being conducted with Sunday School taking place at 9:45 a.m. It was decided to add a service at
9:45 a.m., beginning the following January. This service was moved to 9:30 a.m. a few years later.

Community Church                                                               Church History
Corona del Mar, CA
         One of the benefits of having a church building was that annual meetings no longer had to be
held in restaurants. The sessions were still dinner meetings, but now took place in Pilgrim Hall. Since
they were attended by more than 100 people, the problems posed by our growing numbers were clear
to all in the congregation.
         In early 1951, plans were approved for the construction of the North Wing. Located on the
north side of the sanctuary, and now known as Mertz Hall, it was to be built on a pay-as-you-go basis,
with the labor, for the most part, to be done by church members. Under this plan, when money was
available, materials were purchased and delivered to the church. On Saturdays, the men and older
boys gathered and worked on the building project. They usually numbered about 20 and were always
treated to a hot lunch prepared and served by the Women's Society. Work continued in this manner
for nearly two years. But, by the 1953 Annual Meeting, the members had become impatient. A
motion was approved authorizing the Board of Trustees to borrow $15,000 to complete the building.
         If you're wondering what this "North Wing" looked like when it was finally completed, take a
tour of the Mertz Hall building. The structure that is there-- classrooms, the Youth Room, the Bride's
Room on the first floor and Mertz Hall above-- is the building that was built for the most part by
church members 40 years ago.
         At the time, the entire structure was called the North Wing and Mertz Hall was known as
Fellowship Hall. However, on Oct. 8, 1972, the congregation voted to rename it in honor of Louise
and Walter Mertz. They joined the church in 1947 and had been active in many areas of the church's
life. Over the years, they had made generous financial contributions to the church, and all of these
contributions were recognized in the naming of Fellowship Hall for them. At the time, they were
living in a nursing home in Upland, but were still members of Community Church.
         Two other decisions, necessitated by church growth, were made in 1953. At the Annual
Meeting in January, a motion to hire a church secretary was approved. In September, the Board of
Religious Education also recommended that a Minister of Religious Education be hired. It was
decided to hire Paul Delp in that capacity at a salary of $2,000 a year. Over the years, our church has
employed a number of people in this capacity, or as Associate or Assistant Minister.
         The pressures brought on by growth were not limited to the need for more space in the church.
The postwar years saw one of the first recorded disagreements among congregation members. The
minutes from a Church Council meeting held in August, 1954, make reference to dissatisfaction with
Rev. Babbitt's ministry. The discussion took place in Rev. Babbitt's presence, was not lengthy, and
came to no clear conclusion. The reason for this ripple of discontent remains obscure. The written
record is incomplete, and those who were members at the time have differing recollections of the
problem. Some are unable to recall any conflict at all. Others say that he was not a good "fit" with the
community due to his rural up-bringing in Indiana. Still others felt that he had upset people by trying
to change programs that the Rev. Schrock had initiated.
          Likewise, the circumstances surrounding his departure at the end of 1954 are equally unclear.
Whatever the underlying dissatisfaction, the congregation was clearly divided over the matter.
Minutes from a special meeting of the congregation, held on Oct. 31, 1954, recite the final chapter of
this conflict. The Rev. Babbitt had submitted a letter of resignation after accepting a call to a church in
Modesto, California. A motion was made asking him to withdraw his letter and stay. The vote was
conducted by ballot. Ninety-one voted in favor of the motion, and 28 were opposed.
         Even with more than 75 percent of the congregation voting in his favor, the Rev. Babbitt chose
to leave. He recognized the need for the church to be united, and as long as he stayed, he reasoned,
dissension would continue to plague the church.

Community Church                                                              Church History
Corona del Mar, CA

The Reverend and the Colonel
         The church was fortunate to find an interim pastor quickly. Immediately after Rev. Babbitt's
departure, the Rev. Edwin C. Gomke was called to fill that position. He had just returned to civilian
life after serving as a Major in the U. S. Army Chaplains Corps and was living in Laguna Beach with
his wife, Fern, and son, Douglas. With an Interim Minister in place, a search was launched for a
permanent pastor. As members of the Pastoral Calling Committee conducted their search, they began
to realize that the best man for the job was already at hand. Minutes of a Congregational Meeting held
in April, 1955, note that "Mr. Les Steffensen, representing the Pastoral Calling Committee,
recommended that the Reverend Edwin C. Gomke be called as Pastor." The motion was unanimously
approved, and his ministry at our church officially began June 1, 1955.
         Rev. Gomke felt our congregation was ready to become active in matters outside our church.
Members were encouraged to get involved in the work of the denomination, and Rev. Gomke was
elected President of the Newport Harbor Council of Churches in 1957. He also served on the Board of
Directors of our Conference. During his ministry, members of our church became more involved in
the Los Angeles Association and were even elected to Conference offices.
         In these years, before the union that created the United Church of Christ (UCC), the
Congregational Christian Churches operated along similar lines to the way in which we operate today.
At that time, the Association, which is the smaller geographical unit, covered Los Angeles and Orange
counties and was called the Los Angeles Association. The Conference, which today in the UCC
covers only Southern California, in the mid-'50s included most of the southwestern United States and
Hawaii. The official title was the Conference of Southern California and the South West (cq).
         During Rev. Gomke's tenure, the growing pains that had started during Rev. Babbitt's ministry
became even more acute, both for the community and for the church organization. As the community
continued to grow, and with it the demand for more services from our church, there was some
consideration of moving from the Heliotrope property to a larger site which could accommodate a
larger church building. As for the church organization, it was approaching the vote on the merger with
the Evangelical and Reform Churches to form the UCC.
         And yet, before these major events could be dealt with, there were a number of other smaller,
but still vital, decisions that had to be made. At our Annual Meeting in January, 1958, chaired by
Moderator Dr. Oliver Howell, it was noted that "the mortgage on the parsonage was paid off and a
ceremony was held burning the papers. The church debt was reduced to $5,000." In April of the
following year, an important purchase was made when the lot adjoining our church was bought from
the Blake Estate for $7,600. This is the site of our current parking lot. This small piece of real estate
turned out to be a key factor in the later decision regarding expansion versus relocation.
         In May, 1960, the letter of resignation from our Associate Minister, the Rev. Robert Gilman,
was accepted. Minutes of the meeting read that "Mr. Gomke mentioned that other churches have
successfully engaged laymen as assistants to the minister, and if the church would like to consider
doing so, he had a man in mind who would be excellent for the job."
         The man he had in mind was Col. David Fowler, U. S. Army (Ret.). Col. Fowler was a West
Point graduate who served overseas in both World Wars. Rev. Gomke had been a member of Col.
Fowler's staff when he was commander of the 87th Mountain Infantry Regiment in Italy during World
War II. The hiring of Col. Fowler turned out to be a good move for the church, both economically and
organizationally. He was hired at a salary of $3,000 per year, plus an $800 housing allowance and a
$500 car allowance. This was $1,000 less per year than we had been paying Rev. Gilman. Over the
years, Col. Fowler became involved in every aspect of church life. He attempted to attend all church
committee meetings, ran the Christian Education program, helped in the office, did the books, and

Community Church                                                              Church History
Corona del Mar, CA
helped Rev. Gomke with his visitations. He could recite scripture from memory, and preached when
the Senior Minister wasn't available. His wife, Esther, became known for her cheery habit on Sunday
morning of greeting arriving worshippers on the sidewalk in front of the church.
        In 1962, Col. Fowler was given the title Lay Minister by the Los Angeles Association of the
Congregational Church. This was the first time that the Los Angeles Association had elevated anyone
to that position. He was able to do everything an ordained minister could, except perform marriages
and other sacraments.
        In July, 1961, Mary Batten Steffensen tendered her resignation as Minister of Music.
Immediately following that, Richard A. Kuykendall became our Director of Music. Starting from
scratch, Mrs. Steffensen had built our music program into five choirs with more than 100 members.
The Chancel (Adult) Choir sang at the 9:30 a.m. service and the Chapel (High School) Choir sang at
11 a.m. On special occasions, the Children's Choirs would offer programs. They were the Carol (1st
to 3rd grades boys and girls) Choir, the Crusader (4th through 8th grade girls) Choir and the King
David (4th through 8th grade boys) Choir.
        Since almost all of our choir members lived in Coron del Mar, it was convenient-- if not
exhausting for the director-- to have rehearsal on one night. On Thursdays, the practice sessions
would begin with the children arriving fresh from school and continue into the evening.
        On Christmas Eve, 1956, all of the choir members joined together at a candlelight Vesper
Service. It received excellent response from both choir and congregation and so became an annual
event that has evolved into the services we still enjoy on Christmas Eve.
        At the time of her retirement, Mrs. Steffensen was earning a salary of $125 per month. It
certainly could be argued that the legacy she left our church was worth far more than that. Although
many changes have taken place in our music program over the years, the high quality she established
as our first Choir Director continues to this day.

The Union
        Discussions between the Congregational Christian Churches (CC) and the Evangelical and
Reformed Church (E & R) about a union had been taking place since 1942. Each denomination was
the result of an earlier merger of two like-minded denominations, and the lengthy process of study and
reconciliation of beliefs was well understood on both sides. (See Appendix C) In 1955, the General
Council of the Congregational Church voted for the union of the two denominations by an 87.3
percent majority. Immediately following that agreement in principal, various congregations expressed
their own dissent, in the form of lawsuits to block the merger. In an article that appeared in the Los
Angeles Times in November, 1956, Dr. Emerson G. Hangen, former Moderator of the Conference,
gave his reasons for favoring the union:
        "Wherever in our world such unions have taken place between Christian bodies, whether in our
country or elsewhere, the universal testimony is that they have resulted in strengthening and
invigorating the life of the churches uniting, and in making their witness more effective.
        "The two denominations together are stronger, have greater resources, and are rendering more
effective Christian service than their combined efforts as individual denominations prior to the union
had ever achieved.
        "They have discovered that they can do things better as a united body than they could
previously do in separation. It is as true in church circles as anywhere that in union there is strength.
        "The denominational system is an anachronism in our day.
        "It is the modern scandal of Christendom.

                                            - 10 -
Community Church                                                              Church History
Corona del Mar, CA
         "The union of these two denominations, each of which is the product of a previous union of
two denominations, will strengthen the ecumenical cause in our country and will encourage other
churches to equal daring in launching out on a similar adventure in faith.
         "It was in response to the spirit of Christ who prayed `That they may all be one,' that this plan
of union was conceived and brought to fruition. Its future depends upon the loyalty with which the
members of the United Church serve and follow Jesus Christ, the great Head of the church, and devote
themselves to doing His will."
         In 1957, the governing bodies of both churches held a joint meeting in Cleveland, during
which they adopted a constitution and approved the merger. In the E & R Church, this decision had to
be ratified by its conferences. In the CC, however, ratification had to be made at the local level, with
each individual church voting on whether to join the new United Church of Christ (UCC) or stay
         As was normal in these situations, each congregation took time to study the question and at our
church, voting took place at the annual meeting in January, 1961. Very little opposition was voiced
and the final vote was 87 to 1 in favor of the merger.
         Instead of being the end of this episode, it was the beginning of one of the most divisive
conflicts in the history of Community Church. In order to understand how this affected our church, we
need to look at how our congregation had evolved and the political climate that existed in Corona del
Mar, and Orange County at the time.
         The 54 Founding Members of our church had come from 18 different denominational
backgrounds. As it grew, the church continued to attract people with a variety of religious and
political viewpoints. Unfortunately, the conflict over the union began to polarize them. The merger
had taken place at a time when the John Birch Society was an emerging political force in our country.
It was certainly a force to be reckoned with in a conservative, growing suburban area that Corona del
Mar was evolving into in those years.
         John Birch was an American missionary who was killed by the communists while working in
China. Society founders identified him as the first American casualty of our nation's fight against
communism and named themselves after him. It was politically conservative and fiercely anti-
communist. The members of this fringe group of political arch-conservatives focused their energies
on finding and disclosing the menace posed by communists whom Society members believed
functioned at all levels within American culture. A member of our congregation attended a Birch
Society meeting as a guest, but declined to join because he felt some of their ideas were far-fetched.
Some society members warned him that communist troops were gathering behind the hills, just across
the Mexican border and were poised to attack the United States.
         There was a John Birch Society cell in Corona del Mar and some members of Community
Church had joined. On their own, these members had allowed cell meetings to be held in our
sanctuary. Apparently no one in the leadership of the church committee structure was consulted prior
to these meetings. These members, who were more politically conservative and more fundamental in
their religious beliefs, began to find fault with the UCC. Their opposition was the result of several
         -- Some CC churches had voted to stay out of, or withdraw from, the UCC, and our dissident
members felt that the advantages of doing this were not adequately explained to our congregation;
         -- Some leaders of the newly formed UCC reportedly advocated recognition of mainland
China, which was an anathema to members of the Society;
         -- The Sunday School curriculum had arrived and some of the workbooks showed Jesus,
walking on the beach, with a group of children, and wearing a short robe.

                                            - 11 -
Community Church                                                             Church History
Corona del Mar, CA
         There were other conflicts over the Sunday School materials and Col. Fowler addressed this
last point in an article written for the church newsletter, The Voice:
         "For several months there has been an expressed opposition, sometimes bitter, to the
curriculum material prepared for the nursery classes (three-year-olds). Some oppose the pictures.
Some deplore the absence of Bible memory verses...They (who criticize) do not want to know that
greater study has been made about how children grow, and develop, and learn, than had ever been
made when we were young; and that these studies are made available to our teachers, in material never
before available to us...(Citing John 3:16 "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten
Son...") Would you try to teach this verse to a three-year-old through memory practice, or would you
prefer that the teacher show, by loving understanding in personal relationship, something of the love of
         Although it would seem that the issue over the depiction of Jesus on the beach in a short robe
would be the least significant, it in fact triggered a movement, led by Birch Society members, to
withdraw from the UCC. The UCC church school curriculum published shortly after the merger was
based on research that biblical scholars had been conducting for years. They had determined that in
Jesus' time, men indeed di wear short robes. The long robes that were traditionally depicted hadn't
become popular until hundreds of year later. "They have Jesus dressed like a beachcomber," one
opponent declared. Another stated that he knew for a fact that Jesus wore a long robe. The combined
effect of the dislike of the picture, and the missing Bible memory verses from the nursery school
curriculum, provided a focal point around which a split in the congregation opened.
         Those opposing the UCC formed the Committee for Continuing Congregational and argued
that we should withdraw and become an independent church. Their argument was that 87 people had
committed a congregation of more than 600 to the merger and a new vote should be taken.
         It's hard to track the growth of our church through the number of members shown on the roster.
This is because it isn't known how many people who were inactive, or attending church elsewhere, and
were still counted as members here, since they hadn't filed a letter of resignation from Community
Church. The By-Laws in those days made baptism rather than confirmation the requirement for
membership. Therefore, a family consisting of a married couple and three small children was counted
as five members. The church in October, 1961 showed a membership of 632.
         Letters from the opposing camps were sent to the membership arguing for their respective
positions. In order to resolve the conflict, a new vote was scheduled for Oct. 8, 1961. On Oct. 5, the
Committee sent out one last communication which recommended a vote to leave the UCC if the
members agreed with the following:
         -- Wanted "the Congregational form of Church government, whereby we are a free and
independent Church in accordance with the original purpose of the founders of our Congregational
Church of Corona del Mar. A no vote indicates you desire to be brought under the influence of a new
denomination with no local control."
         -- Accepted "Jesus Christ as the divine Son of God-- rather than the grotesque and degraded
image presented in the Sunday School curriculum of the United Church of Christ."
         -- Opposed "Godless Communist China as a member of the society of peace-loving nations--
rather than endorsing the resolution of the United Church of Christ favoring the recognition of Red
China." (4)
         An additional point in the opponents' letter described the UCC as a "super-church that rejects
the divinity of Jesus and promotes the social gospel of materialism."

                                           - 12 -
Community Church                                                            Church History
Corona del Mar, CA
        Voting was to take place by ballot cast in polls set up in Pilgrim Hall. It was conducted on a
Sunday between the hours of 10:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. with members supporting both positions to be on
hand as observers.
        The final count was:
        Yes (to withdraw)              144
        No (for the UCC)               321
        Betty Hillman, who was very active in church affairs at that time, recalled the evening of Oct.
8. "When the votes were counted and we remained members of the United Church of Christ, many,
many of us grabbed the bell rope and pulled like crazy. And Fern Gomke got up to the organ and we
all sang, with many a tear streaming down our faces, `The Church's one foundation is Jesus Christ her
        Immediately following the vote, many of the 144 who supported withdrawal from the UCC
resigned and formed Plymouth Congregational Church. We had lost approximately 20 percent of our
members, many of whom were prominent community leaders.
        The Sunday following the vote, the remaining members recalled experiencing a wide range of
feelings. Some felt a loss because of the lower attendance. There were those who realized that ties of
friendship broken over the merger issue would never again be re-joined. Many felt a greater sense of
spirituality because they had been required to examine their faith more deeply than they ever had
        Most perhaps felt a sense of relief because the opposing group members were no longer a
presence, pulling the congregation apart. All began to look forward again to Sunday services where
they could sit among friends and worship with a united purpose.

Moving Forward in Faith
Church growth, which had been laid aside during the votes on union, and the split, again moved
forward. Discussions with the Irvine Company regarding a larger site had been going on since Rev.
Babbitt's ministry.

Certain problems had kept the church from pursuing a specific site on specific terms. As their plans
for land development evolved, the Irvine Company changed the location of land that would be made
available for churches. Sites considered by our church included Fifth and Jasmine avenues, near the
Community Youth Center (CYC), now named Grant Howald Park for Mr. Howald's efforts in getting
the city to found the CYC; Fifth and Poppy Avenues, now the Terrace housing development, and Fifth
and Marguerite avenues, now the OASIS Senior Center (also founded by church members Grant and
Inez Howald).

Proposed title to these sites changed from leasehold to fee ownership to lease/option. During the
evaluation process, several votes were taken at congregational meetings and in each balloting, a
majority favored pursuing relocation. In 1961, however, consideration of these three sites had to be
shelved. The Pacific Coast Freeway was being planned and its proposed route would take it along the
so„called Fifth Avenue Corridor. The three properties under consideration for a church site remained
in limbo until the mid 1970s when the freeway was taken off the state maps because of opposition to
its construction from communities all along its projected route. By then too, church plans had

                                           - 13 -
Community Church                                                              Church History
Corona del Mar, CA
However, in May, 1962, the Church Council was made aware of a new site for possible relocation.
Located about a mile north of the church, it was a triangular parcel of 4.9 acres, across the street from
Lincoln Middle School, which was scheduled to open in September. No price was mentioned, but we
were to be given the first opportunity to purchase or lease the site.

While this possibility was being discussed (see July, 1962 insert), a new parsonage was purchased.
The original parsonage was a small cottage on Orchid Avenue and it was felt our ministers would need
something larger. The new parsonage was a four„bedroom, two„bathroom house located at 607
Rockford Road, Cameo Highlands. Because of its larger size, the property on Rockford gradually
became known as the Manse, which many felt was a more dignified term than Parsonage. A
parsonage, it was reasoned, is the place where the parson or circuit preacher resided. A manse is a
place where a minister and his family lives. The Manse cost $35,000, with yearly land lease payments
of $475. Loans totalling $30,000 were used to make the purchase.

Other than this, the only debt we had at the time was the original $3,500 grant loan made by the
Church Building Society in 1946.

By August, 1962, the Irvine Company wrote to Rev. Gomke informed him that the site near the school
had been appraised at $20,000 per acre. The debate about relocation continued over the next couple of
years. Membership was down and the church was operating at a deficit. Although we were paying all
our bills and living up to the plans contained in the annual budget, we were taking money out of our
reserve account to do so. On the other hand, the community was growing and if we didn't provide a
church to accommodate the growth, many members felt other denominations would.

Finally, in 1964, an engineering and consulting firm was retained to study our options. Their final 36-
page report covered community growth, the position of our church in the community (we were the
largest of five protestant churches in Corona del Mar) the growth plans of the other protestant
churches, the expansion opportunities that existed on our Heliotrope site, church attendance patterns,
and cost of relocation versus expansion. Their final recommendation was that we purchase or lease a
three to four-acre site from the Irvine Company and move.

Years of Change
       As the debate over relocation continued in July of 1965, Rev. Gomke tendered his
resignation. He had been called to gather a new church in Novato, California. In his letter to the
congregation he said, "I feel I am leaving a strong church...a church with a mission to the
community and the world. And I feel I have gained more than anyone in these past ten years." The
overwhelming consensus was that he had seen us through our worst crisis and would be missed.
       After Rev. Gomke's departure, Col. Fowler performed many of the duties of the senior
minister, as well as his own. In our 1966 Annual Report, Col. Fowler wrote that since mid-July,
there had been an "opportunity to hear a number of our laymen speak from the pulpit: A. K.
Phelps, our Lay Moderator; Douglas Chalmers, former Lay Moderator, and now Vice Moderator of
the Southern California Conference; Dr. Donal (cq) Duncan, Chairman of the Board of Trustees,
and Dr. Daniel Aldrich, Chancellor of the new University of California, Irvine."
       A Pastoral Calling Committee was organized and Jean Aldrich was elected chair. She and
her husband, Dan, were distinguished members of our congregation. Dr. Aldrich had been
appointed the first Chancellor of UC Irvine (UCI) in 1962. The Aldrich family joined the church in

                                            - 14 -
Community Church                                                          Church History
Corona del Mar, CA
1963. Dr. Aldrich led the university for 22 years, and both Aldriches were active in many
community and church activities. While at Community Church, both of the Aldriches served as
Moderator, with Mrs. Aldrich being the first woman in our congregation to do so. As of our 50th
anniversary, no other married couple had each taken a term as Church Moderator at Community
Church. (See Appendix D) The Aldriches distinguished themselves by being the first married
couple to serve terms as Conference Moderators. Mrs. Aldrich served that post in the `60's and Dr.
Aldrich served in that capacity for two terms in the late `50's when they lived in Riverside. In
addition, Mrs. Aldrich served on the UCC National Stewardship Committee and Board of
Homeland Ministries.
         It was something from their past, however, that greatly benefited our church. When Dr.
Aldrich was on the staff at UC Riverside, the Aldriches were members of the First Congregational
Church of Riverside. The senior minister at that time was Dr. Phillip G. Murray. Later, the
Aldriches left Riverside for an assignment at UC Berkeley and the Murrays moved to Eden
Congregational Church in nearby Hayward. The two families stayed in touch and remained
         Mrs. Aldrich knew that Dr. Murray wanted to change pulpits once more before he retired.
As the search committee analyzed applicants, Dr. and Mrs. Aldrich set about persuading Dr.
Murray to become our fourth senior pastor. For his part, Dr. Murray was willing to concede that it
was a nice church and community, but he was not convinced he should leave a church with 1,600
members, a large staff and many established programs to come to Corona del Mar. "Come because
this area is about to explode," the Aldriches countered. "You'll have a chance to move this church
to a higher level. That's something only a few situations can offer you."
         Near the end of the year, Dr. Murray decided he would be interested in serving our church,
if called, so he submitted his resume. He was one of 40 ministers who did so, and was among the
six that the committee had identified as the best candidates. The Pastoral Calling Committee went
to hear him preach when he was guest minister at Neighborhood Congregational Church in Laguna
Beach. They liked what they heard. The committee arranged for Dr. Murray to conduct worship at
our church on December 5. A congregational meeting was held after the service and he was
unanimously called. Because he needed to arrange a smooth transition at his church in Hayward,
his ministry was not scheduled to begin until March 1, 1966. During the period between the call
and Dr. Murray's arrival, the Rev. Philip E. Gregory served as Interim Minister.
         While the search for a senior minister had been taking place, it was decided to return to a
single worship service, as a response to declining attendance and revenues. Beginning in October,
1965, Sunday worship was held at 10 a.m., with Sunday School at the same hour. Even though
members realized that a single service would be overcrowded at times and require temporary
seating, it was felt this would be better than two lightly attended services. (The 9:30 a.m. service
had an average attendance of 115, and the 11 a.m. service drew about 60.)
         When Dr. Murray arrived, he immediately began to establish new programs, while
revitalizing existing ones. To assist our Lay Minister, Col. Fowler, Shirley Stibal was hired as
Director of Christian Education. She and Dr. Murray had worked together in the past. Tom
Whitney, who was on the faculty at UCI, was hired as Organist and Choir Director. As he was
making these changes, Dr. Murray began to focus the church's attention on expanding the existing
facility rather than on relocation.
         Given the church's circumstances, Dr. Murray said he felt expansion was the best
alternative. We were still struggling with attendance and revenue problems brought on by the split.
Another factor, which the consultants' report had not dealt with, was the emotional attachment that

                                          - 15 -
Community Church                                                           Church History
Corona del Mar, CA
members felt for the existing church building and its location. A large number of these members
had participated in some way in the construction of this church facility. They had built it with their
determination, their material contributions, and, in some cases, with their physical labor. It was
their church and they didn't want to leave. Although only a mile away, the new site was not part of
the community. It was "`way up on the hill" to many of them.

Doing the Possible
         The debate over how best to deal with church growth continued through the mid 1960s. In
order to accommodate increased attendance, two Sunday morning worship services were re-
introduced. Although this took care of overcrowding in the sanctuary, church members had come
to like the idea of "seeing everyone" at the single service.
         Our church, which had begun as a Sunday School, was also concerned about having
adequate classroom space. At one point, the facilities were so overtaxed, class for the junior high
students was held in the kitchen of Mertz Hall.
         Our financial situation was also improving. In July, 1965, we made a payment of $1,623.00
to the Congregational Church Building Society, which represented the balance of the original
$3,500.00 grant made in 1945. The church was now free of debt, except for the loan on the Manse.
As we began to finalize our decision to expand, a capital funds drive was held, and at the same
time, a couple of personnel changes took place.
         In the summer of 1967, Noreen Baume was hired as the Church Secretary. She had joined
the church a year earlier with her husband, Ed, and their two sons. She became the church's
longest-serving employee, retiring in 1992 after working 25 years in the church office for two
senior ministers.
         That same year, the congregation was saddened to learn that Col. Fowler would be retiring
at the end of 1967. He had become so involved in the running of Community Church that many
found it hard to imagine getting along without him. More importantly, his friendship and close
personal contact would be missed by all who knew him. He planned to move to Rancho Bernardo,
and although everyone regretted his decision, no one could argue with it. After a career of 37 years
serving our country and six years serving our church, he had earned a rest. Many members said
they felt he would be impossible to replace.
         On Sunday, Oct. 27, 1967, Dr. Murray's sermon was titled "Doing the Possible." He began
with a story from his days as a Navy Chaplain. "There has long been a place in my heart for the
Naval Construction Battalion, or the Seabees, as we called them in World War II. They had a
slogan that went something like this: 'The difficult we can do right away; the impossible will take a
little longer.'"
         Dr. Murray continued with a story of a Seabee who had found a way to "provide" him with
a bookcase under impossible circumstances. "Where it came from...I never tried to find out," he
told the congregation. In addressing the situation at hand in Community Church he noted: "When
we began to contemplate the growth of this area, and the fact that our facilities are already
overtaxed, we realized that we required larger facilities if we were going to do our job well. First
of all, we explored with three other churches the prospect of an ecumenical approach to our
common problem. Under present circumstances, that is not possible. Then we investigated the
prospect of moving to a location proffered us by the Irvine Company. The price of the land at
$41,000 per acre would have been roughly $240,000. The cost of buildings, parking, landscaping
and furnishings boosted the cost to about $750,000. All of us 'fat-cats' on the Building Committee

                                           - 16 -
Community Church                                                            Church History
Corona del Mar, CA
turned our pockets inside out and discovered ruefully that we were a little short-- a little more than
half a million short, to be frank! That was IMPOSSIBLE.
        "Then we came to investigate the expansion program which the church, last spring, voted to
embark upon. You see on the architect's rendering in front of the pulpit the finished product. On
the other side, in front of the lectern, are the floor plans as presented last Sunday by our architect,
Mr. Hougan, and approved by the Building Committee. This plan will add about 86 seatings here
in the sanctuary. Church offices will be on the ground floor rear, in the middle. On the second
floor there will an additional 1,400 square feet for classroom space. For a fairly modest sum we
can also add a small pipe organ which, under Mr. Whitney's expert guidance, would add
immeasurable richness to our worship and to other meaningful services to be held in the lovely
        He concluded by saying "With God, all things are possible. With God our program is
gloriously POSSIBLE. I think, because I believe in you, it is inevitable!"
        The plan supported by Dr. Murray would be possible for an estimated cost of $140,000.
The church building fund had $45,000 in it as the result of capital fund drives that took place in the
early `60's. The balance of the $140,000 was to come from a bank loan.
        To design the expansion, the church turned to Rumont (Hougie) Hougan. He and his wife,
Evelyn, had joined the church in 1959. Mr. Hougan was a licensed architect and the Board of
Trustees entered into a contract with him to draw the plans and obtain the necessary permits. Since
the city now had a parking ordinance, the lot purchased from the Blake Estate became essential by
providing the eight off-street parking spaces which would allow expansion of the church facility.
        Mr. Hougan started by making sketches of three alternative floor plans. The one that was
finally approved by the congregation was the most ambitious. It would be the most expensive and
take the longest to complete, but yielded the biggest increase in size and produced the most
efficient and most attractive layout.
        Church services were moved to Mertz Hall when construction started in March, 1968. It
began with the demolition of Pilgrim Hall, Corona del Mar's first church building, and the chancel
end of the sanctuary. The balance of the sanctuary was then detached from its foundation, raised
up and placed on skids. The concrete patio and new foundations were poured. Wooden rollers
were placed on the concrete and the skids holding the sanctuary were lowered onto them. Chains
were attached to the skids and trucks carefully towed the building across the rollers to its present
        The end of the sanctuary was extended to the western property line-- the alley between
Heliotrope and Goldenrod avenues-- and Pilgrim Hall was re-constructed as a two-story structure
which added two classrooms to the number that had been present in the original building. The
patio was finished and a covered walkway connecting the Mertz Hall wing to the sanctuary was
installed. Sunday services were moved into our new quarters at the end of October while finish
work was being completed. The color scheme and interior decorating were provided by Betty
        On Dec. 8, 1968, the new facility with a seating capacity of 216 was re-dedicated.
According to Robert Horn, then serving as Church Historian, the re-dedication was "inspiring....Dr.
Murray reminded his congregation that it must never forget that the new plan is not an end, but a
means to an end." The final cost was $155,000, of which $110,000 came from a bank loan.

                                           - 17 -
Community Church                                                              Church History
Corona del Mar, CA

On To Our Next Quarter Century
         The Sunday worship service on Sept. 21, 1969 was an observation of our 25th Anniversary.
Rev. Gomke was Guest Minister and he was assisted by Col. Fowler. That particular Sunday had been
picked because it coincided with the dedication of the new pipe organ. To have the Gomkes and the
Fowlers back for a worship service, and to have received a letter of congratulations from Rev. Babbitt
made this a memorable service. In addition, the new Reuter pipe organ added to the richness of the
         Moving into the decade of the `70's under Dr. Murray's leadership, there were still troubles that
beset the church. Church meeting minutes during this time reflect renewed problems meeting our
budget. The loan payments added to economic fluctuations created shortfalls. After Col. Fowler's
departure, it was decided not to hire another Associate Minister. We had taken on the largest debt in
the church's hisotry, and money was not available to budget for the additional ministerial salary. The
church staff still included Mrs. Stibal and Mr. Whitney, leading Christian Education and Music,
respectively. However, the economic woes led to cutbacks in the benevolences budget and the
Christian Education position was made part time.
         On July 7, 1973, another challenging period began at Community Church. Dr. Murray was at
home in the Manse that evening when he received a call at about 11 p.m. from the Newport Beach Fire
Department reporting that there had been a fire at the church. The headline in the Daily Pilot the
following day read: "Fire Damages Newport Church: Arson Suspected." The article stated that the
fire had been set in several locations, including among the choir robes. However, the flames were
confined to the choir room, Dr. Murray's office and the classrooms above. Although untouched by the
flames, the sanctuary was un-useable because of smoke and water damage. The firefighters estimated
the loss at $10,000, according to the newspaper. Arson was later confirmed as the fire's cause, but the
arsonist was never apprehended.
         Although there was full insurance coverage for the damage, the life of the church was
disrupted while repairs were made. Sunday worship services returned to Mertz Hall and Dr. Murray
worked out of the Manse. All couples who had scheduled weddings had to be contacted about the
change from the sanctuary to Mertz Hall, but no cancellations were received. The contractor who was
hired specialized in repairing fire damage and was able to move the congregation back into the
sanctuary within two months. The areas where the fire was set took a bit longer to repair. Church life
finally returned to normal by October, when the Murrays returned from a Hawaiian vacation. He was
able to return to his church study, and weddings and worship resumed in the sanctuary the same
         In early 1974, Mrs. Stibal resigned as Director of Christian Education. The Board of Trustees
hired Vera Murphey (cq) to fill this still part-time position in March, 1974. Shortly after she became a
member of the staff, her daughter and son-in-law, Pat and Gordon Markle, joined the church. Since
that time, they have been an active part of our church's life.
         On Sunday, Feb. 24, 1974, Dr. Murray announced his decision to retire. His column in the
next newsletter read in part:
         "As it must for all persons, the time for my retirement has at last come. I have been an
ordained minister for nearly forty-three years, and I served as a student minister for five additional
years before that. As I indicated from the pulpit on Feb. 24, I am herewith presenting my resignation
as minister of our Church, effective Sept. 30, 1974."
         Dr. Murray had seen us through the largest building program in the church's history and guided
us through the years when we struggled to pay for the construction projects. He also was on hand to
see us through the difficult period of recovery from the fire.

                                            - 18 -
Community Church                                                              Church History
Corona del Mar, CA

Years of Growth
        By the time Dr. Murray retired in September, the Pastoral Search Committee, which had been
formed in March, was narrowing its search for a new minister. Dr. Murray had suggested that a
younger minister should be hired. He felt this would attract more young people to the church by
creating church activities that they would enjoy. In turn, this would attract young families to the
church and also strengthen the children's programs. The committee agreed and placed a priority on
finding someone between the ages of 35 and 40.
        On Sunday, Nov. 3, 1974, the Rev. Donald W. Kutz lead the service of worship. An all-
church meeting was held after the service and he was unanimously called to be our fifth Senior
Minister. He would eventually become our longest-serving pastor.
        Rev. Kutz was Senior Minister at First United Church of Christ in Hamilton, Ohio when he
was called. He brought the youth that the committee was searching for. Having just turned 31 when
he began his duties here in January, 1975, he soon became known as "Reverend Don" to our
congregation. This somewhat casual title was wholeheartedly adopted by the congregation and
applied to most of the ordained staff that followed.
        The community of Corona del Mar continued to grow. The grass-covered hills north of Fifth
Avenue were sprouting housing developments named Harbor View Hills, Spyglass Hill, Harbor Ridge
and Jasmine Creek. These residential neighborhoods fed the burgeoning industrial areas in Irvine and
the high-rise office buildings that had begun to appear in Newport Center. Community Church was
growing right along with the community.
        As the church had hoped, Rev. Don introduced programs to attract young families. Much of
his ministry was characterized by the introduction of new programs to the church. During his first few
years, he moved on a variety of fronts within the life of the church to put new ideas into action:
        -- A children's sermon was added to Sunday worship service on a regular basis.
        -- A men's and a co-eds softball teams were formed.
        -- A social group for singles, known as Guys 'N Gals, and one for young couples, called the
Honeymooners, were active in cultural events such as plays and lectures and regularly went to dinner.
        -- In 1976, a Wednesday afternoon church school program was started. It attracted children
who were in kindergarten to the sixth grades and featured crafts, games, Bible study and dinner. It
would eventually be used to rehearse the Children's Choir and Handbell Choir.
        In 1975, our church sponsored a Vietnamese family for U. S. citizenship. The Nguyens, a
married couple with three grade-school aged children were being housed in an area known as "Tent
City" at the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base after being evacuated from their homeland. They
lived with church families while church members found an apartment for them to live in. Once
located, the apartment was furnished with items donated by the congregation. Members of the
congrigation helped them find jobs, assisted with enrolling their children in school and subsidized their
living expenses until they could get on their feet financially. This process was repeated five years later
when we sponsored the Lam family, a husband and wife, with two small children who had escaped
Vietnam by boat.
        In November of 1977, the congregation was pleased to learn that Rev. Don had become
engaged to Miss Ellen Diatikar. They were married on April 2, 1978. This was the first time a Senior
Minister at our church had become a bridegroom while serving in our pulpit.
        In the 1977 Annual Report, the Music Committee noted that "at the end of December, the
church lost the services of Thomas Whitney, who has served the church with distinction as Organist
and Choir Director for the past eleven years." Tom explained that he frequently found it necessary to
work seven days a week in order to perform the duties assigned by his church job and give private

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Community Church                                                             Church History
Corona del Mar, CA
music lessons. He said he felt new leadership would be helpful in maintaining the music programs at a
high level.
         On the first Sunday in April of 1978, Miss Patricia Murphy was in place leading the choir from
the organ console. Pat was completing work for her Masters of Music Degree at USC and was
engaged to be married to John Lamb, a graduate student at UCI, and himself an organist/choir director
of a church in West Covina. They were married on June 24, 1978.
         In addition to the duties that her predecessor had performed with the music program, Mrs.
Lamb assumed direction of the Children's Choir and Handbell Choirs on Wednesday afternoon from
the college and high school students who had been directing these groups. Although instrumentalists
had been hired to accompany the choir on special occasions in the past, she began a tradition of hiring
them each year at Christmas and Easter. This was accomplished by using money from a memorial
fund that had been established on the death of longtime choir member Tommy Thompson. The
Thompson Memorial Fund, which became the Music Memorial Fund when other memorials were
added to it, has always been the source of funds to pay for the hiring of instrumentalists at special
         In April, 1978, the church purchased title to the manse land for $33,500. A bank loan was
arranged to quickly close the escrow in order to take advantage of a favorable price. By December,
the loan had been paid off, thanks in part to a successful fund-raising drive, as well as to a bequest
from church member Jeanne Dilts.
         At this time, the manse was no longer being used for ministerial housing. Rev. Don had
purchased a condominium in the Newport Hills area. The manse was rented and the income covered
the minister's housing allowance. In February of 1979, the congregation was informed that the house
adjacent to the church at 619 Heliotrope Avenue, was available to purchase for $140,000. After much
discussion at the Annual Meeting, it was decided to sell the manse and purchase the neighboring
property. After negotiation, the house was bought for $135,000.
         The manse sold for approximately $220,000 and after paying sales expenses, there was enough
left from the proceeds to pay the balance of the mortgage on the manse, pay cash for the house on
Heliotrope and still have money left to put in the bank.
         In January, Vera Murphey informed the congregation that she intended to retire from her part-
time post as soon as a new Director of Christian Education could be found. The Board of Christian
Education, the Church Council and the Executive Committee all held meetings to discuss how best to
fill this vacancy. It was finally decided to hire a full-time Director of Christian Education, or if an
ordained person could be found, a Minister of Christian Education. Mrs. Murphey's predecessor,
Shirley Stibal, had originally served as a full-time Director of Christian Education, although budget
constraints resulting form the reconstruction had forced a cutback of that position to part-time status.
         In August, 1980, the Rev. Richard L. Irving was hired. He and his wife, Vivien and their
daughter Elise were living in Lakewood, where he was employed as Youth Director at the Lakewood
Village Community Church. Rev. Richard's sense of humor was delightful and the Irving family
became an important part of our church life during Rev. Richard's tenure at Community Church. The
February, 1982 newsletter carried the following announcement:
         "Vivien, Elise, Kristin and I would like to thank you all for your thoughtful consideration,
generous gifts, and sincere prayers. The Women's Service Fellowship is now a 1/3 owner of our new
daughter Kristin thanks to their wonderful generosity (We'll discuss what responsibilities this entails
later!), and we have been blessed with 298 "Huggies" from the Adult Bible Study group as well! I can
really advise others who may be considering parenthood, that having a baby at this Church is truly a
joyful experience! Thank you all for concern and loving care during our pregnancy and delivery!"

                                           - 20 -
Community Church                                                            Church History
Corona del Mar, CA
The Irvings served our church until Sept. 1, 1982 when he was called by First Congregational Church
of Santa Ana to be their Senior Minister.
        On Sept. 5, 1982, Rev. Don achieved another first for a Senior Minister at Community Church
when he and Ellen became parents with the birth of Danielle Katherine Kutz. More first-time
achievements for Community Church were to follow.
        After Rev. Irving's departure, his post was filled for a year by Rev. James Von Tungeln (cq),
Jr. In September, 1983, Lori Souder became our part-time Director of Christian Education. By the
end of the year, she had decided to accept the position on a full-time basis and pursue her ordination.
Lori and her husband, Jon Daniels, had just moved to the area so that he could begin work on his
doctorate in religion at Claremont College Graduate School. Reverend Lori, as she became known to
us, and her husband had recently earned their master's degrees from Harvard Divinity School. Her
ordination was celebrated in our sanctuary on April 29, 1984. Hers was the first ordination of a
serving staff member to occur at Community Church.
        Lori and Jon plunged into the life of the church and the congregation took them into their
hearts. Jon worked with Lori on most of the programs for the children and youth, and also volunteered
to teach adult Bible study. In addition, Jon served on church committees and ushered on a regular
        The mid 1980s were years of growth at Community Church. We had paid off the mortgage
and for the first time since work began on Pilgrim Hall in 1946, we were free of debt. The amount of
given to benevolences was increasing each year and excess funds at year's end were put into a reserve
account. At a special meeting in December, 1986, the congregation decided to offer a second Sunday
morning worship service. On Palm Sunday in 1987, the 8:30 a.m. service was initiated.
        At the same meeting, it was decided to change Rev. Lori's title to Associate Minister, since it
was felt that this was more in line with the functions she was performing. Jon and Lori also wanted to
do their part in helping the children's program grow, and on June 11, 1987, they became the parents of
Eliza Lynn Daniels. But the landmark events at Community Church didn't stop with baby Daniels. In
May, 1987, Pat Lamb was awarded her Doctor of Music Arts degree from USC. Then in September,
1988, Dr. Patricia Murphy Lamb and Dr. John Lamb (Physical Chemistry) became parents
themselves, welcoming Stephen Lamb into their lives and the life of our church.
        At our annual meeting in February, 1988, the Board of Deacons recommended that we call Dr.
Robert Crawford to serve as Adjunct Minister. The motion do so was made by Hale Dinsmoor and
passed unanimously. Dr. Crawford was a retired United Church of Christ (UCC) Minister who had
served churches in Massachusetts, Ohio and Michigan since entering the ministry in 1959. He was
awarded an honorary doctorate in 1971 by Olivet College, an independent liberal arts college in
Michigan, with ties to the UCC. The degree was awarded to recognize his many years of service to
the church, including service on committees at the national level. He and his wife, Edith, had joined
our church the previous year. During his time with our church, Bob preached, taught adult Bible
study, performed weddings and provided advice and counseling.
        The year 1989 turned out to be one of farewells for our church as both Pat Lamb and Rev. Lori
announced their departures. Dr. Lamb moved over to Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church
where she and John were members. There she became Director of Music Ministries for both the
church and school. Jon Daniels, meanwhile, had earned his PhD and was hired onto the faculty of
Defiance College in Ohio.
        The effect of the two resignations was much more than a loss of two employees. It was as if
two of our church "children" were leaving home. As a congregation, we had watched these young

                                           - 21 -
Community Church                                                              Church History
Corona del Mar, CA
women grow in their professions in service to God and our church, and start their families. Members
of the Music Committee and the Board of Christian Education went to work to find replacements.
         Rodger Whitten, a pianist, organist and choir director who had lived and worked in the area for
some time, had served as interim music director during Pat Lamb's maternity leave in the fall of 1988.
He was brought in to serve in an interim position while the search for a new Music Director was
conducted, and was named to the post in September, 1989.
         The Christian Education Committee was not as fortunate and could not find an immediate
replacement for Rev. Lori. Guy Forsman, a church member who was completing a graduate degree at
Claremont, accepted the post on an interim basis which allowed the search committee to thoroughly
examine several candidates. On July 1, 1990, James Keck came in to take the job vacated by Rev.
Lori. He had just graduated from the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley with a master's degree in
         Jim Keck also followed in Rev. Lori's footsteps by becoming ordained in our sanctuary in the
month following his arrival at Community Church. Assisting in the ordination was his father, Rev. L.
Robert Keck, a Methodist minister. Once he became an ordained minister of the UCC, Rev. Jim took
the title Associate Minister. His responsibilities, like Rev. Lori's, included Christian Education as well
as ministerial support, including presiding at worship services, weddings and funerals in the absence of
the senior minister. Rev. Jim delighted the congregation in the fall of 1991 when he announced his
engagement to Miss Karen Taylor. They had been introduced by Karen's aunt and uncle, church
members Jack and Marge Browne. Following their wedding at Community Church in December of
that year, the bride and groom rode off to Northern California on their motorcycles for their
         In July, 1992, Noreen Baume retired as Church Secretary. She had reached retirement age,
and decided that a quarter of a century in that position was long enough service. For many members, it
was difficult to imagine the church office without her warm smile and cheerie voice.
         JoAnn Stahl was hired to replace her. JoAnn's efficiency and pleasant personality have come
to be appreciated by everyone who has dealings with our church.
         At about the same time that JoAnn joined the church staff, a yellow tabby cat started to visit
frequently. Tigger lives in the next block but seems to spend most of his time at the church because
there is always some activity and there are plenty of people to pay attention to him. He is especially
fond of JoAnn. Tigger occasionally drops in on Sunday morning worship, from which he is gently
ejected when he becomes too vocal. He can be found on the patio, greeting the first person to arrive in
the morning, and he is still around when the last group locks up from meetings at night.

Years of Pain and Healing
        The growth that our church had experienced in the mid-1980s had not been sustained. The
budget presented for approval at our Annual Meeting in February, 1992 contained large cuts in several
areas. That meeting's discussion of the church's financial outlook was the longest of any in recent
years, as church members considered different ways to fairly distribute the cuts. At the end of 1992, it
was apparent that more cuts would have to be made in the 1993 budget. There were a number of
causes for our financial situation:
        -- Our country was in an economic recession that had hit California especially hard;
        -- Our membership, attendance at worship services and pledges had been falling for the past
few years;

                                            - 22 -
Community Church                                                            Church History
Corona del Mar, CA
         -- Our overhead was very high. In the past few years a Parish Nurse, a paid bookkeeper and
Church Administrator had been added to our staff. In addition, church members Jack and Julie Head
had donated a new mini-van which the church was responsible for insuring and maintaining.
         -- Wedding revenues were no long increasing. In 1975, Rev. Don's first year at Community
Church, 37 formal weddings had taken place in the sanctuary. Over the years, this number had
increased and when other sources of revenue had shortfalls, wedding income had increased to
compensate. In 1990, 144 formal weddings had taken place a Community Church. Members felt that
this level of activity meant that our church and minister were not available for regular pastoral and
church functions, so adjustments to limit the number of weddings were made. The number fell to
about 130 for the next two years. Increased wedding income was no longer available to bail out
financial problems in other areas.
         Several times in our church's history, when similar problems arose, special committees were
formed to analyze the situation and recommend changes to the members.
         Nearly two dozen members planned and attended a retreat in October, 1992 at the UCC
campground at Pilgrim Pines to consider the church's future. These members drafted a Mission
Statement and recommended that a committee be formed to continue work on the mission and develop
some goals and objectives to guide the church in selecting the programs that best fit our needs and our
         The Church Council decided that this special committee would be the best way to study our
problems, and asked for volunteers. A group of a dozen members, and one church friend, formed the
Church Mission and Planning Committee, known as the Ad Hoc Committee.
         The committee had its first meeting in January, 1993 and it became clear that the most of the
members felt that Rev. Don's style of leadership was at the heart of our problems, or that he would be
unable to provide the leadership necessary to lead the way out of these problems. These views were
conveyed to Rev. Don by leaders of the committee and he responded that he was ready to meet the
challenge of re-invigorating his ministry at Community Church.
         No one was ready for what took place next. The day before the church's 1993 Annual
Meeting, representatives of the Southern California Conference of the United Church of Christ and the
Orange Association met with Rev. Don to inform him that five written charges of sexual harassment or
sexual misconduct had been filed against him by women who were current or former church members
and staff. On Sunday morning, Feb. 21, Barbara Sawyer, Chair of the Board of Trustees, made
announcements at both worship services that Rev. Kutz had asked for and been granted a paid leave of
absence while an investigation by the Conference's Sexual Ethics Resource Group was conducted.
The findings of the investigation were to be turned over to the Church and Ministry Committee of the
Orange Association, the committee responsible for granting standing to ministers in UCC churches in
Orange and parts of Los Angeles counties.
         During the next five-and-a-half weeks, as the investigation of the charges methodically moved
forward, the church was in a state of turmoil. The process was taking far longer than had been
anticipated for a variety of reasons. One reason was that the procedure for conducting the
investigation was new and the amount of time it would take was not completely understood by the
people involved. Another reason for the lengthy process was the seriousness of the charges
themselves, and the effort made by members of the Sexual Ethics Resource Group to conduct a
thorough and fair investigation. Finally, a sixth written complaint was received during the course of
the investigation and had to be evaluated. The Resource Group concluded its investigation and turned
its findings over to the Orange Association's Church and Ministry Committee for evalution of Rev.
Don's status as an ordained minister of the United Church of Christ.

                                           - 23 -
Community Church                                                              Church History
Corona del Mar, CA
         On March 31, 1993 the Church and Ministry Committee issued a report that found that the
charges had been substantiated, and as a result, Rev. Don's fitness for ministry was in question. As of
that date, the committee suspended his standing as a UCC minister, and he was given a list of tasks to
be completed in order to be reinstated. In accordance with our own church by-laws, his position as our
minister was terminated when his ministerial standing was suspended.
         The following week, a standing-room-only crowd gathered in Mertz Hall to hear from the
members of the Sexual Ethics Resource Group, the Church and Ministry Committee and Dr. Davida
Foy Crabtree, our conference minister. Joanne Reynolds, co-chair of the Board of Trustees, presided
over the meeting. The report of March 31 was read to the assembled church members and friends.
The reading was followed by an hour of questions-- some angry, many simply inquisitive about the
process and its outcome-- directed at committee and group members, at Dr. Crabtree and at the Board
of Trustees, and closed with pleas for unity from long-time church member Luvena Hayton and Dr.
         Members of the press were on hand after the meeting to talk to church members, and the
charges and Don's suspension were front-page news in the local papers the next morning.
         On April 6, Don's attorney issued a press release which was also carried in part by the three
newspapers. The release issued by Kevin Connolly stated:
         "I have been asked by the Reverend Kutz, as his legal counsel, to respond briefly to the
allegations made by the members of the Southern California Conference of the United Church of
         "To begin, first and foremost, the one who suffers most from allegations charged against Rev.
Kutz are his congregation.
         "Secondly, the Reverend Kutz categorically denies that he has committed any improprieties
sexually or otherwise in regard to this matter.
         "Thirdly, the allegations which have been made against the Reverend Kutz appear to have their
genesis in and from a small minority faction within the congregation whose monetary and, or political
position within the church had been undermined.
         "The matter stems from allegations of a few women who have alleged sexual improprieties
committed by the Reverend Kutz over the last 13 years. (5)
         "It appears that 'Good Citizens' are once again building up their heroes and again using them as
a sacrificial lamb in its relentless search for control and manipulation.
         "Approximately thirty days ago the Reverend Kutz was approached by an advisory board
Christened by the United Church of Christ to investigate certain alleged incidents. When the
allegations were made the Reverend Kutz responded by accepting the committee's suggestion that he
take a leave of absence and to allow the Association to instigate and use its stated due process. But
upon such recommendation and acceptance of same, in order to have his congregation not suffer the
brunt of the allegations, he took a paid leave of absence.
         "After accepting the committee's suggestion, the Reverend Donald W. Kutz was met only with
what appeared to be a 'frontier justice' mentality who cared little about truth, right or wrong.
         "It is believed that the process used by the committee was unjust and certainly not within any
format known and or used by any western civilization!
         "The Reverend Kutz categorically states he has not nor have his supporters had any
opportunity to respond, let alone offer evidence on the untruthfulness of the allegations.
         "It is the Reverend's position that it is up to his congregation to make the determination as to
what if any the future of Reverend Kutz is with the congregation.

                                            - 24 -
Community Church                                                             Church History
Corona del Mar, CA
         "In closing I have been instructed to bring this matter to a quick close by way of obtaining
remuneration to Reverend Kutz and or to avail if possible him of his legal remedies which are founded
in due process."
         As a result of the controversy, attendance dropped significantly. Relations were strained
among those who stayed since some believed the allegations, while others felt the allegations were
untrue or that the punishment was too severe. A number of member families, and as some friends
left the church over the next few months. There were a variety of reasons for the departures-- some
stated, others left unsaid-- but they seemed to fall into three catagories: 1) a majority of those who
left at this time said they felt Don had been treated unfairly; 2) another group of departing members
said they felt the church had been insensitive and unfair to the women who filed the complaints; 3)
still others didn't want to be involved in a church that was in turmoil.

You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet
        Church leaders quickly focused on the need to find a new minister. Rev. Keck had been filling
in during the suspension, but he would soon be leaving. At about the time that the charges were filed,
Rev. Jim had been called to the West Concord Union Church in Concord, Massachusetts. During the
investigation and later suspension, he was assisted by the Rev. Jerry Gladsen, who had recently moved
into southern California from Georgia, and who soon was appointed to another full-time post in
Orange County. Music Director Rodger Whitten assumed a role of leadership during this difficult
period, taking a more active part in planning worship, counseling with disheartened church members
and staff, and providing much-needed continuity during transition to an Interim Minister.
        Rev. Jim left after presiding over worship on Sunday, April 18. Conference officials
recommended that we hire an Interim Minister for a two-year period. The term would give us ample
time to heal from the effects of Don's removal, and to complete an orderly search process for a new
permanent minister. Interim ministers serve under a special covenant based on their particular skills in
conflict resolution. They are asked not to seek a permanent position with the congregation they serve
on an interim basis, but rather to focus on the healing work that is the basis of their calling. An all-
church meeting was held after worship on Sunday, April 25 and the Rev. Dennis W. Short was called
as Interim Minister. Dr. Short had been awarded an honorary doctorate by Chapman University after
his 16 years service to the university as campus chaplain. He quickly became known simply as
        He came to Community Church after having just completed an term as Interim Minister at
First Christian Church of Garden Grove, a member congregation of the Disciples of Christ (DOC).
The United Church of Christ (UCC) and the DOC have been exploring merger for a number of years,
and Dr. Short had been granted standing in the ministries of both denominations.
        Dennis brought a great deal of energy and vigor to our church. He seemed to be everywhere,
improving staff communications, attending committee meetings, revitalizing visitations and presiding
at a series of nine evening Sharing Conferences organized by the Board of Deacons. In addition, he
and his wife, Linda, were active in re-invigorating church social groups. By the end of 1993, Dennis
had brought 32 new members into Community Church.
        With the loss of members, there was a corresponding loss of income. Since we had been
struggling financially for the past few years, it meant additional means had to be found to reduce
spending. The Administrator and the Parish Nurse positions had been eliminated at the start of the
new budget year, and the post of Associate Minister was also eliminated after Jim Keck's departure.
The church van was returned to the Heads and all other areas of church spending were reduced.

                                           - 25 -
Community Church                                                             Church History
Corona del Mar, CA
        After Rev. Jim's departure, church member Wilma White was hired as Director of Christian
Education on a part-time basis. As budget problems became more severe, even this position had to be
eliminated. The function as of this writing is being handled by volunteers: Kathy Harvey is serving as
Sunday School Superintendent; Berry Piper and Lou Mayers run the Wedensday afternoon children's
program; Katherine Fairbairn and Paul Blank work with the two older youth groups, and Carol Hoppe
assists Rodger Whitten with the Children's Choir and also serves as the Sunday School Music
        There were additional, and significant, changes at Community Church in 1993. The leadership
services of both our Minister Emeritus and our Adjunct Minister were lost, as Dr. Philip Murray and
Dr. Robert Crawford passed away within a few weeks of one another.
        During this time, the Board of Trustees dealt with some unusual situations. An $18,000
settlement and release of legal claims was negotiated with Don Kutz. In addition, the Board had to
deal with a lawsuit filed with a former church employee who alleged, among other claims, wrongful
        However, under Dr. Short's leadership, members of the congregation began to look to the
future. An all-church retreat was held in November, 1993 at Pilgrim Pines, and 40 members and
friends gathered for a weekend of fellowship and planning. In addition to worship and fellowship
time, the people at the retreat spent time in small groups, analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of
Community Church, and in planning ways to help the church grow in 1994. Independently, each
group came to two similar conclusions about our church's strengths-- an excellent music program is
the center of this church's spiritual life, and the committed core of active members will move us
        When future generations of church members look back at this period of rebuilding, they will
see that a major factor in its success was the work and leadership of that core, supported by Dennis and
Rodger. During a sermon at the end of 1993, Dennis discussed the thought "The Past is Prologue".
Two men, he told the congregation, were looking at the title of the sermon and one asked what it
meant. The other responded, "It means............... you ain't seen nothin' yet!"

                                                      Compiled by Paul Reynolds, Church Historian

(1) From the opening scene of the movie "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid."
(2) This account was obtained during an interview with the pastor's son, Fred, and could not be
confirmed by any other sources. Mr. Irvine was not known to be a church person, but he knew what
was good for business. It is speculated that he gave the money anonymously so that other churches
would not be encouraged to approach him for donations.
(3) Although it was regularly referred to as a "pipe organ," it was, in fact, an electronic organ which
produced sound through speakers, rather than through pipes. The current pipe organ was installed in
the 1968 renovation.
(4) According to the UCC Office of Archivist, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the General Synod never
passed a resolution favoring the recognition of communist China.
(5) Don and Ellen were now divorced. The alleged incidents took place after they were separated.

                                           - 26 -

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