A History of the
First Presbyterian Church of Concord, California
Revised and Enlarged
from Prior Histories
and Other Sources
by Kent Richardson - October 2007
amended by David Stearns - July 2010
Foundation, 1882 – 1932
In 1882, the desire to establish a Protestant Church in Concord was expressed. The Congregationalists, who had conducted a Sunday School in the local school house, felt they could not assume the responsibility at that time, and waived their rights when the Presbyterian denomination offered to organize and care for a church. The Reverend Duncan Monroe came to Concord, and on October 14, 1882, a church was formed. John Brawand, William Caven, and E. J. Jaquith were elected trustees, and Mr. Monroe, pastor. This is the complete record, in Mr. Monroe's writing, and there is no list of charter members.
On November 22, 1882, the trustees organized with Mr. Caven, President, Mr. Brawand, Treasurer, and Mr. Monroe, Secretary, and on December 30, 1882, the church was incorporated. The first important business was the erection of a church. M. Beebe, John Sherman, and Duncan Monroe were appointed a Building Committee. At a meeting on November 27, the following motion was carried: "The building committee is instructed to see builders and consult with them as to the erection and cost of a plain and commodious place of worship."
On December 8, the committee reported favorably and the trustees entered into a contract with Ludden and Marsh of Martinez to build a church, according to specifications, to cost $1,250. This church was built on Galindo Street on a lot donated by Samuel Bacon, merchant and Concord's first postmaster. It was dedicated on March 18, 1883. It seems wonderful to us now, that in less than six months a church was organized and a building erected and dedicated.
The first annual business meeting was held in the church on October 22, 1883. Annual meetings in 1884, '85, '86 and '88 are recorded. Then there is no record for five years. In 1894, a brief account of the annual meeting, signed by Albert Babel, showed the following officers elected: J. Munson, Chairman; Alice Brawand, Treasurer; Albert Babel, Secretary. The last record in the book, May 6, 1894, contained a vote of thanks to the Ladies' Aid Society for a gift to the church of $125.
Here the written record ends, until 1916. However, the first marriage ceremony that took place in that first church was for Henry G. Bollman and Mattie Smith in 1887. This information was obtained from Beverly Noyce (nee Bollman), granddaughter of Henry and Mattie. Unsubstantiated information states that Henry had a role in the founding of the church. What follows is gathered from memories of members and friends.
Mr. Monroe served as pastor for about nine years. He was followed by Mr. Martin, Mr. James A. Gardiner, and Mr. I. N. Hurd. For several years this church united with the Walnut Creek Presbyterian Church in the services of a pastor. There were three ministers in that time: Mr. Anderson, Mr. Fischer, and Mr. Hough.
During the early years of the Presbyterian Church in Concord there was a flourishing Congregational Church in Clayton, which had been established in 1863. It had an excellent choir and an active Christian Endeavor Society. Members of this group of young people conducted "frequent entertainments and church benefits," one of which, "The Last Loaf," was presented in Concord, and the proceeds given to the Concord Christian Endeavor.
In 1904, the church called as pastor, Mr. James Little, who remained one year. He was followed by Dr. H. C. Biddle. Dr. Biddle taught at the University of California, was active in his ministry, and did much to build up the church. While he was pastor, the Galindo Street property was sold and lots were purchased on the corner of Salvio and Colfax Streets. Here was built a beautiful little church, with Sunday School rooms and a kitchen, at a cost of about $5,000.
The first kindergarten class was organized in this building, and there was an active Ladies' Aid Society. Many women of the town, though not belonging to our church, were members of this group and enjoyed the church suppers and ice cream socials. The town was small, and in 1905 had a population of about 500. People got around by horse and buggy on unpaved streets.
Mr. Ferguson became pastor in 1910 and was succeeded by Mr. H. C. Caskey, during whose time a manse was built on East Street. The lot was donated by A. W. Maltby. The Reverend Graham Lee, a returned missionary, followed Mr. Caskey, but because of poor health, remained only a short time.
In 1914, Mr. Robert Gordon was called to the pastorate. On September 28 of the next year, the beautiful little church was destroyed by fire. Mr. Gordon resigned. A crisis had come. The people were disheartened. The Presbytery came to the rescue. The Odd Fellows' Hall, which stood where the parking lot is today, was engaged for regular services at a rental of $25 a month. The first service was held there on October 3.
Plans were made to collect the insurance, appoint committees, and begin the business of starting a new church. Dr. John C. Miller was engaged as minister after Mr. Gordon's resignation and, we quote from the minutes, "$5,000 was fixed as the minimum, and $6,000 the maximum price at which the new church should be built." It was dedicated on June 4, 1916. The cost had increased to $7,100, but this was paid off in less than five years. A Treasurer's report in 1913 shows receipts for the year to be $1,687 and expenses to be $1,678. As nearly as can be judged from incomplete old records, the membership at this time was thought to be about 85.
Dr. Miller resigned from the pastorate in 1923, in his 80th year. He was succeeded by the Reverend Samuel Patterson, who remained until 1936, and with whom the church celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 1932. This happy occasion was observed by special music at the morning service, and a reception in the afternoon for old-time members of the church. In the evening the Reverend Stanley A. Hunter, of St. John's Presbyterian Church in Berkeley, was guest speaker.
The progress of the church during these fifty years was considered slow, steady, but effective. The church had been maintained under difficulty at times, but it passed through its baptism of fire, literally, and at this time was ready for greater things and "a life more abundant."
Establishment, 1932 – 1947
The period from 1932 to 1947 brought great changes to the town of Concord. The church felt the depression years, but with the coming of World War II, and the local need for an airbase and housing for workers in the defense plants, Concord began to boom. The opening of the Caldecott tunnel was like turning a valve and the people poured into the country. Grain fields and walnut groves gave way to subdivisions. Little towns found themselves growing into cities. The time had come for First Presbyterian Church to establish itself as a vital force in Concord.
The Reverend Robert Shattuck came to our church in 1936. There was a splendid spirit of cooperation and good fellowship at this time, and the church prospered. Annual reports reveal interesting items. A Bible class for young people of high school age was organized. The Young Women's Society, sponsored by Mrs. Shattuck, "spent $7.80 for one dozen chairs, recently purchased for the church." The Ladies' Aid, with Mrs. Daisy Moyer installed as the President, made the final payment on the rug and runner in the main auditorium. Mr. Mahler, clerk of session, called attention to a very "heavy" payment of $20 a month being made on the manse.
It was with real regret that the congregation lost the Shattucks to the Burlingame Church. Membership at this time was approximately 185; and a proposed budget for 1940 was for $3,000,
The Reverend Garrett Tamminga became pastor in June, 1940, and our church noted that we were, living "in a world filled with war, chaos, and crisis." The Red Cross used our Sunday School parlors and women of the church, with others, gave their services. Special collections went to the War Time Service Commission and a plaque containing the names of the boys in service was placed in the church. Mrs. J. A. Jory gave a flag.
A long-cherished dream came true the next year when Mr. and Mrs. Maynard A. Rotermund made a gift to the church of a Wurlitzer pipe organ, equipped with chimes. The cost of installing the organ was about $500, and Elder James Rogers contributed $200 of this in service. The Session, in accepting this lovely gift, wrote, "only the angels in heaven can know how many souls will be nourished by its beautiful music in future days." On December 18, 1941, a "Service of Dedication" was held, with "An Hour of Music" following.
There were 253 members in March, 1943. In September, Mrs. P. B. McHenry was elected Church Treasurer. In this office she gave unreservedly of her time and services until her death in May 1957. She was succeeded by Mr. Carl Lanstrom, who, as chairman of the Stewardship Commission, had worked closely with her. In 1946, Dawn Chiappino became church organist.
Dr. Paul Kennedy was installed as pastor in November 1943. Mrs. Kennedy was asked to lead the choir. Organ concerts were relayed from the church to the City Plaza during the Christmas season. Dr. Kennedy was sincere in his church duties and had an active group of young people who began to serve the church. At this time, Mrs. Peter Garcia, in a report of the Women's Society, told of "paying off $1,339.03 on the manse," and the mortgage was burned.
In November 1944, the session proposed a building program for early 1945 for a new unit designed particularly for the needs of youth. This was to be known as the Claude A. Lockwood Memorial Youth Center, in honor of a former elder who gave so unselfishly of his time to the young people of the church. Pledging for the Youth Center was under the direction of Harvey L. Stegner, chairman of the Board of Trustees.
Instead of building, however, the Brubeck property adjoining the church was purchased. It was owned, and once occupied by Howard “Pete” Brubeck, a cattle rancher, and Elizabeth Ivey Brubeck, a classical pianist and teacher. “Bessie” Brubeck, as Elizabeth was known, was a pianist at First Presbyterian Church for a time. The Brubeck’s had three sons, the youngest of whom is jazz legend Dave Brubeck. With the property secured, a program of addition and remodeling was begun. Today the chapel is where the Lockwood building once stood.
The Reverend Ernest Iden Bradley came to our church in August 1946, bringing with him his lovely bride. Mr. Bradley had much to do: Concord was growing, the church was growing, and an expansion program became necessary. Monthly suppers and get-togethers welded the congregation into one big family. The prayer meeting grew and the church prospered. Isaac “Ike” Davis observed that at this point First Presbyterian Church made a transition from being a small church.
The dedication of the Lockwood Memorial Youth Center in October 1947 marked the 65th anniversary of the church. A dinner was served in the Center, an appropriate program given, and our first Church Directory was issued at this time. We boasted 287 members.
Growth, 1947 - 1957
City population continued to grow in 1947 and 1948. With the growth of the city, the difficulty in caring for the spiritual needs of the community was realized. A Board of Deacons was elected by the congregation at the annual meeting on January 19, 1948. From the very start, their care of the poor, their ministry to shut-ins, their preparation of the communion, and their calls on church visitors, deepened the consecration of the entire congregation.
In 1948, a lighted sign board was made by one of the church members and placed at the front of the church. It conveyed the name of the church, the times of the different services, and the names of the ministers. Attendance at Sunday morning services increased beyond seating capacity, so, beginning in 1949, two services were held; one at 9:30 in the nearby Enean theater and the other at 11:00 in the sanctuary. Luella Beck recalls that attendance at Easter services overflowed to the church basement, where a sound system had been installed for worshipers to hear the service. Sunday School, also, was running double sessions through the third grade. Clearly, a new, larger church became necessary.
In 1949, a Building Committee advised keeping the present location, moving the sanctuary back on the lot, putting a full basement under it, and moving the manse to a new location, thus clearing the corner for the new church. $37,000 was raised for this project. The church served as its own contractor, with Mr. J. 0. Rogers as foreman and Mr. Joe Sobotka as contact man. By the end of 1950, $30,413 had been spent. The Odd Fellows' Hall was again pressed into service for Church and Sunday School during this period. In July, 1951, the manse was moved to 114 El Monte Way.
Church membership in 1952 was 686, with a Sunday School of 1,065. The church budget for 1943 was $4,901; in late 1952 it was $35,000.
A Church Building Council, with Don Campbell as Chairman, George Rummel as Co-Chairman, and Maynard Rotermund as Secretary, was organized in 1952 to take care of all new building needs. During the year its plans were formulated and a decision reached to build a new sanctuary. Donald Powers Smith was engaged as architect.
At a Loyalty Supper in January, 1953, there was inaugurated a campaign to raise a building fund of $125,000. The growth of the church from early days was shown, and the urgency of the immediate need. The campaign lasted from January 5 to February 14, 1953. The people of Concord once more had demonstrated that they had a mind to work. They realized the truth of Edgar Guest's poem:
"God sends no churches from the skies,
Out of men's hearts they must arise."
The new sanctuary proved to be one of the most imaginative examples of modern, functional buildings in the country. Constructed on the pattern of the old tent type parish church of North England, the pointed roof is supported on low buttressed side walls. The masonry block is exposed on both the exterior and the interior. With 186,310 cubic feet of space, the entire structure was built for $175,578.
All of the structural materials were used in a free and obvious manner, without any effort to conceal or gloss over their structural purposes. The congregation had requested "a straightforward design and a structure that would be dignified and church-like but which would also retain the warmth and intimacy so often found in English parish churches."
Dedication of the beautiful new church was held on April 11, 1954, at 3:30 in the afternoon. It was an impressive ceremony. The Act of Dedication was read by the Reverend Donald Latimer, Moderator of Presbytery, and the Dedication Challenge was given by Dr. Ronald T. White, General Presbyter of the North Coastal Area. The building soon achieved national attention. The February 1955 issue of The Volunteer Gazette, published by The National Society of The Volunteers of America, featured a picture of the church on its front cover. An article in that issue, titled “Modern Churches”, called it a “strikingly beautiful building”. And, the building was designated by the Smithsonian Institution as an outstanding example of regional architecture.
As the work load continued to increase, a program of engaging summer assistants to help with the young people developed. Some will remember such outstanding young theological students as Eugene Lee, Ward Murray, John Reynolds, Les Mayo, Clifford Custer, and Bob Flynn.
In 1953, it was felt that a full time assistant minister was needed, and the Reverend Arthur Sueltz, a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, was called.
The Concord Church reported 1,452 pupils in the Sunday School to General Assembly in 1955. With double sessions and recruitment of teachers a constant problem, the Christian Education Commission, headed by Dr. Frank Bradford, recommended that a Christian Education Director be hired. Miss Marian Wagener, a graduate of New York Biblical Seminary, was added to the staff in June, 1956, and served until July, 1957.
When a building, adjoining the church property on Salvio Street was purchased in 1956 by means of refinancing, it filled a real need for expansion. Here the offices of the pastors, secretaries, and the Christian Education director were set up in December, 1956. In addition to these were meeting rooms, two assembly rooms, Sunday School class rooms, and the Church Library.
In May, 1956, a second and larger manse was purchased at 1243 Davis Avenue. The pastor and his family moved into this in July and the manse on El Monte Way became the residence of the Assistant Pastor.
The spectacular growth of the church during the ten years from 1946 to 1956 may be seen in the following figures:
Evelyn Williamson came to the church in 1953. Possessing a minor in music, she was encouraged to start a children’s choir. The program evolved into seven different choirs of graduated age levels and some comprised only of girls and only of boys. The average choir size was 30 children. A high point for the children, and for Evelyn, was a Sunday worship service when a children’s choir occupied the choir loft for the entire service..
During these years of growth, our church was not unmindful of our responsibility to spread the Gospel. Mr. Bradley had suggested that increased interest in the missionary program would follow if our members would partly underwrite the expenses of some certain mission. This was done in 1947 and John and Esther Shackelford, who were leaving soon for Colombia, became "our first missionaries." Others were added during the following years: Eugene and Jean Marie Lee in Venezuela; John Reynolds, then Lynn Boliek, then Larry Cardwell in Beirut, Lebanon; and the Reverend Douglas Noble of the Wayside Chapel in the Bay Area. In the Philippines with the Wycliffe Bible Translators was Felicia Sadowski Brichoux from our own church.
In 1951, financial help was given for a period of four years to help establish St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Pleasant Hill. Our Women's Society also interested itself in their women's organization. Earlier, in 1947, the Building Committee had suggested to Presbytery that a site for a church should be obtained in Clayton Valley. This was done. When the Clayton Valley Presbyterian Church was later established, in 1957, it had material help and support from the Concord Church, as did the Ygnacio Valley Presbyterian Church in 1960. Pittsburg Community Presbyterian Church also received financial support.
Expansion, 1957 - 1967
In 1960, after fourteen years of service to God's people in Concord, the Rev. Ernest Bradley resigned to accept a call to another pastorate. He has continued to have a close relationship with our church through many personal contacts. He spoke at the 1975 Church Conference, he returned to help celebrate the church’s 95th Anniversary, and he came again when we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the sanctuary in 2004.
A Pastor Nominating Committee was formed and Dr. Lorin Ridings served as Interim Pastor. Before too long, Dr. Robert Christiansen of Seattle was called as Senior Pastor and he and his family began their ministry on October 1, 1960.
The first years of Dr. Christiansen's ministry here were spent consolidating the gains made in previous years and in giving fresh impetus and direction to the massive building program which was to prepare the church for the expanding programs of the 60's and 70's.
As early as 1958, a Long Range Planning Committee was formed to study the building needs. Every inch of space was already being used by our large church school and, at various times, we rented or used the Odd Fellows Hall which stood across from the sanctuary, the Veteran's Memorial Building, and the chapel of the McFarland and Bryant funeral home. The Senior High Fellowship, for example, met in a war surplus Quonset hut which stood on the site of our present Fellowship Hall. By this time the office building on Salvio Street was showing its age as well. Mary Grant, financial secretary at the time, said “you could see between the bricks.”
Under the leadership of Dr. Christiansen, the Session and a special construction committee began the task of acquiring needed additional property, razing the old buildings and constructing the new at the end of August, 1963. Three hundred members of the congregation volunteered for a self-help construction program. Alfred “Bud” Hansen donated his time as construction foreman. Their efforts saved the church $175,000 in labor costs. It was said in those days: “Join the church and learn a trade”.
It took a lot of hard work by uncomplaining members, many of whom labored evenings after a full day’s work at their jobs. But it was a labor of love.
The buildings, which were completed in 1965 and dedicated on May 15, 1966, cost $450,000 for an addition of 22,000 square feet of space for administration, meeting, classroom and storage space. The project includes the Administration Building and the Christian Education complex, which is comprised of the Nursery, several classrooms, the Chapel, Fellowship Hall, the Fireside Room and the High School Room. The Chapel was later named Christiansen Memorial Chapel.
When Carl Jefferson, a Concord automobile dealer and jazz enthusiast, initiated the Concord Jazz Festival in the late 1960’s, Dave Brubeck returned often to perform. When in town, Mr. Brubeck frequently rehearsed at the piano in Fellowship Hall. One day however, Mary Grant recalled that he came into the office and censured the staff for getting rid of his homestead. In fact, the church had offered to sell the Lockwood building back to his mother, Bessie Brubeck, for $1.00, but she declined the offer.
1964 was a watershed year in the life of our congregation. Beginning in January, a six-month moratorium was declared by the Session. Only the Session and the Church School continued to meet and members of the congregation gathered to lay plans and priorities for the future. This moratorium brought a lot of creative discussion and out of the prayerful planning of the congregation grew many features of our church program that continue to this day.
In 1965, the life of our congregation began to blossom with renewed vigor. Our first woman elder, Doris Loveridge, was elected to Session. The Deacons were reorganized into our now familiar parish system and increased in number to 99. The coffee fellowship between services was instituted and the Mariners program restructured and revitalized.
By 1966, church membership reached 1246.
Evolution, 1967 - 1996
The next significant period in the life of the church was marked by evolution in many of the areas of previous growth and expansion – those of facilities, service, learning, and worship and fellowship.
A great many projects and activities were undertaken to enhance the worship experience from a facilities standpoint. A carillon was purchased and installed in May, 1976, brightening downtown Concord with its chimes. A plan to renovate the chancel and replace the organ console was approved in January of 1977, and completed in 1978.
There long had been a desire to put a stained glass window in the church narthex. Early in 1979 the Long Range Planning committee referred the idea to Memorials and Special Gifts. George McKeever Studios was contacted and supplied several designs for review in 1980. The final design was established in 1981, approved by the congregation in January 1982, and the Centennial Window Fund was created. By May of 1986 there were sufficient funds to sign a contract. The beautiful window that we know today was completed in August 1987 and dedicated in a special service on September 20, 1987.
By July 1987, it was recognized that a great deal more was needed to bring the sanctuary up to date., so a Sanctuary Renovation Committee was established on July 7. In 1990, the sanctuary renovation was referred to Memorial and Special Gifts for funding, and a proposal was made in 1992.
Meanwhile, several other related projects were under way. A new sound system, with wireless microphones, was installed in 1985. And, in 1989, an amplifier system was added for the hearing impaired. The Sound Booth was set up in 1994, which has evolved to its present form allowing complete control of sound and lighting, and from which audio and video recordings can be made of worship services, concerts, and other proceedings. In 2000, a television feed to the Nursery was installed to allow infant attendants to view worship services.
Phases I and II of the Sanctuary Renovation were completed in 1998. This included new paint colors, stretch walls covering the larger organ pipes, new padded pews, new sand-blasted side windows, stained glass side-bay windows near the chancel, and a garden arbor outside along the walkway to the patio.
Finally, Phase III of the Sanctuary Renovation was begun in 1999, and recently completed and which encompassed upgrades to the sound system and new sanctuary master lighting.
Several other changes took place during this period to make the facilities more modern, serviceable and “user friendly”. In 1985 new handicapped accessible restrooms were constructed on the ground floor behind the Fireside Room. Above this area a custodian apartment was created.
The administration offices also enjoyed some upgrades. The office area was completely redesigned in 1987, and a new phone system was installed. It was about this time that Mary Grant, and fellow secretary Wilma Williams, retired after working for the church for more than 20 years. Wilma considers it a privilege to have served three senior pastors, and Mary agrees.
In 1995, a security system was implemented for the office and the Presbyterian Community Center. With many computers in use throughout the central offices and other parts of the campus, greater speed of access to the internet became imperative. In 2000 dial-up access was replaced with the installation of a Digital Subscriber Line (DSL).
Our congregation has provided conspicuous service leadership in such programs as the 1971 Billy Graham Oakland Crusade, the "Key '73" Diablo Valley Bible Days campaign when our church members bought and distributed over 1,000 Bibles, and the 1976 Diablo Valley Crusade which featured Billy Graham Associate Dr. John Wesley White.
Service in our local mission area has also played an important role. In November 1970, for example, the pre-school at our church was established which could serve up to 96 children at that time.
The mid-1970's was a time for increased emphasis on the needs of senior citizens both inside and outside of our congregation. After many years of prayer and careful planning, including the acquisition of crucial property, ground was broken for the construction of The Heritage, an eight story, 196-apartment home for seniors, on October 27, 1974. The building was occupied in November of 1975 and dedicated on October 10, 1976. Many Heritage residents have made a strong contribution to the life and service of our congregation.
Coinciding with the occupation of The Heritage,the Senior Adult Activity Center which meets at the church each Tuesday opened its doors on December 2, 1975, under the direction of the Reverend Penney Fujii, the first woman minister to be ordained and serve in our church as an assistant pastor. The Center is staffed by volunteers from the church and the community and weekly attendance has grown to over a hundred seniors who participate in crafts, folk dancing, discussions, speakers and singing. This Center complements the Senior Christians' Fellowship which was begun in 1965 through the efforts of Dr. Oscar Geisler and which continues to meet monthly.
Recognizing a continuing need for elderly housing, planning began for a new facility for seniors with greater financial resources than residents of the Heritage, which is subsidized by a HUD Block Grant. Property was secured for the project in 1982 through a property swap with the City of Concord. A church parking lot across Salvio St. from FPCC was traded for land next to the Heritage. The City eventually built the present parking structure on its newly acquired parcel. Meanwhile, architectural plans were approved in January of 1985, contractor bidding was conducted, and in November of 1985, ground was broken for what became the Plaza Tower. This 12 story, 96 unit facility was completed in 1987 and dedicated June 14 of that year. The Board of Directors of Concord Homes, Inc. (The Heritage) was instrumental in establishing a separate board for overseeing the new facility. The new entity became Concord Plaza Tower, Inc.
There was the Enean theater, behind the church on Grant Street. Built in the 1930’s in the popular art deco style, it was a family theater that sadly had been turned into a pornographic movie house known as the Showcase Theater. In September, 1980, Joe Hare and others were instrumental in getting the church to buy the Showcase. This was done expressly with the purpose of removing such blight on our city. In time it became the present Presbyterian Community Center (PCC). The community rejoiced in what the church had done, but the publicity around the world caused some stir. The church reluctantly owned a porno theater for two years and accepted the rent until the lease ran out. For F. A. “Bud” Stewart, the elimination of the porno theater was a personal high point as a civic leader and a member of First Presbyterian Church.
Work began in earnest in 1985 to convert the theater into the Presbyterian Community Center. It was completed the following year. By 1987 PCC community activities included YMCA aerobics, Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, the Concord Music Academy, wheelchair soccer, Hope League, and Samaritan Counseling. Programs came and went, but over the succeeding years others were introduced, including Teen Dance Club, Red Cross CPR, Karate, Special Olympics, Girl Scouts, step aerobics, Adult Children of Alcoholics, and Bank of America Speakers Club. “Friday Night Live” deserves special notice. It was an alcohol and drug free program for teens which was used as a model to launch similar activities in other cities throughout the country.
As the PCC’s 10th anniversary in 1996 approached, rentership had dwindled to a point that maintaining the facility was putting a strain on church finances. In 1995 the word was to “maintain” the status quo, but to not secure new business. A dramatic turning point came in September of 2002, when the Vineyard Church signed a five-year lease of the PCC, with a 5-year renewal clause. This welcome turn of events has brought in much-needed income even as it has expanded the PCC’s use for the Kingdom of God here in Concord.
In 1987, the church opened its doors to the Community Bible Study. Meeting on our campus and occupying several areas, it is a time of learning for the participants, but also it is an important service that the church facilitates in the community.
The church launched a Steven Ministry program in 1992, with an initial graduating class of 11 individuals. The program, funded by the Deacons, equips lay persons in our congregation to provide distinctively Christian one-to-one care to those who are experiencing all kinds of life needs and circumstances, both in our congregation and community.
In 1967, two educational programs were introduced which met with considerable success. The first of these, Youth Club, gathered 4th through 8th graders for music, dinner, crafts, and Bible study. The second, the Bethel Bible Series, trained leaders who then trained others in the basic Biblical principles. About 150 adults were enrolled at one point and the class of 1969 graduated 66 persons.
One of the signs of vitality in a church is the young men and women who enter the full time Christian ministry through its teaching. In June, 1967, Jim Moiso was ordained to the Gospel ministry here and was later called to Milwaukie Presbyterian Church in Oregon. In July, 1975, former Associate Pastor David Wilkinson was ordained in our sanctuary. He later was called to the Presbyterian Church of Oroville, California. Scott Mitchell accepted a call to La Jolla Presbyterian Church, California. In 1982, Chris Williams was called to Frances Johnson Memorial Presbyterian Church in Angoon, Alaska. David Wettstein received a call to the Presbyterian Church of Ogden, Utah. And, Sharon Hare was ordained in our church and was called to a church in upper New York State.
The 1950's ended 48 years ago and with the close of the fifties the day of the huge Sunday School ended for our church and for churches all across the country. By 1966, Sunday School enrollment had reduced to 850, and by 1976 to 200. There are a number of reasons for this, including a change in the way people outside the church view the church, the end of the post-war baby boom, the gradual rise in the average age of our congregation, the slowing in the growth rate of the City of Concord, and the massive increase in the number of churches in the city, from about four to close to a hundred. Other programs have continued through the years, including the summer Vacation Bible School and the youth programs for junior high and senior high, though with decreased numbers as well.
Worship and Fellowship
In 1976, we celebrated our nations' bicentennial along with the rest of the country. We had several potluck dinner evenings with special speakers and music provided by our choirs and outside groups. Coincidentally, Independence Day, July 4 1976, fell on a Sunday. The sanctuary was as overflowing with worshipers as a typical Easter Sunday.
Upon the retirement of Dr. Christiansen on May 31, 1979, the Rev. Rod Fridlund served as interim pastor for about a year while a pastor-seeking committee applied itself diligently to the task at hand. Its efforts were rewarded when the Rev. E. Leon Thompson accepted the call to be senior pastor as of August 18, 1980. Rev. Thompson was ably assisted by the Rev. Elden D. Unruh, who came to the church as an associate pastor on July 1, 1977, and by the Rev. Ethel Kay Livingston, who was ordained in 1980 and assumed a position of associate pastor in March 1981. Rev. Leon Thompson served for seven years, moving to Alaska in 1987. Orville Schick became Interim Pastor that year.
The Korean Presbyterian Church, which grew and developed using the church facilities for many years, chose to move in 1988 to achieve more space.
Rev. John "Jack" Shriver became pastor in 1988. However, he resigned in December, 1991 following some conflicts that ensued after he returned from a mission trip to Nicaragua. At that time, the associate pastors were Dr. Ronald Thompson, Associate for Parish Life, who had arrived that same year, and Rev. Keith Wright, Associate for Youth and Missions. In 1991, Ron Thompson was acting Interim Pastor. Ron Thompson remained as an Associate Pastor for 9 years, to 2000.
In 1993, James Glasse came as Interim Pastor. Finally, in 1994, Rev. Peter Hintzoglou answered our call for a Senior Pastor. However, he resigned in 18 month’s to take a call to a church in Arizona. In 1996, Frank Robertson became Interim Pastor.
A New Foundation, 1996 – 2007
Just as Sunday School attendance began to decline after the 1950’s, so too did church attendance by the end of the 1980’s. After sustaining an active membership of from 1100 to 1200 from 1956 to 1986, by 1996 it had dropped to about 600, and to 354 by year-end 2006. This also is a symptom of the times, particularly for a “downtown church”.
In September 1996, the Deacons reorganized into teams covering 11 areas of service to respond to the needs of the congregation. Members of the congregation were, in turn, asked to volunteer assistance to the teams. But, in 1998 the Deacons organized again into parishes of from 10 to 20 households.
Also in 1996, the Children’s and Youth Ministries were significantly revitalized, and renamed. The Children’s Sunday School Program became “Kids Alive”. The junior High School program was re-launched as “The Rock”, and the Senior High School program became “The Edge”.
After much effort and deliberation, the Pastor Nominating Committee was finally successful in engaging Rev. Mary Holder Naegeli, who was an Associate Pastor at Moraga Valley Presbyterian Church, in 1997. She accepted the call and was ordained as Senior Pastor in our sanctuary.
Meanwhile, a search was also under way to find a Minister of Music for the church. Gerry Smith, who was music director in the 1970’s and 80’s, was acting as an interim music director. In 1998, he inaugurated Lighthouse, the octet which so beautifully augments our worship music program.
In 1998, our search led to Jim Cismowski, who became our sought after Minister of Music. Since Jim’s arrival, music in worship has risen to new heights, and he has firmly established a Music Ministry at First Presbyterian Church. Dawn Chiappino, church organist for 54 years, retired in May, 1999. An all-church dinner was held in her honor, followed by “An Evening of Spiritual Song”. The Dawn Chiappino Concert Fund was established in her perpetual honor.
Outreach at our church has grown significantly. The Outreach Committee inaugurated the Greeters program in 1998. Greeters provide the friendly smiles, the warm handshakes, and the inviting words of welcome for worship to all comers at the inside doors to the sanctuary and at strategic locations outside the building. In 2000, the Information Booth was launched to offer one-stop shopping for answers to questions about the church on Sunday mornings. That same year, we launched the church website, www.fpcconcord.org, into cyberspace, with David Stearns as “web servant”. The position of Roving Greeter was introduced during Easter 2006. They give first-time visitors the FPCC Visitors Packet, and, if they have children, offer to show them the location of the Nursery and Sunday School rooms.
Also in 2006, the church joined the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce. As a member, we are listed in the Chamber’s website, and can place announcements for events there. We are also listed in the Chamber of Commerce community directory and can have large numbers of fliers mailed with their monthly newsletter at a very reasonable cost.
New areas of learning developed during this period. Our first Alpha class began in June 1999. The goal of Alpha is to provide a place where people can come and ask questions about the Christian faith and learn about the possibility of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The target audience consists of church visitors, friends of church members, and people within our church family who have questions about the Christian faith.
After Rev. Ron Thompson’s departure in December of 2000, a new Associate Pastor was sought. In June 2001, Rev. Adrian Doll answered the call.
At Easter in 1997, the Presbyterian Community Center was converted into an “Easter Wonderland”, with activities for young children, including an Easter egg hunt. In April of 2002, we instituted Children’s Church as a way to meet the developmental needs of 1st through 3rd graders during the worship hour. The children “attend church” by singing praise songs, reading the Bible, memorizing Scripture, and sharing their tithes and offerings in an age appropriate way. On the day before Easter, 2003, an Easter Egg Hunt was held at Todos Santos Plaza, after a hiatus since the 1997 event. It has become a very popular annual event. Since Easter, 2005, the Egg Hunt has been followed by a free pancake breakfast in Fellowship Hall, hosted by the Outreach Committee. In September, 2004, a new mid-week children’s program called WATCH (Wednesdays At The CHurch) debuted. Sunday School lessons are reinforced on Wednesday nights through music, drama, projects, games and dinner. Half of the WATCH attendees are children who do not regularly come to our church on Sundays.
A major event of 2004 was the April 18 celebration of the Sanctuary's 50th Anniversary. The Sunday after Easter was set aside, to glorify Jesus and open wide the doors of our worship space to God's presence and our mission to our neighborhood. Over 375 people gathered outside the front doors in anticipation of a grand entrance on a gray morning. To a ceremonial knock on the door, John Moiso and Yvonne McQuay, both FPCC members in I954, opened the doors from the inside and welcomed everyone to church, and Scott Thomas "piped them in". Among the special guests was our former organist of 54 years, Dawn Chiappino, who played the offertory piece. And equally wonderful was hearing the Rev. Dr. Ernest Iden Bradley preach from Philippians 3 on "Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow." A gala reception in was held in Fellowship Hall following the service.
Rev. Doll left in November, 2004 to accept a call as a Senior Pastor in Ohio. In January, 2006, Revs. Bill and Pat Alexander came to serve as Interim Co-Associate Pastors. However, in the fall of 2006 Rev. Naegeli announced that she would be resigning her Senior Pastor position as of December 31, to pursue the completion of her doctorate and some teaching opportunities. Thus, in January of 2007, Revs. Bill and Pat Alexander became Interim Senior Pastor and Interim Associate Pastor, respectively.
In October 2007 a major celebration was held to celebrate FPCC's 125th anniversary.
In February 2008 Revs. Bill and Pat Alexander retired to their home in Phoenix, Arizona, and Rev. Tom Waddell followed them as Interim Pastor. Rev. Waddell served as interim until May 2010, at which time Rev. Bill Azbell answered the call to become Senior Pastor.
The past generations of the family of believers at First Presbyterian Church of Concord, California are commemorated by this History. It is dedicated to the next generation.
Who We Are
In 1998, the staff and session of First Presbyterian Church, Concord, developed a purpose statement to give guidance to ministry planning:
“Gathered in gratitude, we are a God-worshiping, Christ-trusting, and Spirit-dependent people who make, mentor, and mobilize loving followers of Jesus Christ. Our aim is to demonstrate and proclaim the truth of the gospel to the next generation, giving them the opportunity to encounter God’s love and to live a new life in Christ.”
What We Do – Our Ministries
Our PRESCHOOL exists to communicate the love of Jesus Christ through our developmentally sound activities. We want each child to blossom with confidence, knowledge and understanding, as they explore their place in God's world.
Our CHILDREN'S Ministry exists to let children know God's love. We want to prepare them to discover and develop a personal relationship with Jesus. We want to nurture their spirits, equip them to exalt God and experience the joy of Christian service.
The YOUTH department extends ministry to junior high and senior high students through Sunday school (11 o'clock hour) and midweek evening programs. EDGE (high school) meets on Wednesday nights, and ROCK (junior high) meets on Thursday nights, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in Room 205 (upstairs). We desire to build relationships with students, encourage their Christian discipleship, talk about topics that lead to good decision-making, and to have fun together! Retreats and mission trips are scheduled throughout the year.
FPCC offers ADULTS the opportunity to learn more about the Christian faith, the Bible's content and teachings, and how faith can be a way of life for everyone. We offer new classes each quarter, most of which meet on Sunday mornings at 11 o'clock. Small groups also meet in homes and at church, for the purpose of Bible study, personal sharing, and prayer. All our groups and classes are open to newcomers, and church membership is not required.
We believe God gives us the gift of MUSIC so that we might more fully express our worship to him in ways that touch the heart as well as the head. Therefore we place great value on this ministry and have developed a music program that seeks to involve as many people as possible at every age level. Here are just some of the ways you might consider getting involved. You are always welcome to come, visit, and try out a group!
YOUTH and ADULTS: The KING'S RINGERS are a bell choir that rehearses Thursdays at 6 and plays in worship about once a month. No experience is needed, but music reading ability is required. The CATHEDRAL CHOIR also rehearses on Thursdays from 7:15 to 9:00. Our primary worship choir performs almost every Sunday and gives seasonal concerts. Both these groups are open to people high school age and older.
CHILDREN: Two choirs meet each Wednesday at 4:30 p.m., KING'S KIDS (age 4-Ist grade) and SONSEEKERS (2nd-8th grade). Both choirs sing in worship occasionally and perform a full musical once a year.
OTHER OPPORTUNITIES: We are always looking for vocalists and instrumentalists who are interested in using their talents for God's glory in solo situations and ensembles. We are looking for people who might be qualified to lead a choir, accompany on keyboard, or perhaps operate the sound system.
CONCERTS: Each year we offer concerts which feature our own talent as well as musical artists from around the world. Watch for notices in the First Press, or on our website www.fpcconcord.org.
"Caring" is the word that best describes DEACONS and their ministry. Every member of First Presbyterian Church has a deacon, who calls, sends cards and notes and visits throughout the year. Deacons serve 25 geographic parishes with approximately 15 households each. Individuals are encouraged to share their concerns, joys or needs with the deacon. If it is appropriate, the deacon can ask a church staff member to offer further prayer, counsel, care and assistance.
Seven different deacon committees provide specific ministries, including receptions following memorial services, specific prayer for those in need, visits and communion to members who cannot attend worship, meals for members with temporary emergencies, minor home repairs, and transportation for those who need help in order to attend worship, church functions and medical appointments. As the deacons help church members and their families, they share the love and compassion of Jesus Christ and help us care for one another.
What We Believe
We are a congregation in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) denomination. As Presbyterians we see ourselves standing in the historical traditions of the church down through the centuries. Therefore, we have 11 historical confessions made by the Church in various eras that are part of our constitution. Within the broad tent that is the Presbyterian Church (USA), we are a "Confessing Church" more on the conservative side of the theological spectrum, holding traditional, orthodox beliefs.
Fundamentally, we believe that Jesus Christ is Lord of all and the only Savior of the world. We believe that the Bible is the Word of God, telling us everything we need to know about God, our relationship with God and the Christian Faith. We believe that God desires nothing less than our personal transformation, and that through the power of his Holy Spirit God is at work to change us individually, so that we can live lives to his glory.
Anyone who wishes to investigate the claims of the Gospel is welcome to join us for worship. Membership is open to those who repent of sin and accept Jesus as their Savior and Lord. At FPCC it's important to us that those seeking church membership desire to know and love Jesus and have fellowship with others who are also seeking to worship and serve him.