First Congregational Church celebrates 150 years

| June 1, 2017 | 1 Comment

ARCHITECT’S drawing of the church, 1930.

First Congregational Church is the oldest Protestant church in continuous operation in Los Angeles.

An organ concert, taiko drummers and choral music are part of the festivities to celebrate the first 150 years of the church at 540 S. Commonwealth Ave. on Sun., June 4 starting at 10:30 a.m.

A cultural as well as religious touchstone, the church is home to a diverse congregation and the site of spiritual, intellectual and artistic events; it is also the home of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles.

Festivities

To celebrate a century and a half in existence, the parish will take part in a grand processional that will include Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell and other elected officials, faith leaders and community partners, some of whom will be speaking at the June 4 service. It will also be the official naming and unveiling of Congregational Square.

SENIOR MINISTER Dr. Scott R. Colglazier stops traffic to mark the occasion! He will speak at First Congregational Church’s 150-year anniversary service.

The sermon to be given by Dr. Colglazier, author and theologian, is titled “What a Difference 150 Years Makes.”

After the service, there will be a party in the forecourt with several food trucks sponsored by the First Church Women’s Association.

A performance of the play “King David” will begin at 2 p.m.

Fifth home

The current church building, on Commonwealth, was designed by Los Angeles architects James E. and David C. Allison in the Gothic Revival style. It is the church’s fifth home and was completed in 1932. It was designated an Historic-Cultural Monument by the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission in 2002.

The concrete structure encompasses 157,000 square feet and includes more than 500 tons of steel bars. The tower at the apex of the church is 157 feet tall. The three-inch thick bronze doors to the main sanctuary weigh half a ton each.

The sanctuary, 198 feet long and 76 feet high, was modeled after cathedrals in France and England.

Pipe organ

The pipe organ (actually multiple instruments) in the sanctuary is regarded as being the largest musical instrument existing in any church in the world today. Designed for the current church and installed in the sanctuary in 1932, the Seeley Wintersmith Mudd Memorial Organ is played regularly, and schedule information is at fccla.org.

Shatto Chapel

Named for Clara Shatto, donor of the neighboring land that is now Lafayette Park, the chapel was reportedly built with the same dimensions as the Mayflower, and it is used by neighboring Pilgrim School, housed in the Seaver Building built in 1964, as well as for weddings and concerts.

Four previous homes

The church’s first building was erected in 1867 on the west side of New High St., north of Temple St.; the second was built at 3rd and Hill Sts., and dedicated in 1883. English-born architect Ernest Coxhead designed the third church, at 6th and Hill Sts., in 1889, where the Hildreth Memorial pipe organ (now in Shatto Chapel, restored and enlarged by Abbott and Sieker in 1983) was first installed in 1896.

The fourth building to house the church, at 841 S. Hope St., was built in 1903, again designed by Coxhead.

For more information, call 213-355-5231 or visit fccla.org.

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  1. What a wonderful description of 150 years.
    I’m reminded that when the church was started in 1867
    in the home of Amanda Wallace Scott; it was just two years
    after the end of the American Civil War.

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