First Presbyterian Church of El Cajon
Friday, May 24, 2013
Building on over 125 Years of History
In 1883, when eight charter members founded the First Presbyterian Church of El Cajon, it was the only Protestant church in the county outside the city of San Diego. Additional members soon joined, and by 1902 they had constructed a church building on Highland Avenue. In the next year it burned to the ground. Shortly afterward, however, a new building was erected on Farragut Circle, the church’s present site. Here the members worshipped until 1957, when construction of Richardson Hall and the present sanctuary was begun by a congregation of over four hundred members under the leadership of pastor Rolland Stone.
In its worship of God and in its service to His people, the church has had some difficult times during these 128 years. Sometimes in the early years there was no pastor, and sermons were read from the pulpit by leaders of the congregation. During the 20s and early 30s the pastor, Charles Richardson, sometimes accepted chickens or eggs in payment for his salary. Deacons have always ministered to the poor and needy in the community.
Over the years, God has blessed the church with strong leadership. It has had a number of very capable pastors during those years, as well as talented and willing lay leaders. During most of the church’s history, those devoted people were also the leaders in El Cajon Valley. School principals, city council members, mayors, prominent businessmen, as well as teachers, doctors, farmers, chicken ranchers and real estate brokers, along with their families, constituted the church and Sunday School membership through most of the 20th Century. The church commissioned two missionaries to China from its membership in the early decades.
Beginning in 1957, the church started the Circle Preschool, a very successful weekday enrichment program for young children, which has continued successfully until the present.
A new form of music appeared in 1980 with a memorial gift of handbells from a devoted family. Since that time more handbells have been donated, and more bell choirs have been added to enhance the worship experience.
Another enhancement for the worship of God is the stained glass windows which were installed in 1986. With the theme of The Vine and the Branches from John 15:2, each panel was purchased by a member of the church, usually as a memorial gift for a loved one who had passed away. A plaque identifies each window’s donor.
In 1985 the church installed a pipe organ to replace the electronic organs which had served since the 30s. The pipes are the focal point for the congregation entering the sanctuary, and the organ music enhances choral anthems as well as congregational singing.
At about the same time, some of our members became dissatisfied with this traditional form of music, and so the Worship Team gradually came into being. The music includes guitars, volunteer singers, drums, keyboard, and more contemporary songs. After a try at providing two services with the two forms of music, the present “blended service” was adopted under the direction of the current pastor, Dr. Steve Locke.
An innovative approach to Christian Education began with the advent of “Kidz Klub” on Wednesday afternoons beginning in 2002. This is a community outreach of music education, Bible study, games, and dinner provided by lay leaders of the church. Children learn to participate in chime choirs, bell choirs, and desk chime choirs, helping to supplement their music education which has all but disappeared from the educational curriculum in the public schools.
For several years the church has sponsored troops and dens of Boy Scouts. They meet at the church, sometimes serve food to the congregation, and now with the addition of girls and the teen program, Venture Crew, are an important part of church life.
The newest addition to the campus, Bailey Hall, was built in 2004 as a “choir room”, but has evolved into a “multipurpose room”. With its offices, closets, restrooms, and a small kitchen it has served indeed as a choir room, but has also provided a convenient space for meetings, classes, bell choir rehearsals, parties, and small memorial services.
Future plans envision remodeling the narthex and building new classrooms to house the Kidz Klub and Sunday morning classes. Currently the furniture in the chancel is being repositioned to enhance the worship experience.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.