Sunday, July 7, 2013

First Christian Church

                                                                                                                 July 7, 2013

10909 New Street (2013)

First Christian Church
Downey, California

"Love God,love people, serve the world."  This is the mandate of Downey First Christian Church (as stated on their business card).

"...William Justice, a farmer-preacher from Texas moved to Downey in the fall of 1868... on Sunday, January 3, 1869, Justice invited the community to hear this evangelist (B. F. Standefer), marking the first service of the Christian Church in Downey....M. D. Crawford, the secretary and attorney of the Downey Land and Improvement Association, also an elder of the church, arranged with the trustees of the church for the purchase of property near the center of town....for the honorary sum of one dollar. (As of 1969 it was) the oldest structure continuously used as a church building in the city of Downey.

1870's Church

 "A small frame building was constructed on the site at the corner of Fourth and New Streets.  Redwood lumber which was used to build the edifice was thrown overboard and floated ashore at Almitos Landing where it was loaded on wagons and hauled to Downey by a six-mule team supplied by the Skidmores.  A low porch spanned the front, and a spire was situated int he center of the roof above the porch.  Three rectangular windows were located on either side of the building .  Two front doors in either side of the porch were commonly used as entries during the early years.  Soon a project to purchase a bell was started.

Original Bell
(Now at corner of 4th and New Streets)

"During the early 1900s ...several improvements were made to the church building and property......In 1903 the floors were repainted-materials $6.70, labor $3.50. Carpet for the church (was purchased for) $56.45.  In 1904...chairs and draperies were purchased for the platform area-$22.60.  A large side vestibule was added.  The front doors and porch were removed and replaced by three windows.  The front steeple was removed and the church bell was located in a tower above the vestibule. (The church seems to have had an organ at this time since) materials for upholstering organ stool $.35 (was reported.)

"In 1937 Mrs. Sue Huff ...died, leaving the church $1500...  This became the nucleus of a fund with which the church built a wing on the north side of the building housing a kitchen, rest rooms, and several classrooms.

"In 1948 the interior of the  (church) building  was redecorated and furnished with new pews and pulpit furniture, wall-to-wall carpeting and new drapes.  A weekly printed church bulletin was introduced in the same year. (At this time the church was lead  by their woman minister, Mrs. Bertha Sewall, following the 1938 death of her minister husband Edward W. Sewall.)

"The construction of an educational building ...costing approximately $33,000 was completed in 1953.  It included a two-story structure with a large recreation area, a modern kitchen, church offices and several classrooms.

"Ground was broken in September, 1958, for a new building....the original building was retained intact and enclosed in the new structure behind a common front. 

1969 Church*

"The new sanctuary/worship center  was completed in November, 1959, at a cost of $160,000 and furnished at an approximate cost of $30,000.... By 1964 the church membership had grown to 700." (REF.)

The original 1870's church building became the center building in the complex.   (See 1969 photo above.) It was used as a chapel, class meeting room, etc. "Remnants of the illustrious history of Downey First Christian are maintained in the chapel and Heritage Hall area.  Several priceless mementos and other pieces of antique furniture from the old sanctuary are still preserved in the chapel including a stained-glass window taken from the original building." (REF.) 

"However, the ravages of time took is toll.  The City condemned the old building and it stood unused for a period until it was razed and replaced in 1980." The  contractor for this job was Goodman Church Builders. (George Boose) 

Sanctuary 1969

Sanctuary/Worship Center 2013

Photos from 1969 and 2013 show changes to this dramatic Worship Center.  The asymmetrical curved wooden chancel screen that formed the choir loft and pulpit was removed and individual upholstered chairs  replace the wooden pews. An elevated side pulpit and lectern were added. The rows of overhead light fixtures were changed. The stone reredo with its round center window of Christ praying and the cross detailing in the side walls remain.  

Sanctuary/Worship Center Side Windows

Also remaining as in the original 1959 Sanctuary/Worship Center are the colored glass windows each with at center stained glass insert that line the sides of the sanctuary and the tall rear stained glass window of Christ.

Colored and stained glass window at rear of Sanctuary/Worship Center

Note: "Downey is a city located in southeast Los Angeles County, CaliforniaUnited States, 21 km (13 mi) southeast of downtown Los Angeles. The city is best known as the birthplace of the Apollo space program, and is the city where pop singer Karen Carpenter lived and died. As of the 2010 census, the city had a total population of 111,772." (Link 2.)

Thank you: To Associate Administrator Sarah Shead for a copy of the
               Reference pamphlet listed below and congregation member George
               Boose for additional details about the 1980 demolition and
Photos: Taken in June 2013 by SW.
Reference: "A Brief History of the First Christian Church at Downey 

Link 1:
Link 2:


God, be with the persecuted Christians through out the world. Amen 

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