[heading] by AMY LEHRER |  photos by Zeena Gregg  Photography [/heading]

Values like structures can stand the test of time. The Community Church of Poway and the Chapel owe their success to their caring members who welcome all people no matter where they are on life’s journey. These members who are part of the United Church of Christ, a progressive Protestant denomination whose first American members were Pilgrims, also reach beyond their community to improve lives. Jeanette Roache explains, “We are small enough to know each other but large enough to make a difference in the world.” On a regular basis, members donate food to Interfaith Community Services, maintain a local emergency food cache, help coordinate the annual CROP Hunger Walk, collect supplies to alleviate suffering in Guatemala, and participate in POINT—a POway INterfaith Team that promotes peace by sharing core beliefs and values of various faiths in the Interfaith Summer Nights series. Due to the generous hearts of this congregation, it has aided newly forming congregations also. According to Reverend Glen Larsen, Jr., “Over 18 local congregations have gotten their start inside the facilities of the Community Church of Poway’s 8.5 acres before moving to permanent homes.”

Like the people the Community Church of Poway serves, the Chapel recently needed some tender loving care. “The Chapel was built in 1887 and is the oldest wooden structure in continuous use for religious services in San Diego County,” Roache disclosed. It was recognized as a historical site on September 26, 1976 by the Native Daughters of the Golden West, and the City of Poway declared June 23rd the Community Church of Poway Chapel Day. Due to the Chapel’s historical value, the refurbishing money came from the community and not the church members. Congregations helped, showing cooperation and respect between religious groups, and even local community members who saw the renovation in progress sent checks of their own. And during the renovation, a surprising sweet discovery surfaced – over 400 pounds of honey within the Chapel walls.

The birthday party for the Chapel held June 23 to commemorate its 125 years in Poway was sweet too. The celebration included musicians dressed in period costumes playing old-time music, an art contest, an old fashioned picnic, kid’s games and an antique car show. Many of the church-goers arrived in costume too, including one member who portrayed a farmer from the 1800’s. Due to its compassionate members, this congregation is likely to celebrate its 150th birthday in 25 years.