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Community Church of California City: 1959 – 2012 – A “Comfort Zone” of Love, Acceptance and Healing

by Rev. Dr. Ron Sparks

     There’s something special about being THE first.  Just ask the folks of the Community Church of California City.  Back in 1959, six years before the tiny community of 617 people became a city, a number of those citizens asked the Reverend James Thompson, pastor of Community Congregational Church in nearby Mojave to help them get a church of their own.  He agreed to serve as organizing pastor and, working with them and the Congregational Conference of Southern California, “made it happen.”  The rest is history. 

     Founded on September 24, 1959, the church held worship in a variety of places, among them an abandoned ranch building, an appropriate site given this Mojave Desert community’s fascinating history.  Originally occupied by nomadic Paiutes, the area was first “explored” by Father Francisco Garces and the Conquistadores in 1776.    Through it, in the 1880s, ran the historic Twenty Mule Team Trail used to carry borax ore.  Then came sheep farming on the Conklin Ranch and attempts at growing alfalfa and cotton.  Flash forward to 1958, when private land developers began to buy up land and promote the area.   Together with local officials, they created a planned community incorporating natural desert and farmlands.  And, in 1961 they donated five acres of land on which that congregation could build California City’s first church. 

     Groundbreaking ceremonies for the new sanctuary were held on May 14, 1961 and the building was dedicated on December 9, 1962.  The first baptism occurred on April 19, 1962; the first wedding on April 4, 1965.  On January 14, 1962 the church’s name was changed from California City Congregational Church to The Community Church of California City.    For a number of years its pastors served both this and the Mojave church; the first full time minister was called in December 1991- not long after growth led the congregation to build a larger church, the current one seen in the picture accompanying this article.  The new building went into use in March of that year.

     The Community Church of California City was “on its way.” 

     Flash forward again to 2012 and take a look at what the church is “up to” these days.  Among their projects is an emergency food pantry which serves the needy every Wednesday.  They also cover food needs during the week, as needed.  Regular donations of food are provided by church members and other citizens and such groups as The Post Office Drive, Boy and Girl Scouts, etc.  The church covers all expenses for the volunteers who administer the program.    The church school students collect “Pennies for Missions” which goes to Heifer Project International and sponsor a child in Africa.  Can tabs, too, are collected and go to provide supplies for children in Shriner hospitals.

     Their dedication is shown, also, in the congregants’ community involvement and the opportunities given for the current pastor to engage in outside activity and ministry.  Members are heavily involved volunteering in hospitals and senior centers , a community Bible study group and such groups as the Cancer Society, Community Club and the town’s Economic Development Corporation.  They also strongly encourage me, their pastor for 18 years, in my work with counseling and providing support for veterans with PTSD issues and with our AIDS Foundation, which just learned it will again be funded by the Department of Veteran Affairs with a second million dollar grant.  Help is also provided to assist military families with housing needs.

     The church, which continues to grow, is now one of twenty in California City, now a community of 14,000-plus.  That growth takes many forms:  numbers, love and concern for each other and those around us, mission to our community and the world and spiritual experience through Christ.   As we continue to labor together fulfilling the work and witness Christ has called us to, we open our doors to all who are weary and need rest; to all who are lonely and want fellowship; to all who mourn and need comfort; to all who pray and to all who do not, but ought to; to all who sin and need a Savior; and to all who are burdened by sin and suffering.  We welcome them and offer them comfort and concern.  We pray that all who enter our doors will find a “comfort zone” of love, acceptance and healing.

     “Comfort zone of love, acceptance and healing:” the history and legacy of the Community Church of California City.

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