Reopening a Worship Building in Sacramento
|While it’s never been the most prominent and most well-known city in the state, California’s capital city, Sacramento, and its surrounding cities have experienced rapid growth in the last two decades.|
See how the growth of Sacramento led to the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church Of Christ) purchasing and reopening a worship building formerly owned by the Gloria Dei Church and how the congregation’s new location has brought hope and impact to the community.
If you’d like to visit this house of worship in Sacramento or any of the houses of worship of the Church Of Christ, visit iglesianicristo.net/directory.
Nan: In the family of California cities, Sacramento is the sibling that most people forget.
What is the Capital of California?
Banni: The capital of California is Los Angeles.
Becca: Uhhh… Los Angeles?
Sharon & Sibi: Uhh… (clueless)
Nan: But how can a city that’s often overlooked become the hub of growth and hope in the region? We’ll find out on this episode of Blueprint.
Nan: I’m Nan Zapanta. As an industrial designer, I spent years admiring the great designs of products, vehicles, and architecture from all over the world. But I found architecture to be the most captivating. I love learning about each building, discovering the characteristics that make it unique, and understanding the purpose behind it’s design. Most of all I love hearing the stories behind each structure and seeing God’s plan in putting it all together. Join us as we discover the blueprint of the buildings and structures inside the Iglesia Ni Cristo.
Nan: I’ve always wondered how Sacramento became the State Capital. With cities like Los Angeles in the south and San Francisco in the north, one would easily assume that any of those spots would be where they choose to run the State’s government.
So my first stop today is here at the Center for Sacramento History. I’m hoping to learn a little bit more about the city and how it became the capital of the state with the largest economy in the country. So I’m going to go inside and hopefully I’ll learn some new things.
So everything that has to do with what’s going on in Sacramento ends up here and it’s kind of recorded and archived.
Marcia: Yeah, right. We have the city records that go back to the very beginning of the city. They start in 1850 is when we became a city officially, and also when we became a state.
Nan: As the city’s historian, Marcia Eyman has spent over a decade specializing in documenting and writing Sacramento’s rich history.
Marcia: This is as far as you could come if you were coming from San Francisco. This was the first settled area, where, if you were on your overland journey, you could start to buy goods and services.
Nan: Sacramento seems like it was kind of like the gatekeeper to everything else going towards San Francisco.
But even with that, when California became a state in 1850, Sacramento was not the first choice.
Marcia: Actually the state moved the capital a number of times before it ended up settling here. All of California was expensive, but it was cheaper than San Francisco.
Nan: Which is still a trend we see.
Marcia: It’s still the trend we see today. There are some things that really hold true from the Gold Rush Era.
Nan: Having moved to Sacramento from the San Francisco Bay Area, Marcia has had a front row seat to the ongoing growth in Sacramento.
Marcia: The next big phase is what’s happening with Silicon Valley, and that’s starting to spread here to Sacramento. But you have these companies that were part of that technological innovation, and more and more of them are coming here. I’m surprised—because people come all the time—that they’re basing their companies here.
Nan: Yeah, that’s what I hear, a lot of startups, a lot of tech companies are moving out here.
Marcia: And they have the infrastructure in place with railroad. The whole technology, it all fits together. So communication, transportation, all of that, works together here. And it’s the state capital.
Nan: Prime, prime location. Wow, Sacramento has a very promising future. I feel like it’s almost inevitable that Sacramento is going to grow and succeed, so I’m hoping that that continues on.
Marcia: Me too.
Nan: Well thank you so much for your time.
Nan: I really appreciate you sharing with us the history.
Marcia: I hope that was helpful.
Nan: No, no, that was great!
Nan: Among those who moved to Sacramento was Hermi Vispo, who moved to the city in 1979, looking for a place to raise his family.
Herminio: We are trying to buy a house in…We started from Vallejo, all the way down even in Daly City, and we cannot get any house. So my wife migrated here. I was still in the [military] service.
Nan: At the time the nearest places of worship was Stockton to the south and Vallejo to the west.
Herminio: Stockton, from here, is almost about 30 to 45 minutes.
Nan: 30 to 45 minutes? And so is this the first piece of land that was purchased or…?
Herminio: No, the 42nd.
Nan: Oh okay.
Herminio: 4910- 4909 42nd Street.
Nan: And then you said that the congregation, did it outgrow?
Herminio: Yeah it [outgrew]. We have Tuesday, Wednesday, [and] Thursday Worship Service.
Nan: Wow, so the growth here in Sacramento just—
Herminio: It’s blooming up.
Nan: Wow, so it just keeps giving birth to new congregations.
Herminio: [Yes] because we cannot be accommodated to the old chapel.
Nan: To properly care and accommodate the growing number of Church Of Christ members living in the area, additional congregations were established. First in Roseville in 2002, and then in Elk Grove in 2010.
Nan: That’s a busy schedule.
Herminio: Yeah it’s a busy schedule.
Nan: As the city of Sacramento continued to grow, many churches in the area experienced the complete opposite, forcing many to cut back on services and even close down.
In 2010, the Gloria Dei Church located at 4910 Lemon Hill Avenue in Sacramento was one of those churches.
Frank: I’m sad you know? The church was going away. No we can’t have that.
Nan: A long time resident of the neighborhood, Frank saw the direct impact on his neighborhood church.
Frank: It was all the financial problems they were having. Every year they were losing more and more students. It became a double parent working force and unless both parents were working you couldn’t afford to send your kid to that school.
Nan: And while the possibility of a new neighbor brought apprehension, Frank knew that a new church would only benefit the community.
Frank: I was wary of how you guys were going to operate but it’s a blessing to have it.
Nan: So this property, how did you find it? Did you see it on the road?
Herminio: No, Sideco called me and he says he found another one here, he says, “well , look at it and find out whether you guys [are] going to like it.”
Nan: So in July of 2010, the Church Of Christ purchased the property on Lemon Hill Road, the former worship building and school of the Gloria Dei Church.
Nan: This was a church building also previously po?
Herminio: Yeah it’s Gloria Dei Congregation.
Nan: But their—the way they had it set up was—
Herminio: It’s not— [They have] a stage, and then a stage for the band. It’s just only one floor and then a big altar, and then they have a cross in there.
Nan: Oh wow there was even a cross in it.
Renovation of the property began shortly after the purchase, and on April 23, 2011, the building was dedicated to God in a worship service led by the Executive Minister, Brother Eduardo V. Manalo.
Thousands filled the various rooms and the tent that was set up to witness the event.
And even after all these years since that day, it was easy to see that having a beautiful place of theirs was not something Hermi took lightly.
Nan: Why is that important, to have a house of worship that they can come to?
Herminio: You can see God will be pleased if you are attending to a good house of worship, you know. And how would you feel if the [chapel] is not beautiful or it’s not magnificent. It’s just made of inferior materials and then you know, you worship God in that place.
Nan: While much of the structure of the existing sanctuary was maintained, there were obvious changes completed to transform it into a worship building of the Church Of Christ.
One of the first notable changes is the exterior, where traditional moldings were added to frame the seal and name plate, and also the first of two steeples were added to complete the look.
A large wall partition was added in the foyer area to separate the entrance door from the main area of the sanctuary. This additional structure helps maintain the solemnity of the worship building.
Inside the sanctuary, the changes were subtle, but complemented the amount of natural lighting coming into the building.
Herminio: Those are the stained glass [windows] when we accommodated it and then we replaced it with glazed [windows], a new one.
Nan: This is all wood? This is wood?
Herminio: No this is concrete.
Nan: Oh concrete, okay.
Herminio: The lights have not been changed. Those are the same original lights.
Nan: Oh those are the original.
While the pews inside the building are original, their placement was adjusted to fit the service style of the Church Of Christ.
Nan: So these are the original?
Herminio: Original pews, yes.
Nan: Was it reupholstered or anything?
Herminio: The carpeting has been changed. We removed the old one and put the new one. This, [this is the old one.] Original.
Nan: Oh really wow. I wouldn’t have known.
Where a glass background once stood, a choir loft and podium were added. The renovation maintained the natural lighting coming in through a domed ceiling and allowed for the choir loft and podium to be a focal point of the sanctuary.
Nan: And the wing was always here also?
Herminio: Yes, the original, yes.
Nan: And the bricks, the exposed bricks—
Herminio: We have not done anything, except painting the dome. And then cleaning those hanging lights and then they put this podium.
Nan: And this is a really nice podium and makes the space feel nicer too. Even this is [the] original?
Herminio: Yes, that’s original. Actually in that wing, they have the stage. So you can see they have lights for the stage.
Nan: The previous owners utilized a larger stage to accommodate the musical instruments for their services.
Was this the original platform? This one, this first part?
Herminio: Yes. About that high.
Nan: And you just built on top of it?
Herminio: Yes and the original plan actually for the renovation, we were going to put chandeliers there and two more chandeliers in here.
Nan: That would look beautiful.
Herminio: You know some of the brethren say, “Oh you know, you have a different [design], you know different kind.
Nan: Mhm, it’s different, it’s different. I’ve never seen the ceiling look like this for a house of worship. I think that’s everything, thank you so much.
Herminio: Okay yeah, thank you too. Thank you.
Nan: Thank you, thank you. I look forward to when I come back and I see the new chandeliers.
Herminio: Okay yeah.
Nan: Sitting on seven acres, the property had a place for almost everything. Offices, a worship building, a place to have food and even a small playground, making it a perfect venue to host various activities in Northern California and in the community.
It was one of those activities that brought Olivia Su and her family to Lemon Hill Avenue.
Olivia: Hi! Nice to meet you.
Nan: Nice to finally meet you! I’ve heard so much about you and your story here.
Olivia: This property was actually home to a lot of different churches throughout the years and they all came and gone. And one day, we saw the Church Of Christ out there, the sign, and we always wondered what Church is that, and whenever we pass by the Church, there was a lot of cars and we always, we’re always wondering “Why is there so many people that attend this Church?” That hasn’t happened before with the other churches. And one day, when we came home we saw a flyer on our window for the INCMX, and we decided, “Okay let’s finally see what this Church is about.”
Olivia: The brethren that greeted us were so welcoming and they showed us around. I remember there were a lot of musical performances. There were a lot of booths on career, a lot of games as well.
Nan: So it was a really memorable experience.
Olivia: It was.
Nan: On that day, I was actually there, that day.
Olivia: Really? Oh wow!
Nan: I was there that day—
Olivia: I felt a lot of enthusiasm and everyone was so welcome and it was so happy and the atmosphere was so great.
Nan: Was there something that drew your eye to the church just from the outside?
Olivia: From the outside, the one thing that drew my attention was the sign, it said, Church Of Christ. Because I remember growing up, in the Bible, it said that the true church was called Church Of Christ, so that really piqued my interest.
Nan: Woah so out of all the things, not even a design or anything, it was the words?
Olivia: It was the words.
Nan: As Olivia and her family stepped onto the chapel grounds they were drawn to the chapel tours being offered that day.
This is now your [local] congregation, this is where you attend—do you mind giving me a tour?
Olivia: I would love to.
Nan: Awesome. So it’s like [a] full circle now. You were taken on a tour and then now, you’re the one giving tours.
Olivia: Thank you.
Nan: Do you remember the first time you walked in through those doors during the chapel tour? What were your thoughts?
Olivia: My thoughts were, “Wow, this chapel is so beautiful.”
Nan: What was the first thing that caught your eye, that you thought, “Ahh.” What made you think it was beautiful?
Olivia: I think it was just the whole scenery with the lighting, how the choir loft looked up there and even the designs. They’re very simple, but very elegant.
Nan: Olivia and her family continued to learn the teachings inside the Church Of Christ and were baptized in 2013.
And you’ve had such a journey right, from media experience and your family being introduced to the Church. From what I hear you’re also a choir member?
Olivia: I am!
Nan: How does that make you feel now, I mean especially as a choir member? I mean the house of worship is such an important part of your duty, how does it make you feel?
Olivia: It makes me feel really happy because when I first attended worship service here, I was really moved by the hymn singing. Yes, it was a very crucial part in the worship service for me. I really like the way it sounded. The words really got to my heart.
Nan: If you look back and you think, you know, that first day when you guys were wondering oh you know, “what’s this church about” and all that, and then you see where you are now, why do you think that happened? I mean, was it random? Do you think it was a random thing or..?
Olivia: We’ve been trying to find the true Church for so long and we’ve been waiting because we didn’t want to join the wrong Church because we knew there was only one true Church, and after praying for a very long time, we finally found the Church Of Christ, through our INCMX experience.
Nan: Thank you so much Sister Olivia. I really appreciate your time.
Olivia: Thank you for having me.
Nan: Thank you for giving me this tour. It’s awesome to see it come full circle where you’re given a tour and now you’re giving the tour.
Sacramento is no stranger to growth. Even before it became the state’s capital in 1854, the city had already been planned, street grids were completed, and a government was already in place. It was ready for growth.
The same could be said about this property here on Lemon Hill Road. Because of the existing buildings and wide spaces, offices formerly located in the San Francisco Bay Area were moved to Sacramento to oversee the Church Of Christ [local] congregations in Northern California.
And in 2013, with more young men interested in joining the ministry, the first School for Ministers of the Church Of Christ outside of the Philippines was established on this property, making full use of the classroom facilities that were originally here.
It was the end of our day in Sacramento, when we got the chance to meet with Pastor Felisilda, another longtime resident of Sacramento and a witness of its explosive growth.
Pastor: Not only that we’ve been blessed also with the School for Ministry which came out of nowhere too and we realized it was a blessing too because it was the first School for Ministry outside of the Philippines and so we said, “No way that’s going to happen.” and then they started having to renovate all of those buildings over there, and so I think that was 2012, 2013. It just so happened so fast.
Nan: Now one of the head deacons in Sacramento, Pastor was introduced to the Church Of Christ in the early 1980’s.
Pastor: So the blessings just came more and more. Just looking inside and it’s just you see where—how far we’ve come.
Nan: During the renovation, he helped with various tasks including moving pews and clearing out a number of rooms the property had.
And it must be a beautiful sight seeing everyone come together and you know just focus on the work that needed to get done.
Pastor: Yes. So not only the brothers, but the sisters, and then people brought food over. So there was always something. I don’t think I bought lunch or breakfast for three months. I’d always just come to church, there was always something here. And you feel like it was very gratifying.
Nan: When you think of those days, and you walk into the sanctuary you know, what does that mean to you, knowing that even that part you helped out in?
Pastor: So you know it’s funny because one of the brethren was showing us old pictures, it was like a few weeks ago, how it looked… “Wow! Is that how it used to look before?” I couldn’t even recognize it and you just see everyone just busy, moving things around. It was just hard to believe and you just look at it.
But just being part of that, it just made me feel, realize, that you know what, I don’t want to miss out on this. This is something, a once in a lifetime experience and I just really felt the joy, and you just felt God’s blessings. It made me, myself, and my family just more active and more involved in everything with the Church.
Nan: Brother Pastor thank you so much for sharing all that. We appreciate the time. Thank you.
Pastor: Much love brother! Much love, much love.
Nan: In 2010, when the property was purchased by the Church Of Christ, it was an answer to years of prayers for the [local] congregation here. But unknown to them, it would be the answer to many other prayers; some they didn’t even realize yet at that point and some that may be yet to come.
Thanks for joining us on this episode of Blueprint, where in the end, everything is part of God’s plan.