By Michael J. ARVIZU
Six years after a devastating fire destroyed its sanctuary, members and leaders of Christian Life Church in La Crescenta gathered on Sunday morning to break ground for a new worship space.
Sunday’s groundbreaking ceremony marks a new chapter for the 84-year-old church. Christian Life members and leaders hope that the new sanctuary will allow Christian Life Church to further expand its already firmly established community outreach projects and attract new families to join the congregation.
“In a way, it seems like it’s been a long time, but in a way it seems like it hasn’t,” said church member Barbara Charlton. “But you know what? Everything is in God’s time. And it seems like everything is just working. Today is a big day for us.”
Presently, Christian Life Church is home to about 50 families each Sunday, said Pastor Randy Foster, but he hopes that number will grow when the new sanctuary is completed.
“The people of this congregation are so excited, so excited that we are at this point,” Foster said. “It has been a long time coming. They have faced times of discouragement. Now, it’s time to move on.”
A massive fire in 2006 destroyed Christian Life Church’s sanctuary, which stood on the corner of Montrose and Ramsdell avenues since 1929. The fire also destroyed the church school, forcing most of its students to relocate to other schools. After the fire, some families chose to leave and attend services elsewhere.
“What’s incredible is that a lot of the elderly people that were here when it burned have been able to stay or come back,” said church member Martha Cook, whose family grew up in the church. “These facilities have not been easy to deal with. I’m excited for the future.”
Since the fire, the church has had to hold Sunday services in a converted 800-square-foot classroom, a far cry from the 15,000 square feet of the 1929 sanctuary.
The new sanctuary will offer 7,500 square feet of space, or about half of the original sanctuary’s space.
“Everything is turning out wonderfully now,” said church member Loretta Scott, who watched the church burn in 2006. “They’re going to get new people, and it’s going to grow.”
The new church features elements of the 1929 building but with a modern twist. Instead of a steeple, for example, a cross, backlit at night, will be etched into glass on an arched tower that will serve as an entryway. Its windows will resemble those of the old church; and the building’s alignment mimics the old sanctuary’s angle to the street.
These designs were made with strict adherence to aesthetics and building codes, as required by the city of Glendale’s Design Review Board, said project architect Terry M. Tarr.
In fact, Tarr said, the final blueprints recently approved are a revision of a design previously rejected by Design Review Board due to its lackluster appearance.
“We thought we were going down the right path,” Tarr said.
Back at the drawing board, Tarr said, his team used the Design Review Board’s recommendations to design a more aesthetically pleasing building, one that did not look “like a community center” he said. The new design, Tarr said, effectively represents the Christian Life Church decades-long presence in the neighborhood.
“The Design Review Board wanted it to ‘look like a church,’” Tarr said. “They also wanted it distinctively into the corner so that it’s expressing itself to the community as a beacon to the community, not standing off to the side, as a community center might want to do.”
Construction is expected to begin in December and conclude within a year to 18 months, Tarr said.
“Out of the ashes of what happened six years ago, something really good is coming up here,” said T. Ray Rachels, former superintendent of the Southern California Assemblies of God, of which Christian Life Church belongs. “There’s unity; the people are pulling together.”