By Michael J. ARVIZU
Founded in 1897, La Cañada Congregational Church is the city’s oldest house of worship. Inside visitors are greeted first by the sight of original stained glass windows. The church’s altar, organ pipes, creaky floors and pews complete the picture.
La Cañada pioneers Jacob and Ammoretta Lanterman were the couple responsible for establishing the church, founded at a time when dirt roads dotted the landscape and the only way to get across town was by horse or wagon.
But for all of its historic significance, few people know the church even exists. This month, however, church members are hoping to change that. November marks the 110th anniversary of the church and to celebrate there will be a special craft fair and open house on Nov. 16-17. The craft fair will feature local artists, most of whom are church members. Items for sale will include wood carvings, jewelry and assorted crocheted and knitted items. Docents, who are church members, will take visitors on guided tours of the sanctuary.
The craft fair and tours will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Nov. 16, and from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Nov. 17. The church will be open for guided tours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Nov. 16.
Parishioners hope the craft fair and tours will draw new faces to the church and raise awareness of its existence and historical significance to La Cañada and the surrounding community.
“The church is a historical treasure and a community jewel,” said fair organizer Ellen Walley, who is also a member of the church choir. “I have cousins who live in La Cañada who have never heard of the church.”
Walley hopes people will take the opportunity to view the altar, pews and organ pipes. She also hopes people will learn the history behind the church’s original stained glass windows, some which date to 1925 including the centerpiece stained glass window that serves as the inspiration for the church’s former name – Church of the Lighted Window.
The window was presented in 1925 as a gift from the Lanterman family in memory of the pioneer Lantermans and depicts Christ knocking on a door.
“We’re very proud of our church and history,” said 42-year church member Pat Anderson, who also serves as president and chief executive officer of the La Cañada Chamber of Commerce.
“We want to share it with the community. We thought the craft fair would be a way to do it.”
So often, Walley said, people miss the opportunity to appreciate the history around them. La Cañada Congregational Church, Walley said, is just one of many historical buildings in and around the city of La Cañada that include Lanterman House and the site of what is today St. Francis High School.
“I work at Rosemont [Middle School], and I volunteer at the [Verdugo Hills] hospital. I must have crossed that parking lot a hundred times and I never knew it was a church,” Walley admits.
Walley, a Glendale resident and Boston native, is Episcopalian. Four years ago, she was encouraged by a friend to join the La Cañada Congregational Church choir. She immediately fell in love with the church’s simple and beautiful architecture and “very welcoming and nice people,” she said.
Anderson agrees with Walley’s assertion that La Cañada Congregational Church is one of the friendliest churches around. This friendliness, Anderson said, is what makes La Cañada Congregational Church unique.
“We have, for decades, been known as a very friendly church,” Anderson said.
For more information on the craft fair and church tours, call the church office at (818) 790-1185. The church is located at 1200 Foothill Blvd. at the intersection of Verdugo Boulevard.