The present history of the Reseda congregation can be categorized into five distinguishable periods: The initial period of its planting, the subsequent years of physical expansion and spiritual growth through fervent proclamation; and the latter years of progression through preparation, providence, and prosperity.
On May 24, 1959 the Santa Monica Church of Christ joined hands with the San Fernando Church of Christ for the purpose of establishing a Church of Christ in Pacoima. A tent was erected on the corner of Glenoaks and Vaughn Street, and R. N. Hogan was invited to preach. Burl Davis of the Santa Monica Church led the singing. As a result of this meeting, the Church of Christ in Pacoima had its beginning.
On June 19, 1959 the church held its first worship service in the home of Clark and Barbara Thompson. They began with five members: Clark and Barbara Thompson, Ruby Helton, Luther Crockett, and Blain Metcalf. Burl Davis served as interim minister for six to eight weeks.
Tulsa L. Ellis of Bakersfield was then called to come and work with the new congregation. Tulsa L. Ellis started his work with the congregation in August of 1959. The ministry of Tulsa Ellis can be viewed as one who brings the child desiring to be born through the travail of birth. The church continued meeting in the home of the Thompson’s until forced to comply with city codes in regard to a residential area.
The church purchased the property at 13131 Vaughn Street. The house was converted for worship purposes. The church met at this location for approximately one year until forced again by a city ordinance to restore the property to its original status. Unable to return to the Thompson’s home, the church moved its services into the home of sis. Annie Weaver. The church had grown to a membership of twenty-eight (28). By June of 1962, the church secured property at 12962 Vaughn Street, which consisted of a three-bedroom house, a multi-car garage, and approximately one acre of land. The multi-car garage was converted for worship purposes. The church was granted a temporary zone variance.
Plans were then made to erect a permanent building. After many struggles with City Hall and faced with opposition from enemies of the faith, the church with the help of sister congregations (San Fernando and Sun Valley Churches) and also the help of then Councilman Tom Bradley, Walter King, and Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, received approval of its plans to erect a church building.
On September 26, 1965, the church dedicated its first building. This was the result of many personal sacrifices. Ray King of the Van Nuys congregation served as general contractor without charge. Other Long, elder of the San Fernando Church, spent long hours helping secure the permanent zone variance, and he occasionally assisted Tulsa Ellis in teaching and preaching. Verdell Young, an elder at the San Fernando Church, was helpful in securing bank loans, and he also loaned the church his own funds. Carl Mitchell, minister of the Sun Valley Church, spent many hours every Saturday working at the construction site. Leo Matthews, a member of the congregation, sacrificed many hours of labor assisting daily in the construction work.
Matthew did most of the foundation and cement finish work. Other volunteers assisted with the landscaping. Tulsa Ellis served as Minister of the congregation until 1969 with his devoted wife Maeola at his side. He was stricken with terminal cancer in 1969. During the final years of his illness, Clark Thompson assisted in leading and holding the congregation together. Tulsa Ellis passed away October 30, 1974. Clark Thompson began serving as an interim Minister. Under the ministry of Clark Thompson the church became self-supporting. All financial support from other congregations was discontinued.
In the Spring of 1975, Clark Thompson invited Evangelist Dewayne Winrow, a graduate of Pepperdine University, to conduct a gospel meeting after hearing him in a religious debate. Thompson and the church membership invited Dewayne to serve the church as their new Minister.
On the first Sunday of July 1975, Dewayne Winrow began his leadership of the congregation. Within the first three months of his ministry, fifty-three persons were baptized, and within first six months of his ministry the size of the weekly attendance more than doubled. More than one hundred souls were added to the body the following year and the growth of the church was noted in the Christian Chronicle magazine. The early years of Dewayne’s ministry was highlighted by numerical growth. Due to the size of the facilities, it became necessary to conduct three worship services: 8:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., and 6:00 p.m.
The weekly contributions in the Vaughn Street phase of the church’s development increased from a weekly average of $178.00 to a weekly average of over $3,150.00. Each year the congregation was presented with a Program of Work booklet that presented the congregation many new programs and challenges or growth.
In the Spring of 1983, the church began its second expansion project, which was to enlarge the church sanctuary and increase its educational spaces. The construction began in August of 1983. At the beginning of the expansion project, sister Berneice Cross passed away and left to the church her estate, which was adjacent to the church property. The Cross estate consisted of a three-bedroom house on a large lot adjacent to the rear parking lot.
The expansion project was completed in 1984. The remodeled facility provided a seating capacity for approximately 400 and closed circuit viewing in the Fellowship Hall, which could be used for overflow crowds. The church parsonage was reconfigured and attached to the church building to become an educational wing. The Church purchased the property next door and transformed it into a Church Annex. The Annex provided additional classrooms and housed community-based outreach programs.
The next ten years, 1984 to 1994, represent a second notable phase of the church’s development, which can be characterized as the spiritual growth phase. This phase of the church’s development was initiated by a transition in the pulpit ministry. Dewayne transitioned from topical biblical preaching to exegetical and expository teaching. The results of his emphasis on expository teaching began to be immediately experienced. On the membership level, family and marital relationships were fortified, and interpersonal conflicts diminished as members learned to apply the lifestyle principles of the Word. On the leadership level, the church moved from a Staff Leadership based on Acts 6:1-6 to the ordination of its first deacons.
The teaching staff of the congregation increased as members began to be equipped with thorough knowledge of the Christian faith. On the corporate level, the congregation became known as one of the most biblically literate churches of the brotherhood. The congregation experienced steady growth against community circumstances adverse to its growth. Namely, as a predominately African American congregation, it was situated in a community in which there was an annual decline of more than 12% of the African American population. Within a relatively short period of time, the community transitioned from being 75% African American to becoming 85% Latino.
The years from 1994 to the year 2000 may be characterized as a time of progression through preparation, providence, purging, and prosperity in the development of the congregation. The processes of preparation begin with the shaping of a new vision for the congregation.
In 1994, Pepperdine University awarded Dewayne an Irvine Fellowship Award to teach at the University while completing a doctorate degree. As an Irvine Scholar, Dewayne taught as a full-time professor of religion while completing a doctorate of philosophy (PhD) in Religion and Social Ethics at the University of Southern California.
His studies directed him to analyze the moral vision of the church as the kingdom of God and the multicultural aspects of the kingdom vision. His doctoral dissertation is entitled, “A Social Ethical Analysis of the Restoration Motif of the Churches of Christ.” He completed his doctorate in August of 2000.
Dr. Winrow states that through his classroom teaching and concentrated study, God helped him to develop a clearer vision of what the church is called to be. He states that the church of Christ is called to fulfill the heavenly vision of the undivided kingdom of God through possessing the unadulterated faith of Christ, practicing the unconditional love of the Father, and proclaiming the living hope of the Spirit.
During this time of preparation for the Minister, God begin opening the doors of providence for the congregation. In 1996, the church located and purchased church facilities in the mid-San Fernando Valley area at the intersection of Reseda Boulevard and Ingomar Street in community of Reseda. The new location is a multiethnic community situated in the heart of the culturally diverse San Fernando Valley.
The property and 15,500 sq ft. facility was purchased from the Mormon Church for approximately a million dollars. The leadership deemed the location as ideal for casting a global vision for the church and its calling to promote the kingdom of God. The entire congregation transferred to the new location, and the first service was conducted on May 3rd, 1998.
The leadership soon began casting a new vision. Along with the new vision came a more radical transition from the traditional program-based strategy of ministry to a cell church (small group) strategy of church development. The cell church structure and strategy requires participation in the life of the congregation through small group involvement.
The strategy was adopted in respect to promoting the “priesthood of all believers.” The implementation of this principle has proven to be the spiritual key to efficient and effective ministry.
Today the Reseda congregation is experiencing both numerical and spiritual prosperity. The church was recently visited by a journalist from the LA Times who published an article in the Times making note of church’s growth and commitment to cultural diversity.
The congregation is experiencing rapid holistic growth through its ministry strategy called META, an acronym that stands for Multiplying small groups, Empowering members to serve, Training apprentice leaders, and Adoring God. The congregation moves forward with this faith: “God is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we can ask or think.
Unto Him be the glory in the church throughout all ages.” Amen.