History of the Church
In the beginning…
The Point Loma Community Presbyterian Church (PLCPC) has a rich history, reaching back to the late 19th century with the formation of a community Sunday school in late 1897. Preachers from distant San Diego helped out, and a sailboat was often the means used to transport worshippers.
A Presbyterian Church began in the Point Loma area by interdenominational agreement in 1936, as it was felt that “a Presbyterian Church, built on a community basis, would be broad enough in scope to welcome all Christian people of the area irrespective of their former denomination affiliation.” Point Loma Community Presbyterian Church was incorporated on June 24, 1937, with 133 charter members under the auspices of the Presbytery of Los Angeles. On June 27, 1937, 115 of the charter members, gathered at a worship service conducted by the Presbytery of Los Angeles at Point Loma High School. For more than a year, a diligent search was made for a suitable location where the church could be built. Various deed and zoning restrictions made the search more difficult, but a lot was finally obtained near Chatsworth and Voltaire. Original plans were completely revised, but the construction of a California mission-style Chapel finally began. The first services were held on October 9, 1938, in the new Sanctuary (our present Chapel). This phase of the building program contained the Chapel, church school room, social hall, kitchen, and offices—all built at a cost of $30,000, including the land. A young seminary student, Thomas Franklyn Hudson, became the first pastor. The decade began with a vision and an empty lot and ended with an active congregation and completed facility.
As the church grew, an educational unit was added with a dedication ceremony of the first classroom facility on September 19, 1948. Prior to that, the Sunday School met in donated temporary bungalows, erected on cement blocks, out on a vacant back section of the lot. The church body also continued to expand, and a second worship service was added to accommodate the flourishing membership.
With the increasing membership, plans were made to provide more room for worshipers. A groundbreaking ceremony was held February 7, 1954, for the construction of the new Sanctuary. The first services were conducted in the new sanctuary on the 17th anniversary of the founding, on June 27, 1954, along with a cornerstone ceremony. In the cornerstone were placed such items as a Bible, Hymnal, daily newspaper, church newsletter, and photos of congregation members. 27 The early existing buildings also needed attention. Extensive remodeling in 1955 resulted in an enlarged social hall, a new kitchen, a parlor, modernized offices, and a New England face lift for the chapel.
With over 2000 members, up-to-date business management was a necessity, so a business administrator was hired in 1967. Also in 1967, the congregation accepted, with deep regret, the resignation of S. Dean McBride, who had guided the church as Pastor for 25 years. In June 1968, Rev. Paul D. Clark was installed as Senior Pastor. Building and remodeling projects were also completed, with the back wing of the Education Building finished in 1960, the inside of the Chapel renovated in 1964, and two parking lots developed in 1964 and 1969.
The first full time Minister of Music, Kathi Rundus, was hired in 1978, and a Handbell Choir and Recorder Ensemble were formed soon after. Also in the 1970s, the chancel area of the sanctuary was remodeled to allow better grouping of the choir, improve sight lines for the congregation, and provide more room for special events.
1980s and 1990s…
The 1980s were the beginning of a significant period of ministry growth. With the arrival of new Senior Pastor Arthur F. Sueltz in 1981, a variety of new programs and ministries began. A learning center for toddlers was started, filling a need at one end of the age scale, while the Chatsworth Adult Center now welcomes all seniors in the area to an extensive agenda or classes, crafts, field trips, and fellowship. Several AA chapters began using the church as a meeting place, and Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts both had charters here. Instrumental and vocal musical events were presented, attracting both members and others from the community. With the building of the Sanctuary in 1954, and the 1990 completion of a large Family Life Center, both in a traditional New England style, PLCPC has become fondly known as the “Red Brick Church.”
The New Millenium…
Following the retirement of Rev. Art Sueltz in 2003, the Rev. Dr. John Powell became the church’s 5th Senior Pastor in 2005. Under his leadership, a greater sense of congregational participation emerged with the adoption of a mission plan centered on the Three Greats:
• • the Great Commandment to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and our neighbors as ourselves;
• • the Great Commission to disciple the nations, going, baptizing, and teaching all the Christ commands; and
• • the Great Ends of the Church as described in the Book of Order.
The Twenty Teens…
In anticipation of PLCPC’s Diamond Anniversary on June 27, 2012, the church and grounds underwent extensive renovations. Many exciting repairs, improvements, and modifications were 28 made to the Sanctuary. These included new audio/visual equipment, new floor tiling, new and expanded wood chancel floors, the addition of a brilliantly hand-crafted stained-glass window behind the choir loft, and a 52-rank Blackinton organ. Handicap-accessible parking and ramps were installed alongside the Sanctuary, landscaping was renewed, and the green on the corner of Chatsworth, Udall, and Poinsettia was transformed into our current plaza area, with brick planters and bench seating areas. A grand 75th Anniversary Gala was held on June 23, and special celebratory services were held on June 24, 2012.
Dr. Powell retired in 2016. As part of this process, a comprehensive mission study was conducted during 2015 to evaluate our church’s current status and its future needs and direction. In addition to the congregational survey, the Committee conducted numerous interviews of church members and leaders in our community. The Mission Study Report thoughtfully and prayerfully describes our church accomplishments and our pathways for the future and provided a significant basis for selecting our new church leadership.
On October 1, 2017, the Rev. Karla Shaw was installed as the new Senior Pastor and a new chapter in the life of the church began. Using the results of the Mission Study Report, the church has been focusing on community life, both within the church as well as outreach to members of the community. Under Pastor Shaw’s leadership, our beloved “Red Brick Church” will not just survive but thrive.
PLCPC SENIOR PASTORS
Thomas Franklyn Hudson June 26, 1938 – January 25, 1942
Rev. S. Dean McBride, D.D. June 8, 1942 – May 31, 1967
Rev. Paul Drury Clark June 30, 1968 – February 5, 1980
Rev. Arthur Fay Sueltz September 15, 1981 – August 31, 2003
Rev. Dr. John Paul Powell May 1, 2005 – February 29, 2016
Rev. Karla Shaw October 1, 2017 –
Rev. S. Dean McBride, D.D. June 1, 1967 – September 12, 1972
Rev. Arthur Fay Sueltz September 1, 2003– October 21, 2010