By Judy Pettigrew, Special to the Independent
Sixty years is a long time to feed people. Ask any Methodist and one of the many things they will tell you about their denomination is that, if you want to feed people spiritually, you also should bring a casserole. That, among other things, is what the Laguna Beach United Methodist Church has been doing. Last Sunday, Sept. 9, the church invited its congregants, their friends and neighbors to share in the 60th anniversary celebration of their church. Former pastors returned to join in the service. The Chancel Choir lifted their voices in song, one of which was “This is a House of Praise,” written to honor Jeff and Pennie Foster, who have been the music directors of the church for 45 years. And, yes, they fed the 214 people attending the celebration service afterwards at a cookout with myriad side dishes prepared by church members.
Back in 1952, the San Diego District Superintendent of the United Methodist Church, Dr. Hayden Sears, believed Laguna Beach needed a Methodist church. Rev. Charles Clark was appointed the first minister in January 1952. There was no organized congregation or facility. He and a few followers were able to worship in an art gallery that did not open on Sundays until 12:30. The congregation grew to several dozen and continued to meet at the art gallery until November 1953 when it moved to a newly built church on Wesley Drive.
Since that humble beginning, LBUMC has opened its doors and hearts to several thousand people seeking a place to worship, feeding their souls through worship and growth in faith, and sharing meals with one another through church potluck dinners, supper club socials and meals to mark milestones over the years – baptisms, weddings, and celebrations of life. One of the many outreach missions of the church also involves feeding the homeless in Laguna Beach, providing canned goods monthly for the Laguna Beach Resource Center, participating in picnics for the homeless families served by the Illumination Foundation, and carrying casseroles to families in the church and in the community in times of crisis.
Feeding souls is a fulltime mission for the folks at Laguna Beach United Methodist Church. Not only do they do it on Sundays, of which there have been 3,120 since their founding. They do it through children’s Sunday School and Vacation Bible School, youth activities and service programs, adult small group studies, and seniors support services. They do it through outreach to various local organizations, regional service groups, and national and international non-profits. From those overwhelmed by life crises in Orange County or Africa, battered by nature’s wrath in New Orleans or Haiti, desperate for helping hand to repair or build a house through Sierra Service Projects or Habitat for Humanity, the folks at LBUMC are always ready to open their hearts, offer their hands, give hugs and say prayers, and, of course, bring a casserole.
The 60-year celebration continues at LBUMC every Sunday morning with adult study groups at 8:15, worship service at 10 a.m. Visit www.lagunabeachumc.org for more information.
Laguna Beach resident Judy Pettigrew is a longtime member of the Methodist Church.