In the search for meaning, it’s been my pleasure to attend all of Laguna’s churches. In truth, I haven’t been to a service I didn’t enjoy. Each church is a unique institution, with its own history, faithful adherents, and strong social bonds. Taken together, they’re a big part of the glue that binds our town. Here are a few observations from my visits.
Laguna Presbyterian is our oldest church; last year they celebrated their centennial. Thanks to their downtown location and recent remodel, they also enjoy the nicest facility. When attending, I like to sit where the sun is shining through a stained-glass window. They’re in the middle of what seems a two-year process for replacing Pastor Jerry Tankersley, who retired after 46 years.
By contrast, the church that moves me the most is the humblest: Laguna Beach Net-Works. They meet in the Woman’s Club, a nice enough building, but Pastor Don Sciortino and his team make an extra effort to include the homeless, even offering breakfast. You can’t go there without being touched by their ministry.
What church has the largest attendance? It’s just my estimate, but I think St. Catherine’s Catholic Church draws the most, counting all six weekend masses. They also have a new pastor, Fr. Pat Rudolph, who will be installed in the Aug. 4, 11 a.m. mass. Next best attended would be Laguna Presbyterian (two services), followed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). The smallest number of worshippers might be St. Francis by the Sea (American Catholic), with a tiny jewel box of a chapel that seats 42 people. Don’t go late; in recent months, it’s been standing-room only.
The best dressed congregation? It’s a bit of a trick question as many churches encourage casual dress. The prize for best dress, however, goes to the Jehovah’s Witnesses who meet in Laguna Canyon. When I came back from their service I told the Beautiful Wife I needed a new suit. She agreed. The worshippers dress well, as though they’re headed to an interview for a big promotion. Perhaps they are.
Best music? On any given Sunday, it could be any Laguna church, but I do enjoy the praise band and singing at Church by the Sea. Friendliest church? It’s pretty much a tie; the churches all excel at welcoming. If you ever feel the need for a warm and gracious greeting, just visit one of our churches.
A while back we mentioned the Templeton Prize, which is an approximately $1.4 million annual award for “contributions of a spiritual nature.” Sir Templeton instituted this international prize to cover a glaring omission of the Nobel Prizes. This column proposed that such a prize (without the cash) be started in Laguna, to recognize people who make exceptional contributions of a spiritual dimension to our town. The idea was taken to Laguna’s Interfaith Council, who gave their support. The first prize will be awarded this November, as part of the community Thanksgiving service. There’s meaning in that.
Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip. He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of “Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach.” Email: [email protected]
Places to worship (all on Sunday, unless noted):
Baha’i’s of Laguna Beach—contact [email protected] for events and meetings.
Calvary Chapel Seaside, 21540 Wesley Drive (Lang Park Community Center), 10:30 a.m.
Chabad Jewish Center, 30804 S. Coast Hwy, Fri. 7 p.m., Sat. 10:30 a.m., Sun. 8 a.m.
Church by the Sea, 468 Legion St., 9 & 10:45 a.m.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 682 Park Ave., 10 a.m.
First Church of Christ, Scientist, 635 High Dr., 10 a.m.
ISKCON (Hare Krishna), 285 Legion St., 5 p.m., with 6:45 feast.
Jehovah’s Witnesses, 20912 Laguna Canyon Rd., 1:00 p.m.
Laguna Beach Net-Works, 286 St. Ann’s Dr., 10 a.m.
Laguna Presbyterian, 415 Forest Ave., 8:30 & 10 a.m.
Neighborhood Congregational Church (UCC), 340 St. Ann’s Drive, 10 a.m.
United Methodist Church, 21632 Wesley, 10 a.m.
St. Catherine of Siena (Catholic), 1042 Temple Terrace, 7:30, 9, 11, 1:30 p.m. (Spanish), 5:30 p.m. There are 8 a.m. masses on other days and Saturday 5:30 p.m. vigils.
St. Francis by the Sea (American Catholic), 430 Park, 9:30 a.m.
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 428 Park Ave., 9:30 a.m. (summer schedule)
Unitarian Universalist, 429 Cypress St., 10:30 a.m.