by Jennifer Tipton
It all started with a Bible study group in 1867, before that Ventura had only one church, the historic Mission of San Buenaventura, founded in 1782 by Padre Junipero Serra.
The location for First United Methodist church has changed several times with the first built in 1874 on Oak Street and then a new structure on Oak and Meta in 1891 that served as a beacon to all travelers passing through Ventura on Highway 101. Due to an expanding congregation, the church moved again in 1928 to its current location at 1338 East Santa Clara.
Being part of Ventura for 150 years, the church has some interesting history …
In 1917, one of the ministers was overseeing the Easter sunrise service at Serra cross, he began the walk up the steep road before dawn and when he arrived at the top, he suddenly fell dead at the foot of the cross shocking everyone!
On December 21, 1921 Troop 102 of the Boy Scouts of America was organized at The First United Methodist Church and is there today as the oldest troop in Ventura.
When the church moved to its current location, the building on Oak and Meta was sold to the Salvation Army, it burned to the ground shortly thereafter.
The memorial windows in the sanctuary were dedicated in 1929 with the beautiful rose window donated by the American Legion in memory of the men who died in WW1.
In 1950, Ventura College Miss Mildred Keys instructor and chairman on their Commission on Education passed away and the family established the church library in her memory, the Mildred Keys Memorial Library
I met with Barbara Tomblin, a minister at the church since 2002 and Dave Stork, a church member since 1948. When asked about the changes in the church, I’m told they have added a contemporary (more casual) service to accompany the traditional service on Sunday mornings and the sanctuary now offers an audio induction loop for the hearing impaired, Dave said, “you can sit in the parking lot and listen to the sermon!”
Dave belonged to Troop 102, he was one of 5000 attending the boy scout jamboree in 1950, and it was Dave’s dad that did the woodwork seen in the sanctuary today.
The First United Methodist Church is an onsite tutoring center for Project Understanding and some members are very active in the community; Dave’s wife, Midge is on the Board of Directors with Ventura Botanical Gardens and Shelly Foote is a volunteer at the museum after being a costume historian at the Smithsonian (Shelly’s parents were married in the church).
Barbara shares, “there have been a lot of changes, except for the music program which has always been exceptional”, she reports the Director of Music, Sally Rose Bates has commissioned a song writer to compose a song just for the church’s 150th anniversary.
On Sunday, November 19th, First United Methodist Church will celebrate its 150th anniversary beginning at 8am and including a special all community Thanksgiving lunch.
For details visit www.fumcventura.org