After two years, the La Jolla Community Church has found a place to call home.
The non-denominational Christian church held its first service on Sept. 11, 2005, when a group of about 20 families gathered at the Hilton Torrey Pines La Jolla. On Sunday, Sept. 16, the church will officially welcome the public into its new, permanent home, a 350-person sanctuary in the UTC area.
The church purchased an existing church on a 3.6-acre site at 4377 Eastgate Mall in February and started holding services there in April in the midst of a roughly $250,000 renovation project. The project, which incorporated offices and an outdoor patio area into the facility, is now complete, and the church will begin offering two Sunday worship services, at 9:10 and 11 a.m., beginning Sept. 23.
“The whole church headquarters is open for business in a big way,” said Scott McClendon, chairman of the board for La Jolla Community Church.
The renovation expanded the sanctuary’s capacity from 150 to 350 without any major additions to the facility.
“We knocked out a bunch of internal walls and internal offices and just took advantage of the whole shell,” McClendon said.
The Sept. 16 celebration is open to the public and will begin with a worship service at 9:30 a.m., followed by a complimentary brunch, live musical entertainment, children’s activities and an information fair.
The money for the purchase and renovation for the new church was all raised within the congregation, which has grown considerably from its small beginnings at the Hilton. The church now has 350 members and more than 500 regular attendees.
McClendon said the motivation for starting the church in 2005 arose out of a need for a non-denominational evangelical Christian church in La Jolla.
“We wanted a place that had the freedom to not be tied by doctrine,” he said. “A lot of the basic church families are shrinking because they are so tied to their individual doctrine. We wanted the freedom to mix music but have an evangelical set of beliefs, and to reach out to a community of people who may have been from different churches or may have been non-believers totally. We welcome all people because we’re trying to expand the community that welcomes Jesus Christ.”
The mixture of music during services at the La Jolla Community Church is one of the main benefits of being a non-denominational church, McClendon said.
“If you look at the music in our services, we have hymns, praise songs, spirituals, once in a while we’ll have a Jewish song - we want to be free to celebrate,” he said. “We are a very interactive church, especially in our singing.”
That interactive spirit is also evident in the church’s “life groups,” smaller groups of members who meet for Bible study and fellowship.
“They discuss their faith and other issues,” McClendon said. “We have some for couples, some for single men and women, some for older folks, one for people in their 20s. I believe very strongly in people being part of a smaller community as they want to within the church.”
Most of the church’s congregation currently comes from La Jolla, but McClendon said the expansion to two Sunday services and the new location will provide opportunities to grown the congregation beyond La Jolla.
“One of the reasons we’re so delighted (with the new location) and holding the open house is because there’s so many thousands of apartments up in the UTC area, and we wanted to appeal there,” he said. “We’ll be very close to the 5 and the 805. It’s an easier way as opposed to spending 20 minutes after getting off the freeway trying to find the church.”
The Senior Pastor at the church is Rev. Steve Murray, formerly of La Jolla Presbyterian Church. On Sept. 16, Murray will begin a three-part sermon series titled “Total Life Fitness Begins with A Strong Spiritual Core.” The church also has a children’s minister for kids up to sixth grade, and a youth minister for junior high and high school students.
The La Jolla Community Church is at 4377 Eastgate Mall, just west of the UTC shopping center. For more information, visit www.ljcommunitychurch.org.