THE REFORMED CHURCH EXPANDS TO LOS ANGELES (1920-1923)
In 1920, Reverend Martin Flipse, Pastor of the Third Reformed Church of Holland, Michigan, suggested that the Board of Domestic Missions call a missionary pastor to visit the West Coast in attempts to begin Reformed Churches there. Disturbed by the lack of interest among his peers and his desire to broaden the Reformed Church’s movement, Reverend Flipse volunteered for this mission. He was assigned to the Classis of Cascades and worked under the Church Expansion Committee. The Classis of Cascades consisted of four churches in Washington, Montana, and Alberta, Canada.
In 1921, Reverend Flipse received two letters expressing interest in the establishment of a Reformed Church in California. One letter was sent by Mrs. Otis (Fanney) Kelder, who loved the Reformed Church of America and was a member while living in Chicago, Illinois. The other letter was sent from families living in San Francisco, California. On January 11, 1922, the Church Expansion Committee decided to send Reverend Flipse to California so that he could visit families in the Ripon, Corcoran, Santa Ana, and Los Angeles areas and report on the possibility of establishing the Reformed Church.
On August 1, 1922, Reverend Flipse provided a summary of his mission and recommended the organization of a Reformed Church in Ripon, California. Later discussions with several families resulted in Reverend Flipse deciding to expand the Reformed Church in the Los Angeles area. There, he met with approximately 75 people, 40 of which signed a petition requesting a Reformed Church. On March 23, 1923, Reverend Flipse returned to the Cascades Classis and recommended Los Angeles as the area to begin a Reformed Church. The Classis agreed and sent Harry Hager, a seminary student, to join Reverend Flipse in Los Angeles for the summer. After visiting Los Angeles on August 17, 1923, Harry Hager sent an encouraging report to the Church Expansion Committee of the Cascades Classis. The report indicated that over 50 people were ready to be organized into a church and that a second church could be started in the City of Clearwater (now Paramount).
HOPE REFORMED CHURCH OF LOS ANGELES IS BORN (1923)
On October 24, 1923, Reverend Flipse met with 65 people (consisting of 25 families) at the YMCA Building on Hope Street and organized the first Reformed Church in the State of California. Consistory members were chosen by those in attendance and included two elders and two deacons. Assisting the organization on that historic evening was the Reverend Lawrence Dykstra. Reverend Dykstra and gave a brief talk about the Reformed Church of America. The church was named Hope Reformed Church of Los Angeles, as the YMCA was located on Hope Street.
Sunday morning worship services were held at the YMCA on Hope Street and evening worship services occurred in a hall on 40th Street. Sunday morning services eventually moved to a rented hall on 15th Street, near Main Street, because the YMCA was available for only a short time. Two services were held weekly, one facilitated in Dutch and the other in English.
In June of 1924, the church asked the Board of Domestic Missions for $25,000 to purchase land and build a church facility. Initially, the request was denied. Church members gathered together and persuaded Dr. W. S. H. Demarest, Secretary and Board of Domestic Missions, to visit Los Angeles and view the potential growth of the Hope Community Church. A few months later, in December of that same year, Dr. Demarest recommended that the Board of Domestic Missions commit to pay the interest on the property’s first mortgage—if purchased. Reverend Flipse and Deacon W. Knoll then found the current location of the Hope Reformed Church, 344 West Florence Avenue, Los Angeles.
On Friday, June 22, 1928, Reverend Flipse and the Church family coordinated a service to dedicate their church facility and celebrated with music, singing, and several addresses. Thereafter, Reverend Flipse served the Church until 1931.
TIMELINE OF PASTORAL LEADERSHIP (1931-2008)
1931-1938: Reverend Henry Beltman. His leadership organized ministries including the Men’s Brotherhood, Christian Endeavor, a choir, and Young Women’s League for voluntary service.
1938-1944: Reverend Henry Korver. His leadership built a social hall.
1944-1948: Reverend Louise Benes. His leadership initiated the radio broadcasting of church services and he became editor of the Church Herald.
1948-1959: Reverend Donald Blackie. Despite construction of the Harbor Freeway and its result of scattering the membership, His leadership organized a mission program, conducted a “Debt Free in 53” conference for the membership, and provided leadership to purchase a parking lot and duplex for the Sunday School Ministry.
1959-1970: Reverend John Keuning. His leadership purchased additional property west of the parsonage.
1970-1973: Reverend Harlan Ratmeyer. His leadership renewed the call to refocus on community work. He organized bible study groups and purchased the corner property on 73rd Street.
1973-1979: Reverend Carl DeJong. His leadership emphasized a life of spiritual growth, prayer, and witnessing.
1979-1984: Reverend John Muller. His leadership was very active in the
Community, scheduling daily visits at hospitals and nursing homes with both
members and non-members and coordinating activities for singles and seniors.
1984-1993: Reverend Rodwell Morgan. His leadership provided a bi-lingual ministry both in English and Spanish. He conducted evangelistic ministries in the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. He became a delegate for the Black Council in Peace Mission to Mexico and Central America.
1993-1999: Reverend Albert Terry. His leadership introduced additional percussion instruments in to worship services, including drums, thereby enhancing the music ministry.
1999-2002: Reverend Dunston Samson. His leadership purchased a church van needed to provide transportation for people attending the worship services or special church events.
2002-2008: Reverend Kerry Allison. His leadership established altar calls and intercession prayer to worship services.
2009-Present: Reverend La Velle M. Gates, Sr.
A NEW BEGINNING (2008-Present)
In 2008, the Reformed Church in America Classis of California exercised its authority to supersede the Consistory at the Hope Reformed Church. The church was facing several major challenges that resulted in its inability to fulfill their primary functions. The church property had been neglected, membership had significantly declined, and adequate ministerial services were not being provided to the community. The Classis of California removed the Consistory from Hope Reformed Church and proceeded to oversee the activities of the church until they installed a new pastor Consistory.
In 2009, Reverend La Velle M. Gates, Sr became the Acting Pastor of Hope Reformed Church. His appointment as Acting Pastor was an extremely unique one, as he was the current Senior Pastor of the Faith In God Baptist Church. When Pastor Gates joined the Reformed Church in 2009, he brought along almost 150 members from the Faith in God Baptist Church. In November of 2009, the Classis of California approved Reverend Gates’ proposal to change the name of Hope Reformed Church to “Faith & Hope Community Church.”
In 2010, Reverend Ned Beadle installed Reverend La Velle M. Gates, Sr as the Contracted Pastor of Faith & Hope Community Church on August 2010 and Pastor Gates combined leadership from the two separate, but now joined, churches as individuals from both were considered for Elder and Deacon positions within the new formed church. Pastor Gates also formed a Church Growth Planning Group for events and ministry efforts.
In 2011, the Classis of California asked Dr. Richard Horton, Senior Pastor of Park Hills Reformed Church, to install the following individuals into the first Consistory of Faith & Hope Community Church: Elder Judy Hart, Elder Shonte Henderson, Elder Ola Thomas, Deacon Ross Bennett, Deacon Devin Foremen, and Deacon Sandy Pitman. This Consistory was confirmed and approved at the Classis meeting in May 2011.
In 2012, Faith & Hope Community Church installed central air and heating, a new roof, and developed a remodeling project entitled “Access for All.” This project widened doors and hall ways, built ramps with railings, and revamped the worship platform to provide access for those with disabilities. In 2013, the “Access for All” project was completed and the Church broadened efforts to improve the property. From replacing the entire roof to a complete remodel of the fellowship hall, improvements were made throughout the Church. A contractual agreement was established with Sprint and they became a tenant of Faith & Hope Community Church. Sprint absorbed all costs related to upgrading their cell tower equipment and retrofitting the steeple with supportive beams. In addition to building improvements, Faith & Hope Community Church hosted its first Health Fair so the community would have access to free screenings and lifestyle tips.
In 2014, Faith & Hope Community Church formed a unique partnership with 211 Los Angeles County to support many parents who struggle with their children having special needs. Among those parents was Pastor Gates whose sons were on the autism spectrum. This partnership coordinated an annual event called the Family Fun Day. This event is hosted by Pastor Gates’ sons and sponsored by many community partners who support the special need’s community including regional centers, law offices for special needs, and other providers contracted by State and other local governments to offer other supportive services. Since this partnership, FHCC and 211 LA have been coordinating services for homeless prevention, diversion and to sustain permanent housing services in SPA 6. This effort is to enhance the continuum of care by providing cross-sector service coordination to promote optimal child development in homeless children and ensure that individuals and families obtain the on-going series and support needed to optimize self-sufficiency. The partnership with 211 LA has revitalized our community bringing a lot of resources to this area.
In 2016 the FHCC family along with the support of 211 LA met with Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas, Los Angeles County, as he connected FHCC with many community partners that would assist FHCC with their first homeless program including assistance with construction, management, and service providers. However, much credit for our approach for serving the community should be given to Patricia Herrera who in many ways coordinated the methods by which FHCC might be most effective in their outreach efforts including community days, resource fairs, autism awareness day and Christmas with the Community Sunday.
2018 is bound to be an awesome year for our church and community as our efforts are rooted in the purposes of Jesus Christ who says, “For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me”
(St. Matthew 25:35-40).
As a church family, we are committed to our call as identified in our mission statement and will continue to be the very presence of Jesus Christ in the world.
March 2020 brought forth great change for the Faith & Hope Community family! In the face of a national pandemic, we were compelled to change the trajectory of our ministry.
Our church transitioned from the traditional brick and mortar model to a virtual dynamic. Faith & Hope fully pledged and transitioned to a virtual ministry implementing platforms such as YouTube, Facebook/Live, Instagram, and online giving. Our success was bar none as evidenced by the number of individuals that “followed” or “viewed” sermons and bible study teachings. At our peak, we reached 1.8K views for a Sunday morning sermon, and 1.2K views for bible study. This was exciting as we were reaching “beyond the walls” in the face of COVID-19. FHCC now has a national following with individuals watching, viewing, and contributing from all over the world. We look forward to where our ministry will land with this new found knowledge and our virtual platform participation.
Our membership will always remain committed to the Body of Christ as we fulfill our call to be the very presence of Jesus Christ in the world.