The presence of the Methodist Church in Southern California reflects the growth and history of the region itself. One of the very first white men to visit California was the famed Mountain Man and Scout Jedediah Smith who came west looking for beaver pelts in 1826-27. Besides being a trapper he was a devout Methodist preacher and brought the word of God wherever he traveled.
By the 1850's Methodists were starting churches in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Bernardino, Ventura, and Santa Barbara. As the population exploded in the years following the Civil War, the church and several civic leaders decided there was a need for higher education and in 1880 established the University of Southern California (USC). Though affiliated closely with the Methodist church in its early years, the church and school both saw their mission as serving the needs of the larger community. The school received gifts from Catholics and Jews in Los Angeles as well as the Methodists. The policies of the school also reflected the open-mindedness of its creators, with admission open to anyone regardless of race, religion or sex. Indeed, in the first graduating class in 1884, the valedictorian was a woman.
It wasn't long before the growing population of LA pushed over the mountains into the San Fernando Valley. Initially a farming community with huge citrus orchards, the area we call Northridge was originally called Zelzah, a biblical name for a "watering place in the desert." The name was later changed to North Los Angeles and then to Northridge Village and finally to its present name.
The Northridge United Methodist Church began life as The Community Methodist Episcopal Church of Zelzah in 1924. The first group of 25 parishioners met in a two-room schoolhouse at the corner of Canby Avenue and Gresham Street, with lay preachers ministering to the needs of the congregation on a Sundays-only basis.
In 1926 the congregation purchased the school building for $20 from the Los Angeles School Board. Following the donation of a half-acre lot, the structure was moved to the northwest corner of Reseda Boulevard and Nordhoff Street and was remodeled for Sunday services and fellowship events. That location was later leased and then sold to the Standard Oil Company for a gas station. Today the site is occupied by a McDonald's drive-through restaurant. The sale of that property generated capital funds that have been carefully guarded through the years to finance improvements on the present church property and maintain an ongoing "Mission Growth Fund."
In 1954 the church bought 4.8 acres of orange grove facing Reseda Boulevard between Superior and Halsted Streets. When the property at Reseda and Nordhoff was leased to the Standard Oil Company, the church began construction of the chapel on Halsted Street which now serves as the Youth Activity Center (YAC). The Fireside Room and several Sunday School rooms were built during that same construction phase, and were completed by the end of 1958. At this time, the Rev. Dave Sharp was the leader of the fast-growing congregation, and expanded the church program to three Sunday services in the small chapel.
In 1961 the church acquired property facing Reseda Boulevard, and later the corner lot at Reseda Boulevard and Superior Street. In 1963 a contemporary-style sanctuary/multipurpose building (now the Fellowship Hall) was built. Additional Sunday School rooms and the Nursery School were dedicated in 1968. The Rev. George Walters became pastor in 1968, and served our church for 16 years.
In the early 1980s, as the congregation faced issues of continuing expansion of our ministry, plans were made for a new sanctuary to be built on the corner lot at Reseda and Superior. Rev. David Richardson came in 1987 and began the initial phase - improvement of Sunday School and Youth facilities - which was completed in 1990. The second phase was the largest one, as it included construction of a new sanctuary which was dedicated at Thanksgiving 1992. The third phase included a separate Administration building to house the church offices, as well as the Kendall Building for program activities of the church, including a women's craft room. That building was named for Ruth and Pat Kendall who donated the funds for the much-used facility.
The new buildings were tested immediately by the Northridge Earthquake of January 1994 which shook the entire community to its foundations. The church was fortunate that superior planning and construction techniques enabled the new buildings to survive without major damage. The heaviest damage was from a broken sprinkler system in the sanctuary and the collapse of sound panels above the choir loft. The church itself became a vital survival center for earthquake victims in the surrounding neighborhood.
Northridge has always been a church that modeled the denomination's slogan "Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors." Members and constituents welcome the open invitation to people of all races and backgrounds to come and worship God with us. On Sunday mornings the congregation is a bit like a mini-United Nations, with people from all over the globe attending worship and enjoying each other's contributions.
In July 2015 we welcomed our new pastor, Rev. Dr. Joseph Choi, and his family into our congregation.