HISTORY OF FAITH UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

As we celebrate over 60 years in ministry in the South Bay, we look at the journey so far:

In 1959, under the direction of the Japanese Provisional Conference of the Methodist Church, Rev. Peter Chen was appointed to organize and establish a church in the Gardena area to serve the spiritual needs of a growing Japanese American population.  

On Sunday, January 10, 1960, the first worship service of the Gardena Community Methodist Church was held at Hollypark Methodist Church with 20 adults and 20 children in attendance.  Four months later, on May 15, 1960, 44 founding members formally organized the church and made the decision to relocate to the Spanish American Institute.  The first year ended with 99 charter members.  165 children were enrolled in the Sunday school program.  

It soon became apparent that this newly chartered congregation needed its own facility to accommodate its growing ministry.  The site chosen for the new Church home was on Rosecrans, near Normandie Avenue.  On February 22, 1962, the ground-breaking ceremony took place for the future North Gardena Methodist Church.  On August 5, 1962, the newly constructed education and multi-purpose building was consecrated.  

On August 7, 1968, with a successful pledge drive and the help of the United Methodist Board of Missions, the Sanctuary construction began.  The completed Sanctuary was consecrated on February 2, 1969 by Bishop Gerald Kennedy and District Superintendent Melvin Talbert.

In 1978, a Japanese language Nichigo ministry was started by Rev. Bob Hoshibata, now Bishop Hoshibata.  The ministry was later renamed Nihobgobu, and in 1989, a full-time pastor was hired to help develop and expand its outreach to the surrounding communities.

In the ensuing years, the demographics of Gardena began to change with many Japanese Americans moving to Torrance and other South Bay cities.  During the 1980’s, the church began to experience a decline in attendance and had to evaluate how to best meet this challenge.  The decision was made to explore the possibility of finding a new location.   In late 1994, the members of North Gardena United Methodist Church (NGUMC) took a leap of faith and sold their Church without knowing where their journey for a new home would lead them.  After the sale of the NGUMC building, members found a temporary home at First United Methodist Church of Torrance, where they worshipped from September 3, 1995 to June 1, 1997.  During that time, the members of NGUMC felt blessed for the love and hospitality we received from our “temporary” church family, First UMC of Torrance.

The next step was to actively explore possible sites for a new home.  After a long search, the Machinists Union building in North Torrance was purchased.  The building required extensive renovation, which was made possible through the faithful giving of members and friends.  

The membership chose Faith United Methodist Church as its new name, and the first worship service was held on June 29, 1997, with Bishop Roy I. Sano officiating.  

Thanks to the grace of God, growth soared, and many new ministries developed.  To meet the needs of a growing congregation, a second English worship service was added.  The duplex next to the main building was purchased and named The Peter Chen Annex.  The renovation of the education wing of the building was made possible with a second successful capital campaign.  

The Church continued to grow, and in May, 2005, we were blessed by a merger with Gardena First United Methodist Church, which brought its rich history of over 100 years to join that of the former North Gardena UMC and Faith UMC of Torrance.  The unification of these two churches has been glorious!

As Faith United Methodist Church, we have experienced many blessings, as we have seen God working in us and through us in our ministries.  

Potlucks

Church potlucks have always been cherished part of the church fellowship. It helped folks to know each other better, and featured a great variety of food and in some cases, showcased the culinary talents. 

Picnics

Just like the potlucks, it was a fellowship opportunity except the kids got to play outdoors and get to be kids. For the adults, it was also their chance to be kids once again.

Craft Faire

Started off as an idea by Rev. Adams who thought that having the members of the church (mainly the women) display their talents through their beautiful crafts. At the time, he thought it would be a great way to increase the church’s income. In time, this became the forerunner for the current Matsuri featuring foods and crafts in November. In all of the years, it never rained on this event. Many a year, it rained the day before or rained the day after

Matsuri

Evolved out of the Craft/Food Faire and became a separate event in the spring, starting at NGUMC. It began as the Haru Matsuri but became the Matsuri of Faith when the church moved. What was thought as a major fundraiser in the spring became a community magnet and introduced many people outside of the church to Faith. It takes the collaborative efforts of the many church groups.

Advent/Christmas Season

The Christmas season has always been special at the church with wonderful music, services and the pastor’s message. Sunday School Christmas pageants were always very special especially in the early days of the church. Children were dressed in elaborate costumes and performed very well in front of their families and friends. The Hallelujah Chorus tradition started in 1991 with Prime Timers swelling the choir ranks and carried on ever since. 

Prime Timers (Seniors)

Started off as a lunch time fellowship with Rev Grant Hagiya, (now Bishop Hagiya) – Rev. Grant asked Osi Imai to initiate a more formal group. The first meeting was July 1991 with 36 people. The group took off and the seniors began to do things and go to places that the younger generations were envious of. It brought many people to the church that otherwise would not have come to church. The Prime Timers are responsible for the current Altar furniture. 

United Methodist Women (UMW)

Started off in November 1961 with Ruth Tsukahira installed as 1st president and has been a major driving force in many of the church events and functions. UMW has championed the cause of mission work in the church and remains a strong fellowship group of women within the church. 

We look back at our North Gardena days when we had one Sunday Bible study class with a handful of people attending.

Small Group Ministries 

Small group ministries called “ohanas” were started by Rev. Ken Suhr in 2008, and ten “family” fellowship groups were formed actively involved in Bible study and mission projects.

Music Ministry  

Our Music Ministry, which began in 1997, under the leadership of Stephen Bullard and Rick Izumi, consists of a Chancel Choir, Voices of Faith, a children’s choir, inter-generational orchestra, adult and youth bands, and music lessons for the community.

In 2008, Stephen Bullard, our Music Director, started a drama ministry, and since its inception, Faith UMC has put on an annual major musical production.   The majority of the musicians and “stars” are members of our church. 

In 2008, Faith made a strong commitment to our children and youth by hiring a third pastor, Ki Tae Choi, to provide spiritual and programmatic guidance for our children, youth and families.  Under his pastoral leadership, this vital ministry continues to grow and thrive.  

We at Faith United Methodist Church, have been on an incredible 60+ -year journey, experiencing many joys throughout our history.  We give thanks for the saints of our past, whose ministry and service touched the lives of many, and upon whose foundation we continue to build our ministry today.  We give thanks to all our pastors, who inspired and guided us throughout our 60+ year history.  We give thanks to the Lord for His guiding spirit.  His vision and ours is endless.  May God continue to richly bless us now as he has in our past.