Last November marked the 125-year anniversary of the organization of Ventura church, one of the earliest Adventist congregations on the West Coast, which formed seven years before the Southern California Conference (SCC) was officially organized.
SCC President Velino A. Salazar shared a Sabbath morning message about the many changes this congregation has seen in 125 years, adhering to an unchangeable message in changeable times. “We are praising God for how this congregation has remained faithful to the message,” said Salazar. “With all the changes we see, we realize there is one thing that has stood the test of time: the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
One other aspect of the Ventura church that has remained unchanged over time is a rich history of meeting the needs of its community. Throughout the day of celebration, this concept was prevalent.
“This congregation has been purposefully active in building bridges between ourselves and other Christian and religious groups in the city,” said James Ayars, Ventura church’s current senior pastor of 14 years. As such, the Ventura church building is also home to three other congregations: St. George’s Anglican Church, The City Church Español, and a Syrian Orthodox congregation made up primarily of recent refugees.
Ventura church also provides support for those facing homelessness and was one of the founding congregations for City Center Transitional Living, which helps provide temporary housing allowing families to find a permanent home. Ventura church is the sponsor of several nonprofits, including Turning Point Foundation, an organization serving those with mental illnesses, and Project Understanding, an organization providing food and low-cost housing for families with low incomes.
Greg Hoenes, SCC West Region director, affirmed the congregation’s commitment to its neighbors during his acknowledgements. “Pastor Ayars is dedicated to the notion that Jesus Christ has children all over the city, in need,” said Hoenes, noting the importance of Ventura church asking the city: “What do you need, and how can we help you?”
The Ventura County Government Center is across the street from the Ventura church campus, giving the congregation immediate access to the Ventura County Board of Supervisors, who, along with other local government officials, honored and recognized the congregation’s outstanding community work over the years. Ventura City Mayor Matt LaVere and U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein sent letters of gratitude.
“Since 1894, Ventura church has served as a welcoming spiritual home for generations of diverse churchgoers in the Los Angeles area,” Feinstein stated in her letter. “As a steadfast pillar of faith and social justice, your presence has provided individuals and families a loving place to pray, worship, grow, and help others.”
During the service, SCC presented a gift of $12,000 to Ventura church to expand its evangelistic vision. “It is our hope to continue to be a catalyst for change in the community,” Ayars said.