by Jonathan Hinckley
LOS ANGELES, Calif., (BNc) — On July 10, 2010, the Sichel Street church celebrated 100 years of meeting in their building in East Los Angeles.
The building at Sichel Street is the oldest continual meeting place of the churches of Christ in Southern California. It was said at the celebration that at least 50 congregations in the area grew out of Sichel Street. The event was attended by former and present members of Sichel Street and members of various English- and Spanish-speaking churches throughout the area.
The congregation at Sichel grew out of a tent meeting held by G.W. Riggs in 1903. In 1900 the Broadway church in downtown Los Angeles split when a majority of the members there chose to introduce instrumental music into the worship. Michael Sanders did not agree with their decision and went to the Nashville Bible School to consult with James Harding and David Lipscomb in the hopes of finding a preacher to carry on the work in Los Angeles. Brother Sanders supported that preacher when he came to the Los Angeles area in 1902 to preach tent meetings in different cities in the area. The congregation born out of the tent meeting in Los Angeles in 1903 met in a few places before constructing their permanent place of meeting at the site donated by brother Sanders: 2500 N Sichel Street. The church first met there on March 6, 1910.
The brethren at Sichel chose to celebrate the 100th anniversary in July during the summer when more people would be able to participate. As the small building’s auditorium only holds a little more than 100, the street in front of the building was closed off and a crowd of over 300 sat under a large tent in chairs loaned from local congregations, as they sang, prayed, and listened to several speakers. Seven preachers from Sichel’s history addressed the crowd: Carl Mitchell, who led singing and preached at Sichel in the 1940s before leaving to do mission work in Italy (brother G.W. Riggs was still attending Sichel at that time); Mario Rodriguez, who came to Sichel in the 1950s after helping the early Spanish work in East Los Angeles, and who continues to lead singing and preach there, serving Sichel for over 50 years; Victor Rodriguez, who preached at Sichel in the 60s and is still a preacher of the gospel in Arizona; John Hinckley, who came after Victor Rodriguez and who has preached continually at Sichel for over 40 years up to the present day; Santos Julio Calasin, who attended Sichel in the 80s until leaving for El Salvador to build up the church in Izalco, Sonsonate, El Salvador, supported by Sichel; Juan Vasquez, who attended Sichel for thirteen years before leaving to become the Spanish preacher, and later an elder at the Temple City church; and Jonathan Hinckley, who recently became the English preacher at Temple City after growing up at Sichel and attending there for 37 years.
Mention was also made of several notable men who at one time preached at Sichel, including Bill Stivers, a pioneer in the Spanish work in Los Angeles, F.W. Mattox, founding president of Lubbock Christian, and Arlie Smith, pioneer missionary of the church in Brazil.
Various preachers and members from local congregations led prayers and singing, including many previous members of Sichel and some young people who had practiced song leading at Sichel’s many singing workshops. At one point Daniel Hinckley, 10 years old, led a song, representing the 5th generation of Hinckleys to attend Sichel. His great grandfather, Malcom Hinckley, attended there as a boy when his parents Charles and Muriel Hinckley moved to California in 1919. Some will know brother Malcom, now gone on to his reward, for his many years as librarian at Oklahoma Christian. In his time as a preacher in Southern California he was also very involved with the Spanish work in Los Angeles and Mexico.
The entire event was presented bilingually, in English and Spanish, as all services are conducted at Sichel. The first Spanish works in Los Angeles begun in the 1930s eventually merged with Sichel in the late 1950s. At this time the brethren decided to meet together and hold all services in both languages. This practice and the same spirit of unity exists at Sichel to this day. At one point in the service Jonathan Hinckley also led some choruses in the Tagalog and ilocano dialects, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Eastern Pagudpud church in the Philippines, a work begun and supported by Sichel. Counting a few phrases spoken by brother Carl Mitchell in Italian, that makes five languages represented throughout the day!
Several of the speakers emphasized the main point of the celebration, which was very important to the planning committee–while the event was obviously significant historically, the brethren planned to celebrate much more, that which we celebrate every first day of the week–our ties to our brethren in the first century, and to the saving message they first preached in its entirety in Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost. If any good was accomplished in Sichel’s 100 years, it has been through the preaching of this pure gospel of Jesus Christ, and faithful obedience to His teachings.
This idea was expressed in the theme song written for the event, “Another 100 Years”. The brethren at Sichel invite all their brethren throughout the world to share in the celebration by listening to this song and viewing pictures of their 100th anniversary at their web address.
As the song says: “Though some may choose to please itching ears, Some be enemies, we say with tears–Lord may we always be a sacrifice to Thee, In truth the church of Christ!”
May God bless the churches of Christ everywhere as we do his will, for as many years as he gives us on this earth.
Barbara has been involved in missions for over 25 years, both in the field and in publishing.