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Santa Margarita Community Church - History 1949-2008

Started in early 1949 when Verna Kriedel asked families with children if they would like a Sunday School in Santa Margarita.

First meeting was held in Velasco’s Meat Market (corner of Encina and El Camino Real). An old pump organ provided the music. Soon the group was able to move into Proud’s Garage (now the antique auction barn).

Santa Margarita Community Chruch members 1960
Photo from 1960

1949 - 1958 After contacting Christian and Missionary Alliance, Rev. Lloyd Orton and his family came to be our first pastor. A house at the corner of Margarita and H streets was rented for a parsonage. Two lots, where our church now stands, were donated to us by Mrs. Fatheringham. The land was leveled and a foundation was poured. Until a building could be completed, we held afternoon services on the property. The two Sunday School rooms with the double doors served as our auditorium. There were no partitions, so the Sunday School classes simply met in different corners of the room. A piano was donated by Bob Doty’s mom. Reverend Orton finally had to resign, as he had a family. We paid rent; utilities and $25.00 a month (if we had $25.00 after all the bills were paid).

Vern Gunther was our next pastor. He was a single man and faired better on our salary. Under his direction the cement was poured for the nursery (Ethel’s room) and “furnace” room. The sanctuary was added on top of the basement around this time. Christian and Missionary Alliance helped us fund this with a $700.00 loan. The main work force for this building project was mothers and their children. Days found women hauling dirt, painting, patching etc... Verla Keffury, Evie Brown and Hazel, Hunter along with others were among this crew. Vern resigned after marrying, as even pastors and their wives like to eat.

An older couple Rev. and Mrs. Browning served as our next pastor. They lived off of their savings and stayed until that savings was only a memory. He purchased and installed the upstairs lights.

Earl Evers, a young single man came to serve. At this time we, had to give up the rented parsonage, so he moved into the church building. The nursery was his kitchen and the furnace room served as his bedroom. We still used these rooms for Sunday School classes. Hazel Hunter taught her class sitting on Earl’s bed. After Earl found an advertisement for theatre seats in San Francisco, we purchased them for $1.00 each. These served as our sanctuary seating until the mid 1980’s. Tongue and groove flooring was also located in San Francisco. Volunteers borrowed an old truck to pick up the flooring. After an adventurous journey, the flooring arrived and was installed. Sheetrock and knotty pine were added at this time. The female work force once again worked tirelessly. These female servants also served as board members, Sunday School teachers and superintendent, musicians, etc. After marrying, Earl and his new wife were called to serve a church in Medford, Oregon.

1950’s – The 25 foot lot next to the church was donated so we could have our driveway. We dissolved our relationship with Christian and Missionary Alliance and had a period of speakers from Grace Church in San Luis Obispo and other locations. In 1958, Ralph and Betty Vandenberg, who were from Grace Church, volunteered to lead our church. He was a full time contractor, so we could afford him. They lived in Santa Margarita and served us through excellent Bible teaching and music. He built our front porch, the platform, the bell tower and various other projects. The bell was bought from the old Santa Margarita School. Red and Helen Thorne and Ethel Larsen became new members during this time. They were a mighty force behind all work projects from this time forward. Ralph took a position as a Building Inspector for Bakersfield.

1960’s – We again struggled with various laymen as speakers until we learned about Village Missions from the Garden Farms Church. Village Missions sent us Kenneth McGilligan in 1963. He and his family served until he resigned and went back to working with computers. While he was here, the grand piano was purchased for $250.00. This piano remained until the 1980; s when it was sold for $1,000.00. The communion table and chairs were given in memory of a long time resident of Santa Margarita.

Next, we shared Mike Cappiello, his wife and 4 daughters with the Garden Farms Church. Mike and his family moved into the Garden Farms parsonage. After some turmoil at the Garden Farms Church, Mike resigned.

Dwight Ritchie came in 1967 and served until 1969. He and his family were known for having fun and exciting song services. Dwight and his wife resigned in order to join International Foreign Student Ministry. They were assigned to Afghanistan where he worked as an engineer in building a hospital.

For a while Harold Miller ministered to both the Santa Margarita and Garden Farms churches. Due to family problems, Village Missions asked him to resign.

In the mid 1970’s Gil Doebler and his wife, Trishia came to us. This was his first pastorate. He and his young family began to grow. Garden Farms decided to leave Village Missions at this time, which was fortunate. Once again, we had our own pastor. During this time Paul and Jesse Weems donated the lots where our current parsonage is located. Our congregation grew under Gil’s leadership and several men joined the church. An officer’s barracks building was purchased from Camp Roberts, torn down and the lumber was used to build the parsonage. Many men faithfully worked together to complete the parsonage at a very reasonable cost. Gil and Trishia lived in their new home for several years before extreme allergies to trees and grasses forced them to resign and leave the area.

Pastor Roy Berg, a widower, lead our church in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Roy was everyone’s “grandpa”. During his ministry, a home was built for the Walters and an acre of land was given to the church. This land was eventually sold. Roy had to resign for health reasons, but during his time as pastor, our church experienced a lot of growth.

For about a year and a half Larry Goin and his wife, Ginny, ministered to us. They left us to minister in the state of Oregon.

In the early 1980’s our church voted to withdraw their affiliation with Village Missions. At this time (1983), Trey Littlejohns and his family had just relocated to Santa Margarita. After preaching as a guest one Sunday, he agreed to serve as our temporary pastor until a suitable man could be called. After a short time, we decided to call Trey to serve as our permanent pastor. The church grew and experienced an active youth ministry under Trey’s leadership. Trey’s home was open to the youth of Santa Margarita. At this time, we converted the parsonage garage into a room for ministering to junior and senior high students. Trey’s wife, Brenda, had an effective women’s ministry and helped lead a committee to renovate the Sanctuary. He served until 1989. After a period of differing church visions, it was decided that, Trey would resign.

Tom Wilkens and his wife, Jan, served the church as an interim ministry team from 1989 to 1990. Tom skillfully guided us through a process of healing. Jan spent her time in Santa Margarita raising their first daughter, Rachel, and ministering to the women in our congregation. Tom helped direct our search for a permanent pastor. After nearly 2 years, the search was complete and the Wilkens’ family moved on.

In 1990 Paul Schliep was called to be our first Evangelical Free pastor. He came with his wife, Sharon, and young family, Kristi, Kelli, and Jonathan. Paul guided The Santa Margarita Community through the process updating the church constitution, searching and finding a denominational affiliation, the Evangelical Free Church organization. Paul and Sharon served together for sixteen years. Paul served the community of Santa Margarita as a volunteer firefighter, school yard supervisor, substitute teacher and active citizen. The church reached out to the community through, Sunday’s in the park, annual Thanksgiving dinners and the October Country Carnival In September of 2006, Paul resigned in order for them to move closer to Sharon’s mother.

After the Schliep’s left, we called Dave Sotelo to serve as our interim pastor for 2 1/2 years

Dr. Robert Campbell became the Pastor in the summer of 2008. Robert, wife Julie, and children Caleb and Meg, have quickly made Santa Margarita their home and are very much here for the long haul. He serves as a volunteer at Santa Margarita Elementary School, with the ‘Learning Among the Oaks’ Program, is a committee member for the Gateway to the Carrizo Plains Committee and is an active member of the Santa Margarita Lions Club.

Santa Margarita Community Church image today.
Photo 2008 Cory Shinn