During the 1920’s, Rev. Arthur Zahl often drove from the Point Pleasant Church, north on Franklin Blvd., to Sacramento. Just south of Sacramento he saw very poor homes in the Gould Tract, lots of children, but not churches. This was an area crying out for God.
So in 1924 he visited the area, walking through the tanxveeds and thistles from home to home, asking if people would like to have a Sunday School for their children. One lady leaned on the doorframe and said, "If anyone is interested in having a Sunday school in this God forsaken place, I’lI be glad to help." Mary Kelly helped for 30 years, as a Bible storyteller, teacher, Sunday school superintendent, organist, pianist, janitor, wherever help was needed, she helped.
Rev. Zahl returned to Point Pleasant and recruited the help of Will Schmidt and others. They raised $1000 from the church members and floated a loan of $500. With that money they built a small church on Twentieth Avenue, one block east of Franklin Blvd. Point Pleasant families took turns meeting the monthly payments on the $500 loan.
Easter Sunday 1925, 38 children gathered for Sunday School. As they scraped their wooden chairs across the new wooden floor, the noise almost drowned out Pastor Zahl as he told the stories of Jesus and led in singing "Jesus Loves Me". Aleda Bill, who is still a member of Hope United Methodist Church, remembers being one of those first Sunday School children.
The Point Pleasant congregation together with the First Evangelical Association congregation downtown, built a parsonage next door to the church and added a social hall to the church. In 1926 twenty adult members formed a church. Rev. Zahl moved into the parsonage to become the first pastor of the Second Evangelical Church.
Will Schmidt and Margaretha came with their family, from Point Pleasant for the next seven years to conduct Sunday School and was very supportive for many years to come.
Over the next few years the church grew, so a new young pastor was assigned in 1933 to work with Rev. Zahl. Rev. Everett Schneider came with his bride, fresh from seminary. Rev. Schneider became known as the visiting pastor. He organized the boys and young men into Pioneers and Friendly Indians with the help of the local YMCA. He also took the boys in his own car to camp in the mountains.
Times were hard during the Depression. The pastor’s salary was seventy five dollars per month. Forty dollars came from Conference, ten dollars from the congregation, and twenty-five dollars from the rental of the front bedroom to the County for a library. However, just as the Schneiders moved in, the County’s budget crunch dropped the rental income to fifteen dollars per month, making the pastor’s salary only sixty five dollars a month.
The congregation gathered food gifts and held a pounding party for the new preacher. Money was short. Church dinners were 25 cents a plate. Groceries averaged four dollars per week; eggs were 17 cents per dozen, and two pounds of hamburger cost a quarter!
The congregation mainly consisted of young families, most of them without jobs or a source of income. The first Sunday that Rev. Schneider preached there were 165 for Sunday School and only 18 stayed for church. But Sunday evening brought out 35 (the choir sang then). Wednesday evening prayer meeting drew 45 people. The choir had excellent voices and that Christmas; they performed the timeless classic, the Messiah. Bible School lasted several weeks in the summer. Summer camp was in Santa Monica. Youth who could not afford camp were offered camp jobs to earn their way. Times may have been hard, but there was no complaining, and the church building was never locked.
1937 brought a change of pastors. Another young man, Rev. Boelter, fresh from seminary, brought his bride to the parsonage. Within a couple of years he raised the funds, about $20,000 dollars to have the original building moved to the back of the lot (demolishing the old outhouses.) and a new wonderful sanctuary was built on the front of the lot, plumbing included! Before Rev. Boelter moved, he officiated at the mortgage burning ceremony.
A merger of churches in 1946 brought together the Evangelical Association with the United Brethren Church, and then we were known as the South Sacramento Evangelical United Brethren Church. We were now part of a denomination of forty churches in all of California.
More pastors came and went. New changes were coming as we heard the 99 Freeway was proposed to come right through the church property! The State bought the church, and then sold it to another congregation. You can still visit it today, on 26m Avenue just west of Franklin Blvd. The parsonage still stands east of Franklin Blvd., on 20th Avenue.
As we moved from 20th Avenue to Steiner Drive, we resolved to become self-supporting, no more missionary status for us. We then changed our name to Hope Evangelical United Brethren Church. We then used the $52,000 paid by the State to build a sanctuary, Sunday school, and parsonage on Steiner Drive, south of 47th Avenue.
The neighborhood grew around us, and another church merger with the Methodists in 1968 changed our name to Hope United Methodist Church. With the new growth, we were overflowing the Steiner Drive buildings; so a decision was made to rebuild on property that Conference had purchased years earlier on Valley Hi and Center Parkway. ln December of 1986, we moved into this beautiful building that we enjoy today.
For the past 83 years, Hope United Methodist Church has ministered to thousands of people under the leadership of wonderfully dedicated pastors. We’ve been a part of three denominations, and have worshipped in three locations. We have been blessed and we have been challenged each time there was a change and new start. Now we again have had a change and are starting anew. Once again, we have the opportunity to recognize that we have been richly blessed so that we may become a blessing to our surrounding community with the wonderful leadership of our Pastor, Rev. JoAnn Juniel.
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