Sunday, June 30, 2013

1988 - Our 25th Anniversary And...

Here are some of the other things that happened in 1988:
  • The United Nations set up the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
  • The State of Palestine was proclaimed by Palestinian National Council
  • The Piper Alpha offshore drilling platform exploded
  • The Pan Am flight 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, killed 103
  • Oliver North was indicted for The Iran Contra affair
  • First observance of World AIDS Day
  • The Space Shuttle Discovery was launched
  • "The Last Emperor" won 9 Academy Awards
  • Record of the Year was "Graceland" by Paul Simon 
  • Stephen Hawking published " A Brief History Of Time "
  • The first major computer virus infected computers connected to the Internet.
  • The Hubble Space Telescope was put into operation
  •  Super Mario Brothers 2 video game was released in North America
  • Average price of a gallon of gas $0.91; average price of a new car $10,400

For more information, see:

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Our First Historian

From First Presbyterian Church of Sun City 1963-1998, Thirty-Five Years of Spiritual Life:

Dr. Douglas P. Wright, Senior Pastor from 1980 until 1989, compiled "The First Twenty-Five Years of the First Presbyterian Church of Sun City - 1963-1988" and we quote his version of this historic period in the life of our church until his retirement ...

The Reverend Mr. Wright began work on his doctoral program in October 1981...

In the year 1982 Dr. Wright began the radio program "Reflections on Life" on what is now radio station KONC-FM.  This weekly 30-minute Sunday morning broadcast was heard throughout the Phoenix metropolitan area by shut-ins and others and received very favorable response...

The Reverend Dr. Wright completed work on and received his Doctorate from San Francisco Theological Seminary in May [1985]...

At the October 29, 1987, congregational meeting, Dr. Douglas Wright asked the congregation to concur with his request to dissolve the pastoral relation effective January 31, 1989, to enable him to retire...

Dr. Wright retired on January 31, 1989, and on May 7, 1989, The Reverend Robert V. Martz was installed as Senior Pastor.

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Late 80's

Mrs. Ruth Scheibe resigned as Financial Secretary in 1985 and church member Charlotte Pooley was hired to fill that position. Charlotte has many happy memories of working with the staff during those years; her office was what we refer to as the Agua Fria Room off the vestibule into Swain Hall. Charlotte still volunteers Tuesday mornings helping to count our Sunday collections. She especially remembers the full-of-fun lunch breaks when the four staff members and three clergy would gather, with their sandwiches, to share the lunch hour. Those funny, teasing, social gatherings were also remembered by Rev. Richard Zabriskie as the best of times.

The Rev. Richard E. Zabriskie was hired March 1, 1986, as Associate Pastor for Parish Life and Education. During the eight and a half years he served at 1st Presbyterian he and wife, Karen, scheduled many fun tours for church members. Some of the most memorable trips were the Mission tours to California, New Mexico and Arizona. Rev. Zabriskie began a grief support group in 1987 called “New Beginnings” and the “Kerygma Bible Study” program as well as continuing the University of Life program that was well attended by the community at large.

Rev. Zabriskie thoroughly enjoyed visiting people in their homes or other places and would like to have done more of it. He said composing sermons always seemed to take longer than he expected and he frequently made late trips home on his motorcycle. One dark night he thought he could slip unnoticed through a red light at Grand Avenue, but it was not to be. A Peoria policeman, from way down Grand Avenue, saw him and he received two tickets, one for going through the red light and another for his expired driver’s license. After attending driver’s school he observed that “He’d learned a hard lesson.”
 ~ Donna Roth

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Early 80's

The early 1980s brought continued growth and prosperity to The First Presbyterian Church of Sun City. In December of 1981 the Rev. Gayle Beanland was installed as the first Minister of Visitation while Rev. John Becker became the Associate Pastor of Parish Life & Education. In 1982 Dr. Wright began a 30-minute Sunday morning radio program titled “Reflections on Life” broadcasting over what is now station KONC FM. His program was very popular with the home-bound and many others throughout the entire Phoenix metropolitan area.

In 1983 the church pledged $100,000.00 over their usual pledge to help the Mission Program for the Synod of the Southwest. June of 1984 brought the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA to Phoenix with the Rev. Dr. Douglas Wright serving as General Chairman of the host committee for the 10 day event. In 1985, two years ahead of schedule, the church celebrated freedom of all debts from their building projects…truly a banner year! That same year the Memorial Committee replaced the white plastic windows on the north side of the sanctuary with beautifully faceted stained glass memorial windows.
~Donna Roth

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Sanctuary Stained Glass

North wall stained glass

While entering the church through the west narthex you are aware of five magnificent stained glass windows topping the stonework of the north wall.  White plastic windows were replaced in 1985 with the explosive color of stained glass.  The windows were dedicated to 32 church members from an accumulated memorial fund of $22,425 as per correspondence by Dr. Douglas Wright. 

The opulent windows are in five sections, four of which represent Jesus' disciples.  The west window is for Mathew; its flowing water (from Mathew 29:19)
Dove detail in center north window
reflects his orders to go forth and baptize.  The second section, a crown, represents the young Apostle Mark.  The center window is the memorial to member Josephine Burgoon, the white dove symbolic of the Holy Spirit.  The fourth window is for the healing miracles in the book of Luke the physician, and the east window is for John, the star with the lamb representing Jesus, "The Lamb of God."

A quote from the church bulletin at the stained glass memorial service of January 19,1986 is self-explanatory.  "The design is the result of nearly three years of study
Detail of east peak glass
on behalf of the Memorial Committee members and others working in consultation with the artist, Walter W. Judson, of the Judson Studios in Los Angeles, California."  The Judson Studios, established by three brothers in 1897, is family-owned and presently run by their fifth generation.

The stained glass at the west wall peak was installed in 1970 for $2845.  The structural stained glass along the eaves and peak of the east wall replaced white plastic windows in 1969, three years before the church expansion of 1972.  I was unable to find another order or receipt for east wall windows during 1972.  It would have made sense to re-use the same windows in the reconstruction at their price of $3680 and I am guessing that is what happened. 

How fortunate we are to have such elegance of design and such profoundly beautiful windows to grace our services and house of worship.
~ Donna Roth
(Thank you, Norma Mack, for your patient help!)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Our Witness and Mission

Reproduced from First Presbyterian Church of Sun City 19633-1998, Thirty-Five Years of Spiritual Life.

As members of the First Presbyterian Church of Sun City, we affirm that our individual and corporate existence centers in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord.

We are an adult community of faith, gathered by God and blessed by God with a wide range of education and leadership, with time and resources to be challenged, and with needs of love and ministry to be met.

We are here to strengthen our beliefs and actions by study and worship in Word and Sacrament; to celebrate and bear witness to God's redeeming love in Jesus Christ; to claim the world as the arena of God's activity and the object of His love; to demonstrate love for one another by responding to human needs in our community and throughout the world, and to participate joyfully in the Kingdom of God.


We reach out:
  • to provide the Word of God through worship and sacraments.
  • to seek to alleviate pain and suffering in our community and our world by volunteerism and financial and emotional support.
  • to offer fellowship and concern to persons in Sun City and beyond.
  • to provide a wide range of opportunities for involvement in areas of education, social activities and community participation.
  • to educate Elders and Deacons to be effective and responsible coordinators of services.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Time Capsule

What mementos would you have placed within a box buried at the cornerstone of this church?  I don't know at which corner the box is but I can share with you what it contains.  Our box holds a Bible (a gift to Rev. Surber from his grandparents on his 12th birthday), a brochure describing the church building program listing the architect, the names of the building committee, the finance committee, the board of Elders and Deacons, and a roster of Church membership.  It also holds an article from the News Sun about the congregation's decision to build a new church, a copy of the Sun Citizen describing the ground breaking, a clipping from the Arizona Republic with a photo of the seven ministers, active and retired, who had served this church, and finally, the envelope in which R. Holmes, contractor, had submitted his successful bid for church construction.

A newspaper photo from December 20, 1965 shows architect Wallace H. Brown watching as Rev. Charles A. Surber places a small box, about a foot long by 7 or 8 inches wide and tall, into a hollow concrete block.  That solemn and joyful ceremony took place on Monday, December 27, 1965.

The lead box had been thoroughly sealed with solder.
~Donna Roth

Should we put together another time capsule in honor of our 50th anniversary?  What might we store inside it, and where could it be placed?  Leave a comment and let us know what you think!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

What Else Happened in 1978?

First Presbyterian celebrated its 15th anniversary in 1978.  Here are some of the other things that happened that year:
  • Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Premier Menachem Begin signed the Middle East "Framework for Peace" at a Camp David summit arranged by President Jimmy Carter.
  • Pope Paul VI died and was succeeded by John Paul 1, who in turn died after only 34 days in office and was succeeded by John Paul II.
  • Jim Jones's followers committed mass suicide in Jonestown, Guyana.
  • The first computer bulletin board was created and Texas Instruments patented the first "micro on a chip."
  • Annie Hall won the Academy Award for Best Picture.
  • The BeeGees' Saturday Night Fever album was #1 for 24 weeks.
  • The US issued its first copyrighted postage stamp (the Carl Sandburg stamp).
  • Leon Spinks beat Mohammed Ali for the heavyweight boxing title.
  • Velcro appeared on the market.

Read more at:
Top News Stories from 1978 |

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Our Fifteenth Anniversary

The nation’s Bicentennial of 1976 was a very active year at First Presbyterian Church of Sun City. University of Life classes, which continue today, were introduced. Plans were approved for a new, much-needed office building and Memorial Chapel that would seat 145 persons. A new Pictorial directory was published, graced with a cover printed in color.

March of 1977 brought ground breaking for the new Memorial Chapel and office building. All furnishings for the chapel, including the windows, pews, carpet, light fixtures, etc., were purchased by church members as Memorial gifts. Financing for the Chapel was completely provided by loans from church members. A new Handbell Choir was being directed by Mrs. Beryl Brandes. By December of 1977 both the Memorial Chapel and office building were completed, had been dedicated and were in use.

The fifteenth anniversary of the First Presbyterian Church was celebrated in 1978 by a capacity crowd at the Lakes Club for a “sit down” dinner. Membership had reached an all-time high of 1,478 members and 113 affiliate members. The Rev. Victor Augsburger became Minister of Visitation and the church had its first mission tour. The “Dial-a-Prayer” program began that year and continues today as part of our outreach program.

Dr. Calhoun retired on October 31, 1979, The Rev. Clifford Chaffee was added to the staff as an additional Minister of Visitation while his wife, Mary, became the new Director of Music. Dr. Lee Walker became “Consultant.” During 1971 a “Seder Supper” with members of the neighboring Jewish Temple was held, a retreat for 70 church members and spouses was planned and would take place at a resort near Tucson. The portrait gallery of past and present pastors of the church was completed by Kay Martin; the display adorns the walls of the courtyard sanctuary entrance and overflows to other areas.

The Rev. Douglas P. Wright was presented to the congregation as the 4th senior pastor on October 21, 1979, and installed on December 1, 1979. Dr. Wright would serve for nine years, the longest term for a senior pastor in the history of this church.

In talking to Dr. Wright, he recalled the University of Life which, at that time, met only once a year for four consecutive weeks—the assembly so large it would be broken up into smaller groups, each group studying a different topic ranging from Bible study to Finances. At the end of the four weeks the groups would gather together in the Sanctuary for a closing ceremony. He talked about having three Sunday church services, the first at 8:00 a.m. in the Chapel. Then he would hurry across the court and rush into the Sanctuary and up the steps of the chancel for the second service at 9:00 a.m., followed by the third service at 10:30 a.m. Many of the services were so crowded that chairs had to be placed in the aisles to accommodate worshippers.

Men’s breakfast seldom had fewer than 125 in attendance. At the monthly pot luck dinners, three banquet tables were pushed end to end to create a long table seating 24 in order to accommodate the 300 diners. Guests were told which food to bring and where they were to be seated. Their food was set at their table and they walked around the table to fill plates, each group of tables creating its own “pot luck” dinner. The Couple’s Club met on the first Friday of the month, Presbyterian Women and the Circles were all very active. This campus was a busy, swingin’ place!
~Donna Roth

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Communion Tables

Sunday, December 4th, 1977 saw the dedication of an intimate new Chapel at the First Presbyterian Church of Sun City.  The Chapel Chancel is graced by an elegantly carved Communion Table.  The facade of the table is a 38" x 20" depth relief of  4.5" replica of Leonardo DaVinci's "The Last Supper" by artist Willi Postler.  The linden wood carving is an authentic duplication of the 15' x 29' 1498 DaVinci "egg tempera" masterpiece which still dominates the dining hall of the Santa Maria delle Grazie Monastery in Milan, Italy.  The carving clearly depicts the room the disciples shared.  We see their bare or sandaled feet, the dining table still cluttered from their evening meal and we witness their agitation at the news Christ has given them.  Jesus has just announced that, before morning, one of them will betray him.  The twelve show their dismay with anger, disbelief or denial.  Looking at the carving we are so aware of their emotions and protests.

Relief panel from the Chapel Communion Table
The Chapel Communion Table was ordered October 6, 1977 by Wm. A. Comer of the First Presbyterian Memorial Committee from Adolf Heinzeller of Oberammergau, Germany.  Oberammergau is also the home of the famed Passion Plan.  The table and carving took nearly six months to complete.  The table was dedicated to honor Josephine (Mrs. Harold) Rohm by her husband, children and friends.  The carving was dedicated to J. Warford Cramer by his wife.  The price of the Chapel Communion table was the equivalent of a new Buick, $5,750.00.

Shortly after the dedication of the Chapel the renovation of the main church began.  By June 1, 1978 the dimensions and plans for a new Communion Table for the Church Sanctuary were established by Lee Edwin Walker.  The artist would be Ivo Demetz, the cost, $4,082.84 plus freight charges.  The order for the Sanctuary Table from the Jobin Company, Brienz, Switzerland was confirmed on November 17. 1978.  The table arrived in Sun City on May 3rd, 1979...a few weeks too late for the April 15th Easter Sunday Service.  The Jobin Company of Brienz is currently a school for student wood carvers but still serves lunch to visitors and welcomes many tourists.

Sanctuary Communion Table
 Artist Ivo Demetz and his carvers, rather than duplicating the entire painting of "The Last Supper," wisely chose to feature only Christ and His Disciples.  The carving, 21" tall x 6' wide, provided ample space to fully recreate the volatile scene.  The disciples are in groups of three, from the left, the first being Bartholomew, then James the Minor (Jesus' younger brother) and Andrew.  The second group consists of Judas, Peter and John.  Jesus sits calmly in the center.  The third group holds "doubting" Thomas, James the Elder and Philip and the last group Mathew, Thaddeus and Simon.  Each of the disciples displays behavior, ture to their character and personality, with shock, denial, anger or disbelief.  It is an explosive atmosphere!  View the carving up close to experience its impact.  You will be moved, I promise, there is nothing placid about "The Last Supper."
~Donna Roth

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Memorial Chapel

Excerpts from First Presbyterian Church of Sun City 1963-1998, Thirty-Five Years of Spiritual Life:

The year of 1977 was marked by several highlights in the live of the church.  In March, ground was broken for the new chapel and office building.  These facilities, providing a beautiful chapel seating 145 persons and fully equipped office building were completed and dedicated in December.  All furnishings, windows, pews, carpet, door, light fixtures, etc. for the chapel were made possible through memorial gifts.  The total cost of construction for the two buildings was subsidized by loans from church members...

The Memorial Chapel is intended to be a living memorial to the members, friends and loved ones of First Church who have lived and died in the Lord, and who have joined the Church Triumphant.  It is dedicated to those who have known Him, loved Him, served Him - here or elsewhere - and who have now gone to be with Him.

The Memorial Books in the Chapel provide a permanent record of each individual memorial.  The Chapel Narthex was designed to display these books in a simple, attractive manner.

The Memorial Chapel; windows by
Wilmar Glass Fabrications of Flagstaff, AZ
The names of all regular or affiliate members of First Church who have gone to Glory since the founding of the church here in Sun City are inscribed in one of the books.  Each year at the annual meeting of the congregation, the names of those who have died during the year are read and a time for remembering is held.

From December 29, 1965, to the present, the members and friends of First Church have been most loving and giving.  In the books are recorded the donors and gifts - everything from the Church steeple, Last Supper carvings and art glass window, to the Allen organ.

Please feel free to visit the Chapel and read this interesting part of our Church history.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Church is Ten Years Old

The following paragraph is a quote from the First Presbyterian Church of Sun City, 1963-1998, Thirty Five Years of Spiritual Life. The statement was the result of the realization that church facilities were inadequate to accommodate the three Sunday services and social activities of the congregation.

“In October 1971, the congregation voted to proceed with a total remodeling project and set up a Building Fund Committee to plan for and conduct a campaign for funds. By February 1972 the estimated cost of the remodeling project was set at $281,000, of which $150,000 was hoped to be raised through loans by members of the church and $95,000 from cash and pledges. The balance would be borrowed from the Board of National Missions.”

Entry to the office wing
In December of 1971 the Rev. Peter DeBeer submitted his resignation for health reasons and, in 1972, Dr. Samuel S. George was hired to replace him as the Minister of Visitation. By December 1972 the proposed remodeling and expansion of the church was completed, thus creating the campus we are familiar with today. Construction had included increasing the size of Swain Hall; adding office space, restrooms and the entrance; enlarging the size of the Sanctuary and Chancel; increasing seating in the Nave from 254 to 550 with 40 in the choir loft; and adding the courtyard Narthex; with the present Choir room called the Westminster Room.

 A second Presbyterian Church was being planned to be built in phase 2, their organizing committee and congregation used the facilities at First Church during 1972 under the pastoral leadership of Dr. J. David Illingworth. A few years later, in 1975, a gift of $1,500.00 was presented to Faith Presbyterian to assist them with their new church.

 Early in 1973 Dr. Swain requested that he be allowed to retire at the end of the year. The pastoral team then consisted of Dr. Samuel S. George, Pastor of Visitation; Dr. Rex S. Clements, who would preach during midweek Lenten services; and Dr. Gerald F. Richardson, who would lead Bible study in the fall. Dr. Richardson organized the Men’s Breakfast Fellowship, still active today. At the beginning of 1974 the Pastoral Nominating Committee presented the Rev. Paul Bailey Calhoun, D.D., pastor from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Dr. Calhoun was installed as the third Senior Pastor of First Church on March 31, 1974. Dr. Lee Edwin Walker joined the staff as Minister of Pastoral Care in July of that same year.

Joining First Presbyterian Church in 1974 was our most senior church member, Mrs. Bennett (Edna) Wills, who celebrated her centennial birthday this past January. Edna, a registered nurse, still lives in her own home with the help of her daughter, Nancy, living nearby. Edna was a very active church member and a talented Bridge player whose creativity graced many First Church social activities. Edna became a First Church member on April 5, 1974, accompanied by the new senior pastor’s wife, Ruth Calhoun, Dr. Calhoun’s parents, and his sister. Dr. Bennett Wills died in 1976 of a respiratory illness contracted while in the service.

~Donna Roth

Monday, June 17, 2013

Did You Know?

Interesting facts about our early days:
  • The United Presbyterian Church was the original name.
  • The church property is next to an Arizona Public Services substation - not the most attractive potential neighbor.  Early in 1963, APS advised the church that if we wanted to plant an oleander hedge along the south edge of our property to partially screen the view of the substation, APS would install the necessary piping and provide the water.  The offer was gratefully accepted.
  • One of the first purchases made by the new church, since no secretary had yet been hired, was an answerphone attachment for the pastor's telephone - an early version of an answering machine.
  • The monthly church newsletter was originally called "The Desert Chimes."
  • Shortly after the congregation moved into the new church an argument erupted over whether the American flag should be placed to the right or the left of the pulpit.  Feeling ran so high over this matter that several members left the church.
  • The first baptism in the church was held on July 31, 1966, for the grandchild of Mr. and Mrs. David Baird.  Many grandchildren have received the sacrament of baptism here since, including Emerson DahlDavis, the granddaughter of our current pastor, Rev. Davis.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Delbert K. Scruby Memorial Fountain

Excerpted from First Presbyterian Church of Sun City 1963-1998, Thirty-Five Years of Spiritual Life:

During 1965 gifts of money for the fountain in the patio and the carpet in the Fireside Room were made.  The fountain was a knotty problem for some time as no agreement could be reached concerning the type of fountain or what statuary was to be used.  A Christian flag was also presented, complete with standards for holding the flag, and a cash gift for 100 additional hymnals was made.  Sun City merchants gave $285.00 for this first building fund...

The church was not without tragedy.  In December 1966 it was noted that the Treasurer had been "missing" since November 30, the date he had gone on a rock hunting expedition in the Superstition Mountains.  Session decided they should select a new Treasurer but not place him on the Session until the missing man was proven dead, or at the expiration of his term of office in 1967.  In February, Session agreed they could no longer miss the missing man as "excused."  In December of 1967 Delbert K. Scruby was presumed officially dead and his name removed from the church roll.  A skeleton was eventually found in September 1968 and identified as Mr. Scruby...

In 1968 a three-member committee was chosen to again consider the matter of statuary or ornament for the patio fountain.  The Fountain Committee was dissolved when the Scruby family asked to be allowed the responsibility of obtaining the suitable statuary as a memorial to Mr. Scruby.  Session approved.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Church Needs to Expand

Our First Presbyterian Church of 1966 was not the church we know today. Entry was still made from the 103rd Avenue Narthex. The enclosed gallery still led south to the restrooms, the new Fellowship Hall and the kitchen. The Fellowship Hall was 38 by 59 feet, half the size we enjoy today. There were no stage, entrance, restrooms nor storage areas; entrance was made from the door west of the window wall or from the gallery.

Along the gallery, in the area of the present kitchenette, was the choir room and, south of it, the mechanical room. The Fireside Room was just as it is today, our present Library was an office, and the adjoining office was a study. A tiny little kitchenette conveniently opened into the Fireside Room.

The Nave of the sanctuary had seating for 255, with the interior of the building ending at the junction where the roof expands to cover the present “Penalty Box” (as the Transept seating area is sometimes referred to), the Chancel and Choir Loft. The Chancel was on the east so worshippers faced Jerusalem, as the architect had planned, with the Choir Loft and organ along the south side. The First Presbyterian Church of 1966 was well planned and compact.

In March 1969 the Rev. Surber requested that he be allowed to accept a position as pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Florence, Arizona, where he would also serve as
pastor at the prison. The first church pictorial directory was published during Rev. Surber’s term as pastor.

On Nov. 2, 1969, the Rev. George Christie Swain, D.D., was installed as the second pastor of the First Presbyterian Church. The Rev. Peter DeBeer began serving as assistant Pastor of Visitation in December 1969. Church membership had grown to 444 at the end of 1969, to 657 by the end of 1970, 902 by the end of 1971 and 1058 by the close of 1972 under Dr. Swain’s leadership. It was becoming increasingly evident that the facilities were inadequate to accommodate the growing membership and weekly activities of the church.

 ~Donna Roth

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Dedication

This is the cover of the program from the Service of Dedication for the new church:

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The First Service

In September of of 1965, Mr. Brown, church member and the chosen architect, accepted a salary of $100.00 a month, which was later increased to $142.00.

During 1965, gifts and donations for the church were received, including the fountain, one hundred more hymnals and a Christian Flag. The corner stone was laid on December 27th, 1965. The corner stone held a lead box with a Bible given to Rev. Surber from his grandparents when he was 12, a brochure about the construction of the church, the name of the architect, and a newspaper article, with pictures describing the new construction and information about the church members.

In the spring of 1966 the church received a letter from a bonding company saying that the Construction Company had financial problems and the church should keep the area of construction locked up with armed guards. No harm ever came of the financial problem and construction resumed without incident.

During this time a heated argument arose over having a weather vane or a cross on the steeple. An oral vote was taken with a 21 to 21 vote tie received. A written vote followed of 30 to 29 favoring the weather vane which had been in the original plans of the architect thus a savings of $150.00 in expenses.

On June 2, 1966, the first Session meeting was held in the new church building, on June 5, 1966 the first worship service took place in the sanctuary and the new Fellowship Hall was used for the very first time.

An excerpt from the moving description of the new church by Dr. Emil Fischer, architect and member of Session states: "Christ and his disciples delivered their message of one God, forgiveness and love, on rocky hillsides, sheltered by the tall cedars of Lebanon. These natural objects of God's creation provided an ideal environment to reinforce the message."

~Donna Roth

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

What Else Was Happening in 1963?

  • President John F. Kennedy was assassinated
  • Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his "I have a dream" speech during a Civil Rights march on Washington
  • Pope John XXIII died and Pope Paul VI was elected
  • Audio cassette tapes, touch-tone telephones, and FM radios for cars were introduced
  • The first multiplex movie theater opened
  • The ZIP (Zone Improvement Plan) code was implemented
  • Top song of 1963: "Blue Velvet" by Bobbie Vinton
  • Best Picture Oscar: "Tom Jones"
  • On TV, "Leave it to Beaver" ended, Donnie Osmond debuted on the Andy Williams Show, and Pebbles Flintstone was born 
  • Average cost of a gallon of gas: $.25-$.30
  • Average cost of a new car: $2,300

To find out more about what happened in 1963, or to walk down memory lane, check out:

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Architecture of the Church

Excerpted from First Presbyterian Church of Sun City 1963-1998, Thirty-Five Years of Spiritual Life.

Dr. Emil Fischer, distinguished architect and member of Session, wrote the following notes on the architecture of First Presbyterian Church of Sun City:

"Before we examine the architecture of the First Presbyterian Church, let's turn back the pages of history and briefly examine the characteristics of the religious architecture developed by the Early Christians.

"The Roman Emperor Constantine had eliminated religious persecution by the end of the Fourth Century A.D. and the number of converts to Christianity rapidly increased.  At this time, however, the over-extended Roman Empire was being weakened by a conbination of infiltrations by barbarous tribes, rising inflation and decreasing loyalty of the armed forces.  When Constantine moved the Capitol from Rome to Contantinople (now Istanbul), several government structures in Italy were abandoned.  One of these structures, the Basilica, previously used by the Romans as a court of law, could easily be converted into an enclosure for Christian worship.  The raised semi-circular end, called the Bema, where judges and jurors sat became the location for the preacher and elders.  The Christians renamed this area the Sanctuary.  The side entrance was relocated to the opposite end and a standard plan for the Christian service developed - the Basilica plan.  When services became more elaborate and attendance increased, Transepts were added.  Now the plan resembled the Latin cross.  Clement of Rome likened the struggling church as a ship engaged in a violent storm.  The main body of the church serving the congregation was called the 'Nave' from the Latin 'Navis,' meaning ship.  When new churches were built, this plan was oriented to permit worshipers to face east - face Jerusalem.

"Now we are ready to enter our church.  As we pass through the Narthex and enter the Nave, we find ourselves not only entering a traditional basilica arrangement but, as we walk to our pew, we are also facing Jerusalem.

"Christ and his disciples delivered their message of one God, forgiveness and love on rocky hillsides sheltered by the tall cedars of Lebanon.  These natural objects of God's creation provided an ideal environment to reinforce 'the message.'

"When architect Brown, a member of this congregation, designed our church in 1968, he obviously attempted to create an interior that would recall this environment.  He limited materials to wood and stone, and assembled them in a very simple, honest manner.  In 1972 the interior was enlarged and a transept was added.

"The Reformation replaced the Altar with the Communion Table and this feature in our church, flanked by the pulpit and choir, is silhouetted against a massive wall of stone.

"Laminated wood rafters, firmly anchored into stone buttresses, support the naturally-finished wood planks that form the roof and ceiling.  The roof is self-supporting.  It does not rely on walls for support.  Roof rafters are anchored onto stone buttresses, visible to the congregation, on the south side of the Nave and sweep over the truncated stone wall on the north to be secured by exterior stone buttresses.  This unique arrangement provides considerable flexibility.  The non-bearing walls flanking the Nave may be removed, relocated, or the material changed without affecting the structure.  The exposed structure of natural materials, honestly expressed, is also a subtle reminder of the environment experienced by those Galilieans as they assembled on the rock-strewn, tree-sheltered hillsides.

"Individual light fixtures, suspended from the ceiling in many churches, not only create disturbing distractions, but often interfere with the ability to look up and see the pastor in the pulpit.  The sources of illumination in the First Presbyterian Church are concealed in troughs and the light reflected by the sloping ceiling.  Consequently, the congregation is bathed in light approximating daylight.

"By the Seventh Century A.D., bells were rung to summon the faithful.  At that time, especially in Italy, these bells were housed in towers separated from the church.  We are aware of the continuance of this tradition when we visit Florence or the Church of St. Marks in Venice.  The architectural composition of the First Presbyterian Church also follows this tradition.  Our bell tower, or Campanile as it was originally named, greets us as we approach the main entrance.

"The asymmetrical design of the roof should probably be clarified.  The pitch of the north roof slope allows the rafters to clear the stone wall and become secured on the exterior buttresses.  If the south slope reflected the same pitch, the rafters would penetrate the room adjacent to the south side of the church, so the architect increased the pitch of these rafters and anchored them in the Nave.  If the pitch of both slopes was decreased to obtain symmetry, we would bump our heads on the rafters as we entered a pew from the south side aisle.

"Winston Chruchill once remarked - 'Man shapes the building, but then the building shapes us.'  As we assemble each Sunday to hear God's message in word and song, we are subconsiously affected by this environment.  God provided the materials and man assembled them in a simple, honest manner.  When our pastors address us on Sundays in this unpretentious enclosure of wood and stone, may we empathize with those brave apostles preaching 'the message' to the faithful gathered on the tree-sheltered rocky slopes of the Galilean countryside."

Monday, June 10, 2013

Construction Progress

Reproduced from First Presbyterian Church of Sun City 1963-1998: Thirty-Five Years of Spiritual Life:

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Building the Church

Presbyterian Church services would continue at the Sun City Town Hall, conducted by ministers from the Presbytery until completion of a new church. At the service of October 14, 1962, twenty-eight charter member cards were received; by December there were fifty-two on whose faith the present church was developed.

A steering committee to organize the infant church was formed on December 12, 1962. A few weeks later The Rev. Charles Arthur Surber was invited to be the organizing pastor for the new United Presbyterian Church.

On Palm Sunday, April 7, 1963, the new church was formally organized. Rev. Surber was installed as Pastor, a nine-member Session and a seven-member Board of Deacons was installed. The new First Presbyterian Church of Sun City was born. Church services continued to be held at the Town Hall and all other meetings at the Pastor's or members' homes.

The need to erect a new building was realized and by April of 1964 a building committee was established with Arthur Cherry as chairman and Duncan Lowe as financial chairman. Through the rest of 1964 this committee discussed plans, interviewed architects, visited other churches and studied finances.

On September 15, 1965, a contract was awarded to the R. Holmes Construction Company in the amount of $167,575.00. Two weeks later ground was broken for the new church. Church membership had expanded to 223.

First United Presbyterian Church of Sun City is part of the family of churches which traces its heritage back to John Calvin and to John Knox, in Scotland. The connectional relationship is to the Presbytery of Grand Canyon, the Synod of the Southwest, and the General Assembly of the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.

In its mission outreach it is related to the support of many specific projects of ministry and service, some as near as Sun Valley Lodge next door and some as far away as mission fields on the other side of the world.

In the Presbyterian form of government, members of the church live and serve together under the leadership of the officers they elect. At First Presbyterian it consists of the Teaching Elder, The Rev. Harrell Davis; the officers of the Session, composed of nine Ruling Elders, and the Board of Deacons elected to the service of the welfare work of the church.

~Donna Roth

Friday, June 7, 2013

How The Church Was Founded

Excerpts from First Presbyterian Church of Sun City 1963 to 1988:

In 1959 the Del E. Webb Company was busy constructing a nine-hole golf course, a shopping center with a supermarket and five model homes just east of and adjacent to Youngtown.

Youngtown, the country's first full-fledged retirement community, was begun in 1954 and those purchasing there had to be 60 years of age. Youngtown had about 100 residents.  Sun Citians were welcome to worship in Youngtown but they wanted their own churches and an interdenominational one.

The United Church of Sun City was the first to be completed. Others followed soon after or were on the drawing board. Some Lutherans and a group of Episcopalians were holding services in the Town Hall (now Fairway Center) awaiting completion of their respective buildings. This was early in 1962.

On October 7, 1962, a group of Presbyterians met for worship at the Town Hall under the guidance of the Church Extension Board of the Presbytery of Phoenix. The Rev. Claude L. Morton, acting Executive Secretary of the Synod of Arizona, carried much of the responsibility for guiding the work of a board of dedicated laymen. This work was begun with the permission of the Phoenix Valley of the Sun Council of Churches.

A site was purchased by the Board of National Missions of the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. by the Church Extension Board. The site was located near 103rd Avenue and Alabama Avenue.

~Donna Roth

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Happy Anniversary to Us

This year the First Presbyterian Church of Sun City turns 50, and to celebrate we're telling our story to the world.  In this blog we'll talk about our history, show photos past and present, discuss our rebranding efforts, and give you a preview of this fall's anniversary bash. Welcome - and come back soon!