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Church celebrates 75 years

Posted: March 17, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: March 17, 2012 1:55 a.m.

A foyer picture collage displays pictures of church families past and present as part of The Sanctuary’s recent 75-year anniversary.

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Seventy-five years ago, German immigrant and farmer Otto Heinrich — inspired to dedicate his life to God — established

The Sanctuary on a tiny plot of land along Sierra Highway in Canyon Country.

The small chapel came with a monthly mortgage of $37 and included a potbellied stove to keep the congregation warm on cold days.

Now on Friendly Valley Parkway, The Sanctuary, a Foursquare denominational church, recently celebrated its 75th anniversary with hundreds of special guests during a special ceremony and reception.

The fruit of labor
The Sanctuary hosted the March 4 celebration “A Mosaic of Our Lives Together” to commemorate the church’s rich and long history while reflecting on what it means for the church body.

Executive Pastor Jonathan Edwards linked the celebration to a mosaic, explaining The Sanctuary formed through a contribution of many people over the course of 75 years.

“A mosaic can also be pieces of broken glass and rock,” Edwards said. “Many people find themselves in the faith community coming out of brokenness in their own lives, but come together to form an interdependent strength in a community, much like a mosaic.”

Fittingly, many key pieces of the evening event depicted mosaics. Congregation members brought various photos that represent important events and figures throughout the church’s history.

“We are here because people in our past worked hard to get us here,” Senior Pastor Marty Walker said. “We are eating the fruit of the garden that someone else planted. Now we have to say, ‘What can we plant?’”

Fittingly, the theme of the “fruit of labor” was carried on. Instead of cake and coffee, members were asked to bring fruit and juice to contribute to the fruit mosaic arrangements and fruit platters for the reception.

A sense of home
The celebration with more than 400 attendees was observed by many prominent figures in the community who also recognized the importance of The Sanctuary’s 75 years serving the Santa Clarita Valley.

A presentation by a representative of Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, was given, and a representative for Assemblyman Cameron Smyth was on hand, as well as Santa Clarita City Councilman Bob Kellar.

Many longtime members of The Sanctuary also attended. Cynthia Siler, 53, and her family have attended The Sanctuary for more than 16 years.

“I didn’t realize the great amount of history that is a part of the church,” Siler said. “It really gave me a sense of being a part of something bigger than me. It showed me God has been doing something bigger than me for a long time.”

Other members in attendance happily remarked that even old members who had left the church or moved out of the area came back to commemorate the event.

“There is something still here at the church for them,” Siler said. “They still call it home.”

75 more to go
Heinrich served as pastor of the church for several years. In the early 1940s, he enlisted and left his little chapel and congregation to famed evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, who had recently birthed a denomination in Southern California known as Foursquare.

Under the names of the Mint Canyon Foursquare Church, the Canyon Country Church, and, most recently, The Sanctuary, the congregation would continue with 14 different pastors as part of the ever-developing Santa Clarita Valley.

As the church looks back on its 75 years, leaders are also looking ahead to growth on the horizon.

“When I came to the church, we were 30 people worshipping in a small chapel on Sierra Highway,” said Senior Pastor Walker, who has been with the church for 23 years. “Now, we are over 800 people.”

The Sanctuary continues to serve the community with outreach programs like the homeless shelter and ZOE international, a nonprofit organization that fights sex-slave trafficking in other countries.

“This 75 years doesn’t belong to me, but I can celebrate what others have done to get us here,” Walker said. “We have an obedience to the past which inspires us to carry on into the future. We are focusing on what we are doing now to get us to 150.”


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