OTO: The Land of Historic Churches and Ringing Handbells

Hello everybody and welcome back to the blog. If you’ve ever found yourself on a stroll in OTO, then you know our historic district is home to many churches. So many that it was difficult to find them all during our research. 

In one article from Chapman U, a professor said that back in the early 1900s, Orange was a place where anyone could come and worship, no matter their religion or denomination, which was rare. He says that in other cities at that time, one religion remained the dominant religion of that city, and says that is a testament to Orange’s tolerance. However, the professor also argues about divisions put in place in Orange in that time, that still have remnant effects today. We encourage you to read the article for yourself and stay educated on the real history!

This week, we thought we would share the history of some of the OTO churches, how you can get involved, and even share some insights from our friends Alex and Christian Gubert who work at St. Johns and Immanuel.


Son Light Christian Center

If you’ve even once strolled OTO, you definitely have passed the tall building on the corner of Glassell and Maple. The building that looks like a theater? Well that is because in 1923, West Coast Theaters Inc., the owners of many movie playhouses across Southern California, acquired the land and budgeted to build a $225,000 two-story cinema that was projected to be one of the greatest in Southern California. It wasn’t until 1929, that the Orange Circle Theater opened to its first feature film, Molly and Me (1929). And yes, folks, it was called The Circle. 

It wasn’t until 1976 that Son Light Christian Center found their home in Old Towne Orange. In December of 1975, they were able to raise enough funds to move from the upstairs of a motel in Anaheim and take over the space in Orange, and have been there ever since. You might have seen their enlightening marquees shining down Glassell St. For now, you can support this ministry by visiting their YouTube Channel, or signing up for their weekly sermon online.


First United Methodist Church of Orange

In 1873, the Methodist Episcopal Society of Orange County was what became the foundation for The First United Methodist Church of Orange. The current location of the church on South Orange St. is property that was donated by Captain Henry Glassell in 1875. Fun fact: They were the very first Methodist church to be commissioned in Orange County and the first church of any denomination to arrive in Old Towne Orange. To get involved and learn more information about FUMCO and COVID-19, visit their COVID-19 webpage.


New Hope Presbyterian Church

New Hope is community centered. They foster a sense of hope, family, and how not being perfect is okay. On their website, they have videos to share the testimonials about New Hope, where members say how much they feel the love. To get involved, you can livestream their worship services Saturdays at 5 P.M. on their YouTube channel.


Immanuel Lutheran Church

One of our two podcast guests this week is Christian Guebert, the director of ministries at Immanuel Church. In his role, he is in charge of everything music, from hiring live musicians to play during worship, to directing the choir. He decided to apply for the position while he was in the middle of getting his masters degree, and it ended up being a perfect fit. Christian shared a lot with us on the podcast, like how he has been working with Immanuel to host shortened, pre-recorded services that are available online, with music throughout of course. Immanuel is a Confessional Lutheran congregation that embraces the rich, Lutheran heritage of liturgy, hymnody, and sacred music. The Lutheran Service Book (LSB) is their primary hymnal. There are many opportunities to get involved through music at Immanuel. If you can sing in the choir, play an instrument, sing a solo, or be part of a musical ensemble, consider joining them once it is safe!


St. John’s Lutheran Church

St. John’s has also adapted to the new norm by going virtual on their website, and are now experimenting with an outdoor service!  We got the scoop from our second podcast guest, Alex Guebert, the associate director of music at St. John’s Church. Alex runs the music and organizes the worship services. After college, he started subbing handbells for the church group and worked his way up to his position now. At St. John’s, they worship through song, the reading and teaching of God’s Word and the sacraments.  There are many different types of opportunities to serve in the worship and music ministries.  From choir to handbells, you will be able to get involved once it is safe to do so. On the podcast, Alex even shares a concert recording of a handbell piece that was performed by cathedral bells at St. John’s! 

Listen to the entire podcast here or download it on your Spotify or Apple Podcasts app.

Thank you all for going on a fun tour of churches with us. There is so much history within each one of these churches, and there are so many more in Orange! Find what is right for you and your family – and be on the lookout for ways to get involved as soon as it is safe again. Have a great weekend everyone, and we will see you around town!

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Last Updated on July 2, 2020 by