Church: First Christian Church, 1915 Chapala St.
Service Attended: Sunday, 10:30 a.m.
Pastor: Ed Arbogast
Denomination: Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Congregation Size: 45 attending
Services: Spiritual Development, Sunday at 9:00 a.m.; Worship, Sunday at 10:30 a.m.
Contact: Call 682-9228 or visit fccsbca.com.
Although the history of Christianity in America dates back to the first European colonists, there were no uniquely American denominations until the early 1800s. The Disciples of Christ, believing that the divisive doctrinal quarrels between different Protestant sects were destructive and unnecessary, founded a new denomination, the Christian Church. They expanded quickly into the newly opened west. Today, the Christian Church flourishes all over the country, including in Santa Barbara – the First Christian Church of Santa Barbara has been here since 1888.
Unlike other Protestant denominations, the Disciples of Christ are a congregationally based church – or rather, an affiliation of independent churches. Each is unique, and each congregation chooses its own pastor and determines which type of service they prefer.
This church is a relatively contemporary and informal gathering. Pastor Ed Arbogast’s sermon was peppered with jokes and delivered in colloquial language. Pastor Ed is also not above picking up a tambourine and helping to accompany the hymns – it’s easy to see why this congregation chose him.
And although Pastor Ed does an excellent job of leading the church through their worship service, the autonomous quality of the congregation shines through. Every single person in this small and close-knit group knows their part in the church’s activities, from leading a hymn to passing the communion tray, and none of them miss a beat.
The First Christian Church might be a very good choice for a new Santa Barbara resident without close ties to a specific denomination of Christianity. Although in my time writing Your Worship I’ve never visited a church that wasn’t welcoming and friendly to guests, the First Christian Church is not only personally friendly but doctrinally friendly. They’re open to Christians of any stripe, and don’t impose a specific set of beliefs or worship practices beyond those common to all Protestants. They also offer opportunities to be active in the community at large – one of their greatest strengths is their charitable activity.
One of the most striking features of their demographic makeup was the lack of young people; the age of those attending ranged from the early thirties to elderly, with no children to be seen. Although the Pastor didn’t say so, it’s also clear that the congregation might welcome new families, in addition to individuals.