By Hayden LePore–
Tracing its roots back to the early 1900s, the Friends Church has been an established presence in Citrus Heights — first meeting at the old Sylvan School house on Sylvan Road, before constructing a still-standing historic church building on Old Auburn Road, and later moving to their current church building at the corner of Fair Oaks Boulevard and Woodmore Oaks Drive.
On the weekend of Sept. 29-30, the church will celebrate its 100th anniversary with several events, including a Saturday open house displaying pictures, reading stories, showing videos, and sharing about the history of the church from 1-5 p.m. on the 29th, including a re-dedication service from 2:30-3:30 p.m. with previous pastors, missionaries, and Citrus Heights Vice Mayor Jeannie Bruins, whose son attended the Little Friends Preschool, which the church started in 1974 after moving to its 7070 Woodmore Oaks Drive location.
The anniversary focus will continue through Sunday morning, where the church is planning on coffee and fellowship at 9 a.m. and a worship service at 10 a.m.
“Saturday is looking back, where we’ve been and who we are, and Sunday will be focused on where we are going and what it will be like for the next 100 years,” Pastor Tweed Moore told The Sentinel in an interview. Moore has been the pastor of the church since 1998 and has served the longest tenure of any pastor at the church.
The Friends Church was started by a Quaker family from Oklahoma, Walter and Gertrude Leonard, who moved to Citrus Heights in 1914 with their eight children. They began Sunday school services at the Sylvan School house in 1917.
“They called their first pastor, Terry Hollingsworth, from another Quaker church so that he could pastor the Citrus Heights church, which in 1919 he became the pastor,” Moore said, noting that the new pastor was paid $15 a month and rode 100 miles on his bicycle to Citrus Heights from Denair, near Turlock.
Congregants originally met at the schoolhouse on Sylvan Road until they purchased land for a new church building at 7600 Old Auburn Rd. in 1919, and in June 1921 they opened and dedicated the new church for services. It was the first church in the area, and has been officially recognized by the City of Citrus Heights with a historical plaque placed outside the still-standing church building on Old Auburn Road, which is now home to Pioneer Baptist Church.
They met in that building for a little over 50 years, until they outgrew the facility and built a new church building on Woodmore Oaks Drive, where they currently meet today.
Moore said his congregation’s 100-year anniversary is a major milestone for the church because many churches don’t last to be 100 years. He said the average lifespan of a church is 80 years, attributing the reason being due to generational differences.
“It’s generational, you can’t effectively pass it down to the next generation,” said Moore, noting his church has had many changes of its own throughout the years.
“At its older services, it was choir and everyone with suits and ties. Today, you would see a full band with guitars and vocalists and people dress more casually,” Moore said, while noting the message has stayed the same. “Style is one thing, but content is another. We are Christ-centered, Bible-based, and Spirit-directed.”
The Friends Church in Citrus Heights is an Evangelical Quaker church and is associated with the Evangelical Friends Church Southwest. Quakers trace their roots back to the mid-1600s and have historically been known for their adherence to pacifism and their involvement in the women’s suffrage movement, opposing slavery and other social causes.
Although the number of adherents today numbers only about 300,000 world wide, according to History.com, well-known Quakers have included two U.S. presidents, Herbert Hoover and Richard Nixon. The founder of Cadbury chocolates, John Cadbury, was also a Quaker, who sought to provide cocoa and chocolate in an effort to help “alleviate some of the alcohol-related causes of poverty and deprivation amongst working people,” according to the chocolate company’s website.
For a schedule of upcoming events planned for the church’s 100-year anniversary, visit www.friendschurchonline.com.