While American cinema has often turned Halloween into an evil or gory holiday, it actually has its roots in religious traditions and celebrations. The term Halloween is shortened from All Hallows’ Even (both “even” and “eve” are abbreviations of “evening”, but “Halloween” gets its “n” from “even”) as it is the eve of “All Hallows’ Day” which is now also known as “All Saints’ Day”. In the ninth century, the Church measured the day as starting at sunset, in accordance with the Florentine calendar. Although All Saints’ Day is now considered to occur one day after Halloween, the two holidays were, at that time, celebrated on the same day. Liturgically, the Church traditionally celebrated that day as the Vigil of All Saints, and, until 1970, a day of fasting as well. Like other vigils, it was celebrated on the previous day if it fell on a Sunday, although secular celebrations of the holiday remained on the 31st. The Vigil was suppressed in 1955, but was later restored in the post-Vatican II calendar. As part of the “All Saints’ Day” belief, Halloween was perceived as the night during which the division between the world of the living and the otherworld was blurred so spirits of the saints (the dead) and inhabitants from “the underworld” were able to walk free on the earth. It was believed necessary to dress as a spirit or otherworldly creature when venturing outdoors to blend in, and this is where dressing in costume for Halloween comes from. This gradually evolved into trick-or-treating because children would knock on their neighbors’ doors, in order to gather fruit, nuts, and sweets for the Halloween festival. Salt was once sprinkled in the hair of the children to protect against evil spirits. The carved pumpkin lit by a candle inside, is one of Halloween’s most prominent symbols in America, and is commonly called a jack-o’-lantern. Originating in Europe, these lanterns were first carved from a turnip or rutabaga. Believing that the head was the most powerful part of the body containing the spirit and the knowledge, the Celts used the “head” of the vegetable to frighten off any superstitions. The name jack-o’-lantern can be traced back to the Irish legend of Stingy Jack, a greedy, gambling, hard-drinking old farmer. He tricked the devil into climbing a tree and trapped him by carving a cross into the tree trunk. In revenge, the devil placed a curse on Jack, condemning him to forever wander the earth at night with the only light he had: a candle inside of a hollowed turnip. The carving of pumpkins is associated with Halloween in North America, where pumpkins were readily available and much larger, making them easier to carve than turnips.
1885 – 1894
Whitcomb formed the Glendora Land Company to plan the town of Glendora. The Santa Fe Railroad arrived. The first lot was sold, which is where our church now sits. The first schools, churches and packing houses were built.
In our church, June 25, 1885 saw our congregation receive its charter with Rev. Kendrick serving as Pastor. The group which had been meeting for a few years, had grown from the pioneers led by Rev. B.J. Coulter whose evangelistic oak grove meetings inspired the Glendora/Azusa area and served as one of its first congregations. Our first church building was constructed on the corner of Wabash and Bennett in 1888. And the bell purchased by the Sunday school class which was first rung over a century ago is the same one we continue to use today.
1905 – 1924
In Glendora, the city paved Michigan Ave which is now Glendora Avenue and built a new city hall on Foothill Blvd. The first City Hall, which sits next door to First Christian Church, was eventually converted to the Historical Society building. Current City Hall was built in 1922 at Foothill & Glendora Ave. In 1922, the two lots that the church now stands on were purchased for $2,000 and a mortgage was given on the property. Twenty-five members of the church going on a promissory note for security, accepted responsibility equivalent to $1,000. Each on a $25,000 loan. The cornerstone of the new building was set on December 17, 1922. The new building was completed and dedicated on September 16, 1923. The total cost of the lots and the building was $78,000. It took 21 years to repay this loan.
1925 – 1934
At First Christian Church Glendora, Reverends Hilton, Roundtree and Jones led the congregation through these troubled times. The year 1931 saw Easter Morning Services held on the hill at the end of Michigan (now Glendora Ave).
1935 – 1954
In Glendora, where 2,800 people now lived, Walt Wiley had opened his “Valencia”, giving the McDonald brothers the inspiration for their restaurants. To contribute to the war effort, a propeller plant was constructed and many Glendorans were sent off to battle.
In our church, Reverend Frank Stipp succeeded Rev. Crain and continued in that post for 9-1/2 years. The church was reroofed, hearing aids were added as was a near heating plant and the church was redecorated. The big event was the 1945 burning of the mortgage, the church was debt free.
1955 – 1974
In Glendora, the citrus industry, long a basis for the local economy, was brought to an end. The population had risen to 20,752. Michigan Ave was changed to Glendora Ave. In our church Rev. Harry Nissen served in the pulpit, a post he held for ten years. The church was remodeled to make it earthquake resistant. Membership had grown from the original 21 members to 325 members in 1963.
In Glendora, the Foothill (210) freeway finally arrived, fire ravaged the foothills, and heavy January rains caused mudslides to inundate the city. In our church Reverends Warren, Cron and Foster led the congregation and our building served as a Red Cross Headquarters for flood victims.
1985 – 1992
In Glendora, Citrus Community College was annexed by the City.
In our church, Rev Vern Ellicott (Pastor) led the church and in 1987 -88 yearlong programs and events celebrated the 100th birthday of FCCG.
1993 – 2023
After a short interim time, the congregation called our first female pastor, Rev. Karen Komsak Davis, in January, 1993. First Christian Church has continued to be involved in ministry to the community. A few of the highlights in the last few decades include:
• Hosting events in our lower level as part of the community’s annual Holiday Stroll. In recent years we have held a Train Show and Santa, which has drawn several hundred in attendance.
• In 1999 we launched a free gunlock give away (along with the Methodist church). It drew local and national media attention.
• Also in 1999, along with the United Methodist Church, we started the East San Gabriel Valley CROP Walk for Church World Service and over the last 24 years have raised nearly $200,000 for hunger relief efforts
• In 2000, FCCG launched the Fine Arts Academy which continues to offer a variety of classes for children and adults.
• Also in 2000, we bought the “farmhouse” next door to the church. We gave the house to a family in town that preserved it and moved it to the historic district and we converted the land to a parking lot.
• In 2002, the FCCG Board approved Karen Davis serving as volunteer Chaplain with the Glendora Police Department as an extension of FCCG ministry.
• In 2003, in partnership with Citrus College ceramics and local potters, FCCG started the Glendora Empty Bowls project, giving funds for hunger relief to local agencies and Glendora PD
• In 2010, we agreed to charter a local Cub Scout Pack 482 and they continue to meet at the church.
• In 2013, we expanded Empty Bowls to include Empty Cups and partnered with Classic Coffee.
• In 2020, we added Facebook Live and YouTube channel and virtual ministry options during COVID pandemic, and continued to adopt ministry to meet and evolving world.
• In 2023 we commissioned a Public Art project on our iconic bell tower and continued to respond to God’s call to welcome all, and share God’s love and grace near and far.
(For more details of the church’s rich 138 history or the 100 year ministry at 300 N. Glendora Ave. please consult the history pamphlets available in the church office.)