Pasadena Covenant Church can trace its founding to April 19, 1922, with 26 charter members and $39.45 in gifts, under the auspices of the California Missionary Association. Most of the early members were Swedish domestics working for wealthy Pasadena patrons, and church growth in the early years came from the Swedish immigrant population. Reflecting the mission emphasis of the early 20th century, the church took the name Pasadena Mission Church, and land was purchased on one of Pasadena’s main throughways, Lake Avenue.
In 1924, the church joined the Mission Covenant Church of America and proceeded to build its first sanctuary with volunteer labor and gifts from the congregation. Mission and evangelism were the guiding goals of church life through the 1930s and 1940s. Services were conducted in Swedish until 1940, when the board of deacons voted for a switch to English. During this transition the church changed its name to the Evangelical Mission Covenant Church of Pasadena, shortened to Pasadena Covenant Church in 1972.
In the 1940s and 1950s the church expanded beyond the Scandinavian community with an emphasis on youth ministry and a robust and professional music program. Several churches were planted in Duarte, Monrovia, La Crescenta, Covina, Orange, Spring Valley, and Montecito. A youth building was added in 1962 to complement the original sanctuary. Average weekly attendance in 1965 exceeded 600, with an additional 300 at the Sunday evening service.
The church remained vibrant in the 1970s and 1980s, during which time key events reinforced the church’s earlier focus on mission and evangelism. The church continued to offer two full worship services each week, with a total of 500 to 600 attending. Mel White, a professor from Fuller Theological Seminary and a screenwriter, served as preaching pastor—and with a fresh integration of worship and the arts, attracted many newcomers. Following Mel White came John Bray, an adjunct history professor from Fuller and a Covenant pastor, who provided excellent biblical teaching and a call to discipleship within the context of our culture.
In the 1990s, under the pastorate of Charles Barker, PCC’s continued focus on outreach resulted in more new ministry commitments. These included the founding of Elizabeth House, a crisis pregnancy center that is now an independent non-profit, and the offering of our facilities and volunteer labor to host Pasadena’s Bad Weather Shelter, which provides refuge and meals in the winter for the homeless of greater Pasadena. During this period, Alpha courses, primers in the Christian faith, and the Thoughtful Journey speaker series were instituted in an effort to revive local evangelistic outreach, consonant with the church’s early evangelistic emphasis.
In 2003 a cross section of the church developed a Vision to Action Plan that defined our mission as “Seeking God …Sharing God.” Our current core values were formulated and three key foci were developed: Centrality of Prayer, Intentional Spiritual Formation, and “Doing Something Big beyond Our Walls.” One outreach resulting from this process was the successful partnering to plant Church of the Redeemer in south Los Angeles, a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, community-based ministry. Beginning in 2006, church leaders initiated a follow-up process to Vision to Action, evaluating the church’s progress and exploring further implementation. Over 100 congregants participated in house meetings during this process, and strongly reaffirmed the church’s commitment to its “Seeking God …Sharing God” mission. This mission calls us to be a church that facilitates spiritual formation through an inward, God-focused journey, coupled with an outward journey of relevant, meaningful service to our friends and city.
Early in this period, a house across the street from the sanctuary, which we came to call “The Corner House,” was purchased and renovated in authentic Craftsman style, becoming a popular meeting place for small groups. Additionally over the last few years, all of our children’s and youth facilities have been redecorated, creating a warm sense of hospitality. Finally, the church has retained its focus on cross-cultural mission, instituting a mini-grant program to encourage innovation and new ministries—both for members of our congregation considering short-term missions, and for current missionaries abroad exploring new initiatives.
Finally, PCC has been characterized by an extraordinarily high level of involvement and leadership by its members throughout the years. The church’s compelling history continues to animate the congregation and strengthen its commitment to “be the church” with one another and in the community of Pasadena. One of PCC’s own historians has summarized our church well: Even in challenging times, Pasadena Covenant has remained “a group of people who have been devoted, faithful, united, willing to change their methods while maintaining their objectives, and determined to reach others with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
The following are personal reflections on Pasadena Covenant and its history—some authored recently, some long ago—by some of our members.
- "The Evangelical Covenant Church of Pasadena, CA: A Brief History,” by Robert K. Johnston
- "The Legacy of Pasadena Covenant Church," by Elmer Fredrickson
- "Years Ago at PCC," by Marilyn Hanks
- "STORIES of the Past and VISIONS of the Future," by Dr. Paul Johnston
- The Pasadena Covenanter, July 1970, including the Youth Dept's 130 Mile Walk