Elected officials, pastors, former pastors, well-wishers and worshipers, the tiny First Southern Baptist Church in Cypress celebrated its 75th Anniversary on Saturday.
Founded before the City of Cypress, even Disneyland, this tiny house of worship has struggled yet persevered for the past 75 years.
“A lot of churches have closed their doors for all kinds of reasons,” said Pastor Trevor Cooper in an interview, “but for this church, God has kept it going, even through the pandemic.
What is now a bustling city, the church’s distinct A-frame roof once stood tall among nothing but fields of crops and very few residents.
“There were no freeways, and the entire population of Orange County was only 200,000,” said former church member David Allen, who grew up in the church. As one of the legacy members who gave testimony at the event, Allen said he first remembers coming to the church in 1951 as a boy of seven.
“My recollections are the memory of a child,” he said, noting that “my family moved to California when I was seven.”
In those days, said Allen, you could buy a home in Orange County for $5,000.
Allen remembered the days when worshipers attended service on Sunday, then walked outside to “fellowship” on the surrounding “green grass.”
There were many acts of love among the early members, said Allen, including traditions of gratitude that are still going on today. He suggested it is those many acts of love among the tiny church’s members that are appreciated even more today and account for the church’s survival until today.
“By this shall all men know that you are my disciples,” said Allen, now quoting scripture, “if you have love, one for another.”
“There are churches that are literally closing their doors every day,” said Allen. “It is a remarkable achievement for you to be able to reach this milestone and celebrate this diamond anniversary,” he said.
Dr. Jerry Schumacher, another former member, gave actual details of the church’s formation. He said a Baptist census taken in 1946 apparently demonstrated the need for a church.
As a part of this survey, said Schumacher, they identified 125 residents willing to become charter members of this church.
So, they gathered “on Jan. 23, 1947, at 7:30 p.m., at the home of Mr. and Mrs. E.R. and Ruby Wright for the purpose of organizing a Southern Baptist Church in Cypress.”
At that time, he said, Cypress was not even a city. He said Cypress became a municipality in 1956.
“The Covenant was having been led, as we believe, by the spirit of God,” said Schumacher, “and the assembly most solemnly, joyfully entered into the covenant with one another, as one body of Christ. I think this is an example of why this church is still doing this because it is supported by God,” he said.
The congregation soon began work on the church at its present location on Watson Street, where it still stands today, admitted undergoing changes, alterations, and outbuildings along the way.
He said Bible study courses that soon began are still being offered by the church.
Mike Wilson, another of FSBC’s former pastors, said, “you don’t judge a church by what happens while you’re there; you judge by what happens after you leave. And it looks like many good things have happened,” he said.
The head of the California Baptist Convention, Victor Chayasirisobhon, who is also the first vice president of the National Baptist Convention, also attended the event.
Chayasirisobhon brought greetings from all Baptists in California and from around the country.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed being here on your 75th Anniversary, listening to the different testimonies, the stories and the great history of this church,” he said.
“I’m here as a member of the kingdom family,” said Chayasirisobhon, “to preach the Word and wish you a Happy 75th Anniversary.”
Also in attendance were Cypress city officials, including Mayor Anne Hertz-Mallari and Council member Frances Marquez.
“It is so wonderful to hear the story of this church,” Mayor Hertz-Mallari told Pastor Cooper in presenting him with special recognition from the City of Cypress.
Cooper thanked Evangeline Wheeler and recognized virtually the entire congregation, citing their many contributions to help make the anniversary celebration possible.
Cooper, who became pastor five years ago, explained what an up and down experience he’s had since arriving in Cypress with his wife Tara and their two young children.
“One of my goals,” he said, “was to have one family on every street in our neighborhood be impacted by our church. Whether that meant they’re coming here to worship or just coming here as part of our activities, I wanted to serve them,” said Cooper.
“And just last year, we reached that goal,” he said.
“When I came here, there were just 20 people in the congregation,” said Cooper. He said he built it up to three times that then the pandemic hit.
“When the pandemic hit, it went back down again and there was some discussion as to whether remain open,” he said. “But we found a way and now we’re building it back up again.
“We’ve got to pay tribute to God for that,” he said, adding that “it is just faithful perseverance.”