Historical efforts are the result of the collective work of many persons, not all of whom are directly connected with the purpose of the history, but without whom the history could not be completed. The authors merely place in some continuity of style the information which these individuals provide. This history is no exception. The author gratefully acknowledges the assistance provided by Joy Hickson, Milpitas editor of Meredith Newspapers, for arranging for the use of the Milpitas Post photograph files, to Ben Gross, and Oliver Jones for answering the many questions which arose during the preparation of the history and to Ginny Collen for her help in gaining access to the various legal documents which established the dates on which important milestones occurred. Special thanks go to Chris Evans of Ore Press for her patience in typesetting the entire work, on many occasions working from hand written, marked up notes. Thanks also to Ore Press for the use of their production facilities during the cutting and assembly of the history. And finally, to my wife Ruthanne, who proofread the final result and offered both constructive comments and spelling verification.
Wayne E. Briggs
The purpose of this history is to preserve the record of events in the building of the Sunnyhills United Methodist Church and of the persons behind those events before it becomes unalterably destroyed by imperfect memories. The passage of time all too often accounts for the loss of valuable records and, as memories of those treasured experiences grow dim, it is only with difficulty that we remember the name of that fellow who sat next to us in church school or that of the girl who assisted on the MYF project. With the possibility of losing the knowledge we shared during those many fine experiences, it seems fitting that we attempt to preserve them in some written form. It also seems fitting and timely that this work should be prepared in the year in which Sunnyhills commemorates twenty five years of work.
It is the endeavor of any historical work to present to the reader a comprehensive account of the inception and development of the organization, the movement or the era about which the authors seek to impart a chronological account. Events concerning the people and the times involved in the unfolding drama must also be portrayed. In preparing a work of this nature, we are mindful that we must seek to convey much in the briefest space possible. We hope we do justice to pastors and members of the congregation alike who pass in review as we attempt to depict an unfolding pageant of episodes and events that preserve for us the twenty five years of accomplishments and attainments of our church, which had its beginnings in a private home, meeting successively in an airplane hanger and a union hall before gaining a permanent home in the present buildings.
(From "The Weather of the Soul"
by J. Freelen Johnson)
Sunnyhills United Methodist Church holds a unique place in an even more unique community - Sunnyhills district, Milpitas, California. The establishment of the local church and its growth parallels the development of the community itself, and to a large degree mirrors social change on both the local and regional levels. To produce a history of Sunnyhills United Methodist one must first discuss the inception and evolution of the Sunnyhills area itself, thus setting the stage for the establishment of its first church.
When Milpitas was incorporated as a general law city in 1954, the area was already rich in history. The name is an alliteration of the Aztec words "milpa", derived from "milli" (land sown with seeds), and "pa" (in), combined to mean "cornfields". Thus, Milpitas means "little cornfields".' It was a name already applied to the rich plains to the north of the Pueblo de San Jose when Maximo Martinez and his father, along with several Indians, lived there long enough to raise crops in the early 1800's. The area borders the northernmost territories inhabited by the early Chumash Indians of the Monterey Peninsula to the south. In 1835, these lands, along with a large tract of the bayside area, were a part of the land grant made to Jose M. Alviso.
One of the earliest American settlers was Joseph Weller, who arrived from New Jersey in 1850. Frederick Creighton built the first building and opened a store in 1856. He also became postmaster, with Weller as assistant. James Kinney built the first hotel in the area in 1857 and Milpitas became a stop on the Oakland Stage route. By the standards of the day, Milpitas grew rapidly and had a population of 800 by 1922. It boasted a plant of the California Packing Company, warehouses for hay and grain, a sugar beet company, a spinach ranch, large dairies, a squab farm and potato fields. Artesian water and rich sedimentary soil made Milpitas a desirable truck farming area and it became a center for growing peas, pears, strawberries and asparagus. Many of the fields surrounding the village were sown in hay and grain, which was shipped from nearby landings at Alviso and Dixon to San Francisco by schooner.
In spite of the long and colorful history, first as a center for ranching and later for truck farming, Milpitas was in a period of decline in the 1940's and the first few years of the 1950's. A changing agricultural economy and water-supply problems were chief among the factors which caused once-prosperous farms to languish. The population, which had stood at a high of 1500 in the 1880's, diminished to under 600 in the early 1950's. (2)
Despite its strategic location and the availability of large amounts of land at distress prices, the community was bypassed by industry until the mid-1950's. Then the Western Pacific Railroad bought 300 acres (later increased to 1200) for use as the keystone of a planned industrial development program. Not long afterward, the Ford Motor Company announced plans for the construction of a 50 million dollar assembly plant to replace one then located at the other end of San Francisco Bay in Richmond, California. Incorporation of Milpitas was accomplished that same year, 1954, and construction of the Ford plant in 1955 ushered in a period of rapid growth that has made the vegetable and hay fields but a memory.
The Ford plant was opened in 1955 and at the census of 1960 Milpitas had grown to a population of 6572, more than a ten-fold expansion in less than a decade. By mid-1962, according to the California State Department of Finance, it had almost doubled again and stood at 10,050. In 1962, city officials projected a population of 18.000 by 1965 (actual population figures showed an increase to over 33,000 by 1973).
It was the announcement of the prospective movement of the Ford assembly plant from Richmond to Milpitas that precipitated the development of Sunnyhills. The United Auto Workers, whose local 560 served the Ford plant, had obtained a guarantee from Ford that its members would retain their seniority rights in the new location as an incentive to move to the new plant. Richmond is approximately 50 miles from Milpitas. For those Ford workers who currently lived within convenient distance from the old plant, the change of location would mean a long and expensive commute or a change of residence.
At its Richmond plant, Ford employed Negroes as a large percentage of its work force. For these workers, the change of location presented an added problem. Santa Clara County had few Negroes and hence no established area for black residents. Under traditional practice in the 1950's, they probably would not be admitted to new housing developments unless these were intended specifically for Negro occupancy. If they were to be housed at all, either Negro housing had to be developed separately, or the customary pattern of residential exclusion of Negroes had to be changed. Between 200 and 250 Negro members of UAW Local 560, roughly one-seventh of the local's total membership of about 1400, were expected to transfer to the new location. Concern began to develop within the union over the rehousing problems of its Negro members. A special housing subcommittee was established to deal with the problem.
Although the UAW had in 1946 established a Fair Practice Department whose primary function was to combat discrimination, the new committee which was formed by the president of Local 560, Vincent McKenna, was a separate operation, established with the blessing of the UAW. Ben Gross was appointed chairman of the new committee. Mr. Gross and the sub-regional director of the International Automobile Workers Union were successful in bringing the matter before Walter Reuther, president of the international union. (It may be of interest to note that prior to Mr. Reuther's involvement, through sending various aides to Milpitas, the Ford Motor Company had expressed no interest in the housing problem beyond guaranteeing seniority rights.) (3)The change of plant location was also of interest from a somewhat different standpoint to the American Friends Service Committee (Quakers). The committee, which began as an effort to alleviate some of the human suffering resulting from the aftermath of World War 1, operated a number of programs aimed at improving human relations.
In March of 1954 the AFSC was asked by a group of civic, business and labor organizations (including the United Auto Workers) to establish a clearing house for all agencies and groups interested in the human problems expected to stem from rapid industrial expansion in the Santa Clara County area.
The County's development virtually guaranteed a substantial influx of Negroes over the coming decades. Unlike most other areas of the United States, Santa Clara had no fixed pattern of black-white relations - chiefly because it had almost no Negro population. The Quaker organization saw an opportunity to determine whether foresight could prevent racial problems before they had a chance to develop.
Central to the whole complex issue was the rehousing problem of the transplanted black auto workers. The Ford plant would be only the first of a number of industries to locate in Milpitas; and the resulting influx of Negroes must be housed in some fashion. The Friends reasoned that the most effective way to prevent the emergence of a segregated residential pattern would be to promote the development of new unsegregated housing at a price most industrial workers, both black and white, could afford.
For a while the efforts of the UAW and the AFSC ran parallel, and then converged in an attempt to produce a viable solution in the face of persistent obstacles. Even after that merger not all the difficulties were overcome. Severe problems continued to dog the effort through the mid-1960's, although the nature of the problems changed over the years.
Mr. Phil Buskirk of the American Friends Service Committee used that organization's influence to attempt to find a builder, or builders, who would be willing to market housing on an unsegregated basis. One firm which was planning to develop several thousand homes for the newly-arriving industrial workers agreed to try an inter-racial subdivision. It asked the AFSC's help in obtaining financing.
Representatives of that agency quickly obtained a tentative commitment from a leading official of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, who also happened to be a Quaker. Despite some expressed doubts as to the feasibility of housing integration, he agreed to provide the long term mortgages for any interracial development which could be demonstrated to be sound in other respects.
The next problem was a site; and this proved more difficult. One tract of land in a town not far from Milpitas, capable of drawing workers from that and a number of other communities, was approved by Metropolitan only to be abruptly rezoned by the local government from residential to industrial use. Race was not mentioned as the reason, but the circumstances were suggestive. On a second site in the same town the builder was bluntly told that he would never obtain approval for construction.
In another locality, a promising site was rezoned from 6000 square foot to 8000 square foot building site minimum when the purpose became known - thereby pricing homes out of the market they were meant to serve. On a fourth site, the builder already had an option, only to find the option canceled in a manner which left no legal recourse. After a year of abortive effort, the builder admitted defeat.
Meanwhile the UAW subcommittee continued to attempt to find builders. One firm proposed the construction of two tracts under union sponsorship - one all-white, the other integrated. Blacks would be permitted only in the integrated tract; whites would have their choice of either.
Some members of the local strongly opposed this plan, arguing that the integrated tract would inevitably wind up wholly or largely black and that the union would thus have contributed to the promotion of segregation. They objected also to the site proposed for this "integrated" tract. It adjoined the Ford plant on one side and land reserved for heavy industrial use on two others.
The matter became a major issue in the regular election of the local which occurred about the same time. The election results supported the opponents of the two-tract proposal. The local's Executive Committee forthwith voted that any housing receiving its support must have an open occupancy policy. About this time, UAW International officials in Detroit began to take an active interest in the problem as well.
At this point, the International UAW stepped in to help. It agreed to assume responsibility for obtaining the long term mortgages. The UAW in turn approached the American Friends Service Committee which had obtained an earlier tentative agreement from Metropolitan Life to finance any "sound" interracial tract.
This organization insisted on two assurances in return for its assistance with Metropolitan: first, that the tract be interracial; and second, that the UAW publicly announce its sponsorship. On January 26, 1955, news stories reported the union's plans (the San Francisco Chronicle headlined it "A Bold Housing Project for Milpitas").(3) Shortly afterward, the UAW and AFSC jointly approach Metropolitan Life which agreed to a tentative commitment for partial financing of the Agua Caliente tract.
In midsummer of 1954, a Santa Clara County meat packer named Joseph Kaufmann had approached the FHA office in San Francisco. He had heard of the efforts to secure housing for black workers. As he controlled 55 acres of land several miles north of the Milpitas business center, and known as "Rancho Agua Caliente, he suggested that on this land a tract be constructed which would be restricted to Negro occupancy with the provision that sufficiently favorable financial arrangements could be worked out.
The FHA's Regional Racial Relations Advisor pointed out that if he made a subdivision interracial, the developer could receive the sponsorship of the UAW and its aid in promoting the homes to its membership. A substantial part of his marketing problems could thus be solved. Persuaded by this, the prospective developer agreed to an open occupancy policy.
An agreement was reached whereby 268 homes would be constructed. Kaufmann then set out to find financing. By January of 1955 he had not been successful. He informed the union that upon learning of the open occupancy policy, local mortgage sources had withdrawn from negotiations or had insisted upon "exorbitant" premiums ranging from 5 1/2 to 9 percentage points - which, he said, would price the homes out of reach of many union members.
As with any radically new concept, many other problems arose. A housing development restricted to whites only and named "Sunnyhills" adjoined the Agua Caliente land. This subdivision had been experiencing marketing problems, chiefly due to an increasingly competitive situation throughout the San Jose general area. Slight overbuilding had been evident since early in 1954, but home-building had continued at a rapid pace. (4) At the time the UAW tract was announced in January of 1955, 63 homes remained unsold in Sunnyhills from an initial 132 completed on speculation.
To Sunnyhills, the proposed interracial housing development for the Agua Caliente tract not only represented competition, it also meant that blacks would be residing on property separated from it only by the width of a street. To the newly established city of Milpitas the UAW's plan meant something else. It meant Negroes entering an area struggling to achieve recognition, and where no Negroes had resided before. The reader must bear in mind that this occurred prior to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 at a time when discrimination was still a byword. Therefore, much attention was paid when the proposed development was made the topic of newspaper headlines.
These newspaper articles meant that other obstacles had to be hurdled. With regard to some of the subsequent events, allegations of conspiracy and collusion between the developer of Sunnyhills and certain local officials was made by the UAW, as well as allegations of discriminatory actions by units of government. Insufficient evidence exists to support these claims, since little information about the following events and board actions was ever placed into writing.
First to surface was a sewer problem. In accordance with an ordinance of the local Sanitation District Board, sewer lines had been made large enough to service additional construction in the same area. Additional developers must reimburse the initial developer for a portion of those costs which had been borne for the larger sewage lines. The sum had been set at $100 per acre, and for the Agua Caliente tract would amount to $5500.
At the regular meeting of the Sanitation Board on April 12, 1955, a new ordinance which would substantially alter the basis of payment was passed. The UAW protested. It charged that it had never been notified of the impending change. Further, the ordinance amounted to a retroactive decision and that mortgage commitments had been previously obtained on the basis of the smaller amount of $5500, not the $60,000 now assessed the development. The chairman of the three-man Sanitation Board himself questioned the irregularity of the procedure, stating that he had not been informed of the pending ordinance until 11:00 a.m. of the morning on which the vote was taken.
An additional problem appeared when the developer of Sunnyhills asked an exorbitant price for the UAW construction to enter the drainage which had been built to service Sunnyhills. While negotiations were underway, however, it was learned that the builder had actually deeded the ditch to the county at the time the County Board of Supervisors had approved his subdivision plan.
At the time of the sewer controversy, the union had asked the California Attorney General to investigate possible racial discrimination by the local government in this case. The attorney general agreed to assist "in overcoming any racial discrimination by governmental units which might be disclosed". No formal determination was ever reached; however, it is believed that the mere indication of active interest by the state government was reflected in a more cooperative attitude on the part of the local officials thereafter. Additionally, after an appeal by the AFSC, local civic and church groups were solicited for support and, at a public hearing on the interracial plan, the Council of Churches, the League of Women Voters and the American Association of University Women were represented. Also, a flood of telegrams from union organizations throughout the country were sent, and the AFL Building Trades Council was represented in person. The County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the Plan, subject to compliance with ordinary technical requirements.
The adjoining developer retaliated at once by filing a suit to restrain water discharge into the ditch. While he suit had no basis of merit, it served to additionally delay the project until the matter came up in court- He also filed a Plan to build a development exclusively for Negroes, but the County Board refused his rezoning request for the industrial property he proposed to use. While the suit was Pending, a Santa Clara builder obtained a site in Santa Clara and Proposed to develop it for open Occupancy. Six prominent builders formed a corporation to build the houses, and a financial commitment was obtained. The UAW was approached in midsummer of 1955 with a request for formal Support. The union withheld its blessing, however, when a check with the County Planning Commission disclosed that the site was highly susceptible to flooding. (During the very next season it was under three feet of water.)
These delays were all sufficient for the intended developer, Kaufmann, to run into financial difficulty. A contractor whom he had engaged to perform the actual construction backed Out, stating that his own ability to absorb costs had also reached the limit. The union decided to buy Kaufmann out, with the aid Of another developer who had recently expressed an interest.
About the same time, the builder of the adjoining Sunnyhills tract showed signs of wanting to give up the fight. His sales were still slow; the litigation had cost him heavily, and his investment looked increasingly insecure. He offered to sell Out to the UAW and its new collaborating developer. A sale was concluded in November of 1955. It canceled the lawsuit and freed the site from all remaining restrictions upon Construction for open Occupancy. With these provisions went the sales of 63 completed but as yet unsold houses - a significant financial burden. Feeling that the name "Agua Caliente" had been too prophetic (it means literally "hot water"), the UAW decided to adopt the name Sunnyhills.
Contractors were hired, roads, streets, water, gas and lights were installed and the "go" signal given for building. A sales force was organized and the pricing structure for homes in the new project was determined. Houses were to have three bedrooms and two baths, at prices ranging from $11,800 to $12,950. Average monthly payments ranged from $79.00 per month to $85.00. Most of the homes were sold before the foundations were laid.
While Metropolitan Life had made the initial investment to cover startup costs, there was a need for additional funding if the project was to succeed. This was obtained through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). Government red tape was slashed and funding through the FHA Cooperative Development was secured. Under Section 213 of the Federal Housing Act, each section of housing was organized legally as a cooperative with somewhat more liberal financing terms than were available under Section 203, the program under which most of the FHA for-sale housing had been built. It permitted 40-year mortgages and down payments of three percent, thus enabling families who could not qualify for Section 203 housing to qualify for the Sunnyhills homes. It reached more of the hourly-paid workers and placed Sunnyhills in a more favorable sales position in regard to non-union purchasers. Mortgages were provided by the Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA), familiarly called "Fanny May". Each cooperative, however, was restricted to closing all homes simultaneously, a restriction which posed some difficulties in making sales. This requirement placed burdens on the developer from an operational and sales standpoint, to the extent that after the introduction of Cooperative Number 3, the current developer pulled out and a new one was brought in.
The success of the project, however, brought sufficient attention to the project that it was the subject of broad media coverage, including The Christian Science Monitor and broadcasts via the Voice of America. As the first truly planned interracial community, Sunnyhills had finally become an entity. By 1958, 420 homes had been occupied, and Sunnyhills could boast of Japanese, Chinese, Hawaiian, Canadian, Irish, German, French, Indian and other nationalities and ethnic groups in addition to the Ford black workers. It stood as a "real tribute to the union, the citizens of Santa Clara County and the several organizations and persons who have given unstintingly of their time toward making Sunnyhills one of the foremost democratic communities not only in California but in our country."(6)
Concurrent with the dissolution of the many obstacles placed before Sunnyhills in the course of its actual building, the community had other decisions to make and other tasks to be performed. Committees were established for the building of schools, forming a Parent Teachers Organization, a church, a social structure and a community club.
Meetings were held during 1956 between Mr. McKenna of the UAW and Dr. Elliott Fisher, Superintendent of the San Jose District of the Methodist Church for the purpose of discussing interest in establishing a Methodist Church in Sunnyhills. Knowing that Ben Gross, the Housing Committee Chairman for the UAW local, was a member of the Methodist Church, Mr. McKenna introduced him to Dr. Fisher. The union had an option to purchase acreage within the cooperative and, after looking over the available property and finding it suitable for building the church, approximately three acres were purchased through the Methodist Trailblazers Fund. Arrangements were handled through the UAW by Arnold Callan and Bill Oliver.
The pastor of San Jose's Roselawn Methodist Church, Rev. Braxton Combs, was appointed to serve the newly formed Sunnyhills Methodist Church, on a part-time basis. Admittedly, his initial desire was to involve members of Roselawn Methodist in a missions project. Rev. Combs and one young member of Roselawn traveled to Sunnyhills each Sunday to organize and minister to the new church. initial planning of a church school was accomplished by Rev. Combs and Ben Gross.
A portion of the Sunnyhills area had formerly been a glider field. At the corner of what is now the site of the Sunnyhills Shopping Center, on the corner of Main Street and Dixon Landing Road, stood an unused airplane hanger. This site was selected as the first church building for Sunnyhills Methodist Church.
Because of its poor repair, the building was intended to be used only for a short period. The owner of the hanger, Pollard and Lyons, gave permission for the building to be used by the church on Sundays, provided that the owner not be required to make any repairs on the building. Fortunately, the first use of the hanger was made in early fall of 1957, as the roof leaked and the hanger had a dirt floor. After a search for church school teachers and a survey of families in the area was made, the church school opened with 12 students on August 18, 1957. Often, classes were held out of doors until the hanger could be cleaned sufficiently to occupy it. Two upstairs rooms and one downstairs were usable after a thorough cleaning. Since the building had no provisions for heat, many mornings the members shivered with cold.
Mrs. Duane Upson was the first church school superintendent. The church school while it was housed in the hanger, could boast of an altar which was made of a draped pickup tailgate and music was provided by a toy organ which belonged to one of Rev. Combs children. It was a beginning.
A close relationship was maintained between the church and the UAW organization. This was hardly surprising since Ben Gross was active in both and Rev. Combs gave the invocation at many UAW events. Walter Reuther made several trips to the area and met with members of Sunnyhills church and Rev. Combs had several discussions with him.
This close relationship was extremely valuable when the UAW Union Hall at 51 Dixon Landing Road was completed. Arrangements were made for the church to vacate the airplane hanger and share the rooms at the UAW Hall. The first worship service in the UAW Hall was held on November 17, 1957, with Rev. Combs officiating. There were 23 charter members. The average attendance at church school was 60.(7)
The new environment, complete with central heating, made it possible for the church to grow quickly, creating the need for more organization. The community was thirsty for both a place to worship and the opportunity, and several groups were formed to meet these needs.
Marge Combs helped organize the first Sunnyhills United Methodist Women's group in the spring of 1959 With Clara Gross, Ben's wife, as president. There were 15 charter members. The group quickly became active in serving the Wesley Foundation lunches in San Jose and, beginning in 1959 sponsored the UNICEF drive in Sunnyhills. Ben himself became both Lay Leader and chairperson of the Administrative Board. Both Rev. Combs and his successor recall the support and encouragement which one of the founding members, Addie Dew, provided every Sunday during worship services. Thirty hymnals were purchased and donated to the church by members in 1959. Though the kind provisions made by the UAW personnel made it much easier to conduct services, these arrangements were not without their penalties. Many mornings the church members had to arrive early to air out the meeting rooms and to sweep up any messes from parties the previous evening before church school or worship services could begin.
The church was officially dedicated in January of 1959. In September of 1958, a visitation program was begun and Rev. Lee Workman, assisted by Rev. Combs, continued this program jointly from September, 1958 through May, 1959. The mail list grew to 67 homes. Earlier that year, the Sunnyhills Methodist Youth Fellowship was begun. In February, 1958, the group had nine members and Mr. and Mrs. Ben Gross were its counselors. By 1959, the group had become so large that it was divided into Junior High Christian Adventurers and Senior High School Groups. Mr. and Mrs. George Shaw served as counselors for the other group.
In June of 1959, Rev. Glenn Fuller replaced Rev. Combs at Sunnyhills. His was also a part-time ministry. However, in the fall of 1959, he was joined by Mr. Roy Lester, who worked with the youth program as assistant in charge of Christian Education. In the fall of 1960, a men's club was formed. Ben Gross was acting chairman until the formal organization date of February 12, 1961 when Darrell Houdashelt was elected president. Mrs. Betty Hughes began a choir in the spring Of 1959 and Mrs. Addie Dew purchased a piano and placed it in the Hughes home so the choir could practice. In the fall of 1959, Mrs. R. Bell became its director. Many church members felt at this time a need for a permanent structure in which to meet, along with a full-time pastor to meet the growing needs of a growing church and the Sunnyhills community as well. The nucleus of what was to become the building committee was already at work on the major task of building a new church building on the site which had been purchased from the UAW earlier. The second desire, one for a full-time pastor, was met with the appointment of Rev. Thomas Hicks in 1961.
The fact that Sunnyhills Methodist Church had the support of the UAW management, and that its initial growth occurred so quickly, should not minimize what still was a problem in Sunnyhills community ndash; that of deep-seated prejudice. Although Sunnyhills was formulated as an interracial community, the cooperatives were indeed a mixture of racial and ethnic heritage. Those families who purchased homes in Sunnyhills knew before they purchased that the development was interracial. The price of the homes overrode their feelings of prejudice to the point of making the purchase of a home in Sunnyhills acceptable, but it did nothing to change the predetermined attitudes of those who held them. In fact, considerably more than 50% of the families in Sunnyhills were white.
Some idea of these feelings are conveyed to us by Rev. Hicks, who recalls making joint calls with black members of the congregation, and to be turned away from the door with some derisive comment regarding blacks. Or those who came to the window and refused to answer the door when they saw who had come calling.
It was into this environment that the building program was launched. A building committee was formed and funds were raised. The Division of National Missions of the Methodist Church donated $4000 and loaned the church an additional $35,000. The California-Nevada Conference of the Methodist Church (of which Sunnyhills is a member), through its Board of Missions, loaned the church $20,225, secured by the three acres then owned by the church in Sunnyhills. As part of this loan, which was made in September of 1962, the church, for legal purposes had incorporated as Sunnyhills Methodist Church, Milpitas, Calif. in May of that year. The Atkinson Foundation made a donation of $5000. Later, the San Jose District Church Extension Society would pick up the entire payment on one of the three existing buildings.
In May of 1961, members of Sunnyhills Methodist, Mr. and Mrs. R. Kenneth Bell, donated the equity in their home to the church. Although the church acreage was used as security for the loan in 1962, the home at 156 Callum street was not, enabling the church to use it as a parsonage.
The original building plan for the Sunnyhills Methodist Church facility called for a series of six small multi-purpose classroom buildings arranged about an inner courtyard in a quadrangle configuration, with two larger buildings, one at either end, which comprised the sanctuary and a fellowship hall. Two buildings were constructed initially - the sanctuary and one combined building for classrooms. The original plans were modified as the construction phase neared and the sanctuary, too, became a multi-purpose building with a storage area and a small washroom/food service area at one end. Even after the pews were added, they were not affixed permanently so the sanctuary could be utilized as a fellowship hall. Upon learning that the eastern edge of the property, which ran adjacent to a drainage ditch, was subject to easement provisions to allow access to service vehicles, the board decided not to install the full parking area originally planned, for fear of having it torn up as part of that easement.
In 1964 through contacts at the UAW, members of the church learned that one of two specially built homes in the Sunnyhills tract were available for sale, since the individual for whom the house had been built was being transferred out of the area. Although all homes were to have been built to a closely adhered to set of specifications, the home which was being offered had been built with an oversized garage, which was larger than a two car garage with additional room from front to rear. It had been originally built to house both an automobile and the owner's boat.
The church was successful in its negotiations for the larger home and in 1964 the equity in the parsonage at 156 Callum was exchanged for one at 2100 Tiny Street, which in turn became the parsonage. The garage was modified for use as the pastor's study and it was also used by several of the church groups for their meetings during the disruptive period when construction of the church buildings, Phase II was being completed.
This phase was completed by Gearhart & Spivey, general contractor, on March 6, 1967. None of the other buildings which were originally planned were ever completed. This was due, in part, to the changing composition of Sunnyhills community itself, and the demands these changes, along with the changing economic climate in the state as a whole, made upon the Sunnyhills Methodist Church. It was also partly due to a change in street plans for Dixon Landing Road.
The street map of Milpitas, at the time the plans were drawn for Sunnyhills Church, called for a freeway interchange at Dixon Landing Road and Highway 680, which was yet to be constructed. Completion of this interchange was anticipated to have made Dixon Landing Road a major thoroughfare connecting Highway 680 with a probable industrial complex which could be generated between what is now Highway 237 and the General Motors plant in Fremont. The increased population growth, coupled with Sunnyhills Methodist Church's location on a major access road, made the 8-building complex appear realistic.
A later decision to eliminate the Dixon Landing interchange delayed the economic development of the area and the need for the additional structures diminished. With two new buildings and a full time pastor, however, the church grew rapidly and the church incurred several significant internal changes.
In the early 1960's, at the very time the local church was growing, building and making financial commitments based upon what seemed sound judgments, the church lost some members who could not cope with the continuous change, both within the church and within the community as a whole. Sunnyhills cooperatives were mature to the extent of having removed the cooperative directors in 1965 and, contrary to FHA directives, replacing them with a local board comprised of home-owners. While this seemed at the time to be a sound move from the standpoint of being able to control cooperative decisions from within the community, several problems arose.
At this time, a substantial number of original members of the cooperatives were moving from the area. Second-generation homeowners did not feel the same community ties as did their predecessors. Although the cross-section of the types of jobs held by Sunnyhills home-owners was changing at the top income levels to include professional and semi-professional persons, it also was changing at other levels, too. Unskilled workers had increased with the development of the area and the construction of the General Motors plant in Fremont. The real problem lay with the selection of the cooperative board members. Although there were qualified people on the board, by and large the board members had neither the education or experience qualifications necessary for the board to operate successfully.
The end result was that while the board was now out of the hands of some corrupt individuals who previously had managed the cooperatives, the new board was not capable of adequate performance either. The Cooperative Board was discontinued in 1965. With inadequate direction, cooperative members had no available answers to questions concerning how to handle their mortgage payments, transfer of ownership to new buyers and other questions which had previously been answered by FHA officials or their representatives. Many people lost their homes as a result. The period immediately following the dissolution of the cooperative board was one in which unscrupulous operators, seeing opportunity, contacted large numbers of residents, advising them that the only way they could avoid foreclosure on their homes due to the violation of FHA rules, was to sign over their equity in their homes to the operator, and that contract must be signed on the spot to avoid that foreclosure. A number of persons were taken in by these "representatives" and did lose their homes, not as a result of FHA foreclosure, but of signing the contract. Mrs. Hicks, when contacted by one of these individuals, had the foresight to call Rev. Hicks at the church, who advised not to sign, thus saving the church parsonage.
Other changes also were being felt. Some members could not cope with the racially-mixed membership. These events occurred during a time when the nation was struggling with the issue of racial integration (1962-1964). Nor was the problem one only with whites. Many black families still went to all black churches. Some members felt the need for a more familiar style of worship and left for more "traditional" churches.
The continued growth of Milpitas as a whole dictated the need for involvement outside the church. Under the leadership of Rev. Hicks, Sunnyhills Methodist began to support political candidates, shared church facilities with outside community groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Friends Outside and other churches needing space to worship. During the week the church facilities were used by preschool groups, especially the Milpitas Parents Preschool, which was organized by church members.
During the latter part of the 1960's, church enrollment stabilized and the rate of growth slowed, reflecting continued change within the community. Coping with financial commitments was a struggle month after month. For several months the minister's salary could not be paid. The power company was threatening to turn off the electricity at the parsonage due to non-payment. One church member paid the arrears from her food allowance for the month. To meet some of the more pressing demands for payment, a table was set up at the rear of the sanctuary with overdue bills "for sale". One church member, Gene McCratic, would shuffle the bills like a deck of cards, saying, "I will draw one if you will." Sue McCratic became Missions Chairperson, with her goal that of making sure the church met its commitment to the World Service budget. Fortunately, several days later, a school teacher came by the church and offered to give almost that exact amount in return for taking care of her children for that year while she taught.
The church did survive and in many ways was the better for it. Community involvement took the place of many of the proposed building projects. In 1962, Ben Gross had been elected to the Milpitas city council, later to be elected as Milpitas' first black mayor. After his six years as mayor, he remained on the city council as vice-mayor until 1972. Members became more active in the school system to the extent that the school excused its students after Martin Luther King's death and provided busses to take those interested to Sunnyhills church.
In 1969, Rev. William Lawton was appointed to serve Sunnyhills, which was now called Sunnyhills United Methodist Church after the merger of the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church. His year was one of reassessment, introspection and examination. The church questioned its identity and purpose its needs and goals. Rev. Lawton was known as a practical, "down to earth" person, who helped make the adjustment to financial problems and provided the spiritual "glue" to hold the church together in the face of difficult times. His one year spent with Sunnyhills provided the calming influence necessary for the following period of additional adjustment.
Rev. Dave Schilling was appointed pastor in 1970. With Sunnyhills as his first pastorate, his beard was in keeping with the changing social climate being felt across the country. During this period, from 1970 through 1976, the church did not extend itself, nor did it deny the needs of its community. It was a time for self-evaluation. Some young families joined the church, including several Asian and Chicano. At this time, the United Farm Workers, and improving the lot of migrant farm workers, had become an issue and this cause served to provide the cohesiveness that the church seemed to require. Rev. Schilling became an active proponent for the Farm Workers' cause, to the extent of his arrest during one of the many marches that were made on the farm workers' behalf."
The rapid growth which Milpitas had experienced during the late 1950's through the mid-1960's presented many problems to the city, both from a planning standpoint and from a practical one; management. The possibility of continued growth at this rate caused concern among those who wanted to avoid the type of haphazard mushrooming which other cities had experienced. Chief among the potential problems were inadequate water supply and the possibility of exceeding the capacity of the sewage treatment plant which served Milpitas. These concerns were strong enough that in 1970 the city Planning Commission and the city council placed a moratorium on additional building. Control was handled by the simple expedient of refusing to issue sewer hookup permits.
This slowing of the Milpitas pulse was indirectly responsible for some of Sunnyhills Methodist's financial problems. As long as Milpitas had been growing, some of the new residents became church members replacing those members who moved from the area. When building stopped, there were no new neighborhoods from which to draw new church members, and it soon became clear that one couldn't expect that all the Methodists who left the area would be replaced by other Methodists! As a result, church income was down and the Sunnyhills church could not meet many of their obligations and apportionments. Part of the pastor's salary was paid by other funds from the church district office.
About this time the youth group grew small enough that it became inactive. Not all of those who moved from the immediate area left the local church. Many families still travel from other areas to attend worship service at Sunnyhills. These families, along with those still in Milpitas, provided the strong support needed to maintain continuity in the church and to reach outside the church in keeping with Rev. Schilling's new style of ministry.
Dave was the first of Sunnyhills' truly musically talented pastors. His informal ministry and his guitar playing worship services provided a feeling of oneness throughout the congregation.
In 1976, Dave's wife Elaine had the opportunity to do a two-year fieldwork study in Morocco toward her doctorate in anthropology. Dave promptly submitted a course of study in social sciences to one of the colleges, thus enabling the Schillings, with Dave on sabbatical, to make the trip together. They left Sunnyhills in 1976.
The new pastor, Rev. R. Lee Hayward, was also musically gifted. Having admittedly questioned whether to remain in the ministry prior to coming to Sunnyhills, Lee's calm demeanor and winning smile hid a driving force which overcame many obstacles. One of his first acts was to remove the pews from the sanctuary and donate them to another Milpitas church, replacing the pews with stackable chairs. This allowed for a less formal worship service and permitted the use of the sanctuary for other purposes.
Rev. Hayward was also instrumental in bringing a self-help senior citizen food distribution program, Operation Brown Bag, to Sunnyhills. Use of the church facility had been offered to the Milpitas Senior Center, and as a result of these contacts, he learned of the Food Bank which had begun two years earlier in Santa Clara County. Since the facility which then served as the distribution center would soon no longer have space available, Lee contacted the director of the county's Operation Brown Bag and offered the Sunnyhills Methodist Church facility as a distribution center. He gained endorsement by the Milpitas City Council as well as a commitment from the County Transit District to reschedule bus routes to assist the seniors in getting to the site. Arrangements were made to coordinate the pickup of food items from participating growers and grocery distributors. Once a week seniors are given a bag of groceries, mostly produce, dated bread and milk products and dented or overstocked canned goods. The program worked so well that the original limit of 150 seniors receiving the bags was quickly raised to 200.
Rev. Hayward was quick to recognize that some alternative solutions to Sunnyhills church financial problems might exist. In 1977, a church member, Louise Brooks had proposed a Sunnyhills Community Center in response to the city's asking for project ideas to be funded by money from the Housing and Community Development agency. The idea had prompted a needs assessment study which had concluded that a need existed for a point to disseminate services (and information about services) relating to mental health, drug abuse, and recreational and vocational skills, as well as neighborhood problems such as cleanup, police patrol and low-cost housing. Most of these needs could become eligible for federal community development funds. A task force and community council was established in 1980 and the Office of Housing and Urban Development eventually granted funds.
In parallel to the Task Force efforts, Rev. Hayward and the church officials met to discuss the merits of selling a portion of the church property for use as a site for a proposed Sunnyhills Community Center. In view of the changing role of Sunnyhills United Methodist and the elimination of plans to construct the remaining church buildings, the portion of the three acres in the rearmost part of the lot might be a suitable location. Sale of the property also could eliminate the church's mortgage and form the basis for placing it on a more favorable financial footing.
Louise Brooks was very active in the Community Center project and was instrumental in obtaining the ultimate federal funding. Foundations were laid and a building was moved in to serve as the Community Center. The money thus provided by the sale of the land was sufficient to pay the church mortgage in-full and on January 18, 1981, a formal mortgage burning ceremony was held with Mayor Pete McHugh, Methodist District Superintendent Robert Hawthorne, Bishop Choy, and former pastors Braxton Combs and David Schilling present on that special occasion.
Lee was also concerned about the continued change in the community. With the rescission of the building moratorium in 1975, over 800 new homes were built in a short period in Milpitas. The composition of church membership began to reflect this. A disproportionately high number of members were not from the Sunnyhills area. As the only Methodist church north of Alum Rock and east of Santa Clara, Sunnyhills United Methodist served a large area. Rev. Hayward was concerned that there were "a lot of unreached people right here in Sunnyhills." He was also worried that Sunnyhills would "become a church located in one community but serving another." Acting on these concerns and the need to control the nature of Milpitas growth, he embarked on a program to make visitors to the church feel welcome and, on a broader scale, gained appointment to the, Milpitas Planning Commission.
During Lee's pastorate at Sunnyhills, full use was made of the church facilities. In addition to the Senior Center, the Milpitas Parents Preschool continued to use the building as a daycare center during the week, breakfasts to meet candidates running for election to local offices were held and the front portion of the property was converted to a community garden for several years. His intent to add new members from Sunnyhills was successful and active enrollment grew. A choir was formed and a youth group started.
Although best remembered for his special worship services and the special tools he utilized to provide, through symbols, a deeper meaning, perhaps Lee's most notable achievements were a result of his ability to organize; those of rebuilding the church membership and placing it on a financially responsible basis. In 1982 the church was able for the first time to pay the pastor's entire salary and to do so on a level which was equitable with other pastors.
It was not only the pastors which accomplished all in Sunnyhills, for many members felt the need to become involved in the community. Ben Gross had been city councilman, Mayor and vice-mayor, Gil Brooks was a member of the school board for over a decade and Terry Johnson was appointed to the Community Improvement Committee in 1970 and to Planning Commission in 1977, serving as its chairman for one year.
Louise Stroud, in addition to working so diligently for the Sunnyhills Community Center, is in 1982 one of the two pastoral candidates from Sunnyhills Methodist, attending Pacific School of Theology. The other candidate is Joe Dennis, who attends San Jose State University and, along with his wife Karen, is the youth group counselor. On January 25, 1981, Louise provided the sermon for that Sunday's worship service, entitled "Women in the Pulpit".
In a way, that morning's message was prophetic, for with Rev. Hayward's leaving in 1982, Sunnyhills' new pastor was Rev. Pamela Cummings. Already active in preparation for Sunnyhills United Methodist's twenty-fifth anniversary celebration on November 7, 1982, Pam promises a commitment to continue "Reaping the Past and Seeding the Future." If the church can boast during the next twenty years the kind of commitment and dedication its people have shown in the past, it will enjoy a prosperous and rewarding future "history". After all, what is a church but God working through people?
As much as the direction of the church's growth of the church was dictated by the changing composition of the community and the consequent change in needs, the channeling of that growth and the change in emphasis of its concerns was largely a result of the guidance of its pastors. Sunnyhills has been blessed with excellent and varied styles of leadership from these seven pastors:
|Glenn S. Fuller||1959-1961|
|R. Lee Hayward||1976-1982|
|Pamela D. Cummings||1982-|
Since each brought his or her own qualities to Sunnyhills and served in a different set of circumstances, this chapter is devoted to notes from their memories of the time at Sunnyhills.
My decision to ask for the appointment to start the church in Milpitas was really based on the desire to involve the congregation I was serving in South San Jose in a mission project. Every church needs to reach outside itself. Actually the only member of that congregation who ever became involve besides my wife, Marge, was a 16 year old youth named Jimmie Williams who faithfully came with me each Sunday to teach a class.
Our first worship services were held in an abandoned airplane hangar which sat where the shopping center is now. The altar was the tailgate of a pickup truck. I think it belonged to Ben Gross. We sang hymns to the strains of a toy organ that belonged to my children. Classes met in the rooms of the old hanger. Some mornings we shivered with the cold. Fortunately, the United Auto Workers hall opened about that time and we were allowed to move there. Often we had to sweep back the beer bottles and air the place out before the people arrived. We always had a good relationship with the union and on many occasions I was invited to give the invocation at festive events. That gave me the opportunity to meet and chat with many UAW dignitaries including twice with Walter Reuther. He changed my way of thinking about trade unions.
Actually, the union hall made a fine substitute church building and we grew. The classes had rooms and the Sunday School grew, too. Kay Upson was the first Sunday School superintendent. Marge helped organize the first United Methodist Women. We believe that Clara Gross was the first president. Ben, her husband, was Lay Leader and chairperson of the Administrative Board.
One of the people I remember best after these 25 years is Addie Dew, a beautiful, black senior citizen, who never missed worship. She sat right over there on the front row to my right as I faced the congregation and egged me on with her "Amens" and her enthusiastic way of putting her whole body into worship, always wagging her head in affirmation.
I spent one day each week in addition to Sunday morning in the community, visiting members and new prospects. It was a work of joy and love, and I looked forward each week to my Sunnyhills day. May God bless the next twenty five.
To serve Sunnyhills Church in Milpitas, when it was but a few months old, between 1959 and 1961, was one of the happiest experiences of my ministry. Throughout the two years, services were held in the UAW Hall Sunday mornings at 9:00 a.m. with Arrabella Bell's wonderful children's choir offering us the music. Often the clean-up for church Sunday morning was quite a problem, particularly if the UAW held a party with much beer the night before. Still the lay people did a wonderful job of setting up altar and chairs, and transforming the ambiance of the hall.
At that time Sunnyhills church membership was 50% black and 50% white, reflecting the integration of the 'only interracial housing cooperative in the nation. The Ford plant in Milpitas was only recently built, and General Motors was in the process of building its Warm Springs plant.
I remember official board meetings, which met in the homes of the Joneses, the Bultiers, the Lewises, the Jeffersons, the Bells, the Shaws, the Houdeshelts, the Brooks, the Gresses, the Upsons, or Addie Dew. We mixed our sharing with hope, our administration with caring, our budgeting with much laughter, and our business with praying.
Only through one person in my ministry was I blessed with an 'Amen' corner, but Addie Dew combined her old-fashioned Wesleyan enthusiasm with a verbal glorification of God and a warm love for her church and its people.
I remember a 'Marriage Institute' of two black couples from Sunnyhills and three white couples from Roselawn Church, which used to meet in our home for their preparation for marriage. I remember the warm and open sharing in our church Yoke Fellow groups.
With the growth of the city, the dynamics of the city, and an average weekly pledge of $5.00 per member family by the spring of 1961, the Sunnyhills Methodist Church with pride and optimism asked the Annual Conference for its first full-time minister. The Church can be forever grateful to Ken and Arrabella Bell for turning over the equity of their home to the church for its first parsonage to house its first full-time minister and wife.
Sunnyhills United Methodist Church— Our church is people. People worshipping God and loving one another. I remember most of all people. I remember Oliver Jones as Lay Leader saying, "Rev. Hicks wants everything done yesterday." I could go on and on about everyone else in the church, each one in specific detail.
My own racial prejudice was put before me as I learned to love my brothers and sisters. Cathy Brooks was the first baby I baptized there. My own shock of guilt as I first washed my son Paul's hands along with Johnny Brooks' hands and noticed how black his were by comparison, and knowing that I loved Johnny as well as Paul.
My deep anger at the people who would not even come to the door when Gil Brooks and I called for the church. Those earliest days when new people would come to the door, look in and see how many black folk were in our congregation, and then turn and walk out. And Ben Gross after his election as mayor, when asked on TV if he got fewer votes because he was black, saying, "The people of Milpitas are above that sort of thing." And those who were determined to prove that.
The men's brotherhood with men from all churches and all races from throughout the city. The great programs and great breakfasts, when the different men cooked. The Mexican hot peppers for breakfast and the steak by Morio Russo. The hot dog sales at Brentwood Market. The Christmas Tree sales and the Scott boys working with that. My daughter, Becky, asking if every church has a bar in it (as the Union Hall did). The good relationship with the Union and their generous kitchen. Sweeping and mopping up the floor of the hot dogs and beer after their party on Saturday night so we could have worship on Sunday morning. Organizing to keep the topless bar out of the shopping center. The new Library. Mort Levine, The Milpitas Post, and our beautiful relationship there.
The children who would put the hose through the louvered windows and flood the whole building. Warren and others coming to help mop it up. Building the new buildings. The three preschool programs going on in our facilities. The Seventh Day Adventists sharing our facilities. Our hospital caring organization. The strong senior high youth group. Great Bible Schools and the trips to the beach and overnights following. The Halloween celebrations with a pregnant Betty as the great pumpkin patch ready to explode. Betty being Mary at Christmas and nursing the newborn child much to the delight of the small children. The innovative worship services. Kennedy's death and our sharing it as a community. Martin Luther King's death and our gathering there that evening with the whole community represented. Leo Murphy excusing the high school youth upon hearing of King's death and bringing them to the church by bus. Kay Twite giving so beautifully of her time as secretary for the church. Our relationship to Weller School and PTA, AA, narcotic groups, Rock Pile Widows meeting at the church. Kay Upson, how often I think of her today. Her generous, unlimited giving to the Sunday School and church. The Co-op and our relationship within it.
Grandma Slaughter, Butlers, Kolens, Grosses, Shaws, Houdershoulds, Scotts, Addie Dew, Brook—each one I remember with a deep sense of love and family. I was never more proud of my congregation and church than as pastor of the Sunnyhills United Methodist Church.
William Lawton, Pastor 1969-1970
The church as a community of people has a clearly defined identity. It is not a fixed identity that is attained at a certain point in time and then kept intact forever and ever. The church changes and its identity changes as ministers come and go; as new members move in and others move out; as babies are born and old members die. But there is continuity through these changes. This continuity is centered in the church's loyalty to Jesus Christ and his servant ministry in the world.
During my six years at Sunnyhills I experienced both continuity and change. Elaine and I arrived in Milpitas right after seminary in New York. The first year was awful! I had to adjust to a life removed from the big city academic setting. I had to adjust to a church that was down in numbers and spirit. Questions emerged: Was the ordained ministry for me? Why are the people so conservative? Will we ever be able to pay the bills?
The congregation has adjustments to make too! They had to adjust to a new minister and wife whom they had never even seen. They had to adjust to the social action agenda of a young minister bent on saving the world (I'm still trying!!). Questions emerged: Who is this young bearded minister and how will he fit in at Sunnyhills? Will he be able to relate to the needs of the older people in the congregation? Will he push us too much to face the world's problems?
After the first year (it seemed like ten!) some answers came into focus. We began to trust each other and work together! We began to get a few new members (change) who stimulated the energy and ideas of the older members (continuity). Slowly we became a community of persons who cared for each other and the world. Things began to build and ministry happened. This was built upon the positive contributions of the past by former ministers and members and the works of the Spirit in the present.
In the years that followed, two marks of identity became clear. First, Sunnyhills was a warm friendly group of persons who enjoyed being together. Second, Sunnyhills was willing and able to involve itself in the life of the community in ways that led to a better quality of life for all. Struggles for justice and peace, the needs of senior citizens, the need of the poor and oppressed all have been a part of Sunnyhills identity as servant of a servant-Lord.
Much has changed in Milpitas and Sunnyhills United Methodist Church over the years. What has not changed is Sunnyhills' commitment to create a caring community and a better world. It was a joy to serve at Sunnyhills for 6 adventurous years.
From the beginning, it was like coming home ... your vitality and tolerance and caring made known in so many deliberate acts of welcoming. Perhaps it was from the spiritual and professional "desert" from which I came that made Sunnyhills Church, by comparison, a "land of milk and honey." More than a philosophical reflection, my mind conjures up images and memories:
You were a ministry and prophet to the community. And you were a minister to me and my family. You helped me and others to believe in what we as Christians do, and to become what we believe. I'm glad we were together for a time. I'm glad you are there and will continue to be there to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God.
I am honored to have been appointed as the Pastor of Sunnyhills United Methodist Church as it celebrates its 25th Anniversary. It is a church rich in history-a history of outstanding lay and pastoral leadership, a history where members have had the courage to speak out on issues of peace and justice. It is exciting to be a part of the ministry of this community of faith.
In our short time together, we have shared significant experiences. We have been the church, worshipping, working and responding to the needs of those in our congregation and in the world.
I remember the day I first arrived at the parsonage. The house was filled with parishioners with paint brushes in hand. They worked for days, painting, doing carpentry work and laying carpet. Theirs was a labor of love for a pastor they did not yet know.
I remember the Neighborhood Coffees when we met in different homes so that I might get better acquainted with small groups of people.
I remember a Memorial Service for one we all loved. Many hands worked to make the Service and the Luncheon that followed a beautiful tribute to a beautiful life.
I remember a Yard Sale in the rain to benefit the Refugee Resettlement Committee.
I remember a weekend of work to landscape part of the church property. Automatic sprinklers were installed and new lawn planted.
I remember receiving a Birthday Cake at the close of our World Communion Service.
I remember our Annual Retreat in Monte Toyon, a campfire led by a much-loved church member who has moved away, and a Worship Service where we experienced rainbows and circus tents and received a surprise visit by two clowns who passed out balloons! Where did we ever get the idea that balloons don't belong in church?
Sunnyhills Church is a small congregation which is alive, exciting, and healthy. We need to share our many gifts with more people. We need to grow. Though we all recognize the necessity of growth, many honestly acknowledge their fears about what growth might mean for us as a congregation. Will we lose those good qualities which mean so much to us? Can we continue to be a warm and friendly congregation if we grow in size? There are real questions for us. But in the midst of our questioning, we hear the mandate of the Risen Christ, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to observe all I have commanded you." Christ calls us to spread the Good News. It is given to us to share with others.
There is a line in a reading by Kentha Wagner which I shared at our Retreat. "There are circus tents on your fingertips and there is nothing you can't do." There are circus tents on our finger tips. Our future is before us. It is full of wonderful possibilities. Let us move forward in faith with the assurance that God will go with us. We are not alone!
1. "The Answer Book", Supplement to the San Jose Mercury News, October, 1982.
2. Eunice and George Grier, "Case Studies in Racially Mixed Housing, No. 1; Sunnyhills, Milpitas, California", The Princeton Conference on Equal Opportunity Housing, 1962, Publ. Washington Center for Metropolitan Studies, Washington, DC.
3. "A Bold Housing Project for Milpitas", the San Francisco Chronicle, January 26, 1955.
4. Cannon, Douglas V. (Housing Market Analyst, FHA), Inventory of Speculative Home Building in the San Jose Area', Bay Area Real Estate Report, First Quarter, 1954.
5. "Milpitas Corn Festival", Supplement to the Milpitas Post, Meredith Newspapers.
6. Excerpt from "Solidarity", UAW Newsletter, January, 1958.
7. Ben Gross, "The Sunnyhills Methodist Church and Area", April, 1961.
8. Louise Brooks Stroud, "Sunnyhills United Methodist Church of Milpitas, 1957-1981, An Historical Summary", October, 1977; Revised January, 1981.
9. Photo File, Milpitas Post, Meredith Newspapers.
10. The California-Nevada United Methodist Reporter, San Jose District, 1971.
11. Life Magazine, January, 1962.