Lincoln Glen Church celebrates “80-ish” anniversary

Weekend highlights current ministry, history of San Jose congregation

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The final song of the worship service included dancers, which have often been used in big celebration services. Photo: LGC

Lincoln Glen Church, San Jose, California, had plans to celebrate their 80th anniversary in 2020, but like many special events, the celebration was delayed due to COVID-19. The congregation was finally able to celebrate this fall. Daryl Penner, a member of Lincoln Glen Church, shares the story of LGC’s history and weekend party.  

September 15-17, 2023, was a time of celebration for Lincoln Glen Church in San Jose, California. The church celebrated their 80-year anniversary with food, games, music, history, reminiscing, looking ahead and worship.

The event was billed as an “80-ish” anniversary due to the fact that while the church officially began in 1940, COVID restrictions would not allow any such event in 2020. The delay, however, did not dampen the spirits of the many who joined together for this milestone. Current members and attendees were joined by former members and others who are no longer a part of LGC but came together for the occasion.

Food served during the weekend included some traditional German Mennonite food. Photo: LGC

Church story begins in 1931

Lincoln Glen Mennonite Brethren Church, known then as Mennonite Brethren Christian Fellowship, began meeting in the home of Abe and Anna Gerbrandt in 1931. In 1940, Abe’s brother and sister-in-law, Dick and Linda Gerbrandt, were given a leave of absence from their pastorate in North Dakota to help in the birth of this new church in San Jose.

On November 15, 1940, the church was accepted into the Pacific District Conference and officially became known as San Jose Mennonite Brethren Church. In January of 1941, Dick and Linda returned to North Dakota, and SJMB Church called yet another Gerbrandt brother, John and his wife, Marie, to lead this young church. John was an ordained minister and served as pastor for four years before taking a position at Tabor College.

The band playing at the Friday night Community Block Party was briefly joined by the San Jose Sharks mascot. Photo: LGC

Space always an issue

Because the church was constantly growing, meeting space was always an issue. The church moved numerous times, always looking for bigger and more suitable facilities. In late 1963, the church began to consider the need for a larger, more permanent facility and a home for senior citizens. The church purchased 20 acres of orchards on Booksin Avenue in San Jose on July 1, 1964.

In August 1965, the church voted to change its name to Lincoln Glen Mennonite Brethren Church to better reflect the new location and have a consistent name with the adjoining senior care facility which would become known as Lincoln Glen Manor. Groundbreaking for Phase One of the Manor took place Nov. 3, 1968, and the facility was dedicated Jan. 8, 1970.

The worship band leads the church in praising God for 80 years of his grace and faithfulness. Photo: LGC

In April 1972, groundbreaking for Phase One of the church facility took place. This would include construction of a two-story education building as well as a gymnasium. The first service in the gymnasium was held Nov. 19, 1972. The gym served as the church’s place of worship for the next several years. Ground was broken Aug. 7, 1977, for the new sanctuary adjacent to the gym. The first service in the new sanctuary was held Oct. 8, 1978, and the dedication service was Oct. 29, 1978.

Since that time, these buildings continue to serve as LGMBC’s church home. Additionally, they have been used for a variety of purposes, including a pre-school, home-school groups, basketball camps, the annual MCC International Gift Faire, school concerts, weddings, funerals and many other activities.

Saturday opportunities included food demonstrations where people could learn to make traditional German Mennonite food. Photo: LGC

Weekend festivities

The weekend’s festivities began Friday evening with a block party, a LGMBC summer tradition. Activities included two food trucks, an ice cream truck, bounce houses, various children’s games, a popcorn machine, live music and an appearance by the San Jose Sharks mascot, Sharkie. This has proven to be a popular neighborhood event during the summer months. Approximately 200 people attended this event.

The Friday night block party included bounce houses. Photo: LGC

Saturday was a day of reminiscing and catching up with old friends while presentations, displays and demonstrations were offered at the church. Short presentations about the birth of Lincoln Glen and another describing Mennonite origins were available. Demonstrations on making zwiebach (double-decker buns), peppernuts (mini spice cookies) and fritters were also offered. Attendees could take home these ready-to-eat items.

A history wall and table were assembled for viewing by those interested in learning more about the church. Guests could view a slide show running on a loop in the church lobby.

The Sunday morning service, attended by about 185 people, was a time of praise and worship to the God who has sustained, lifted up and guided us over the past 80-plus years. A floral cross at the entrance to the sanctuary greeted the people as they arrived.

The choir was re-established after a long absence and sang three songs. The Lincoln Glen Singers, a small ensemble that performed in the 70s and 80s came together once again for a special number.  A video clip featuring several former pastors and church-supported missionaries was shown.

Pastor Tyler Cole’s sermon texts included 1 Samuel 7, and Cole encouraged everyone to write their own Ebenezer stones, remembering God’s faithfulness. Photo: LGC

Tyler Cole, lead pastor, brought the morning message, “Moving Forward by Looking Back.” Cole illustrated the instruction given to the Israelites to pass on the lessons of God’s faithfulness to their children and grandchildren. He also shared Hebrews 13:8, which proclaims “Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.” The service closed with communion. The service was followed by a BBQ lunch and homemade ice cream, and of course, more fellowship.

One highlight of the morning service was the recognition of 45 years of service by Larry and Debi Albright. Arriving in August 1978, Larry was hired as minister of music. In addition to leading the church choir, he also led smaller ensembles, kid’s choirs and directed major musical events at Christmas and Easter.

Pacific District Minister, Jordan Ringhofer, and Lead Pastor, Tyler Cole, pray for and honor Larry and Debi Albright. Larry has been a pastor at LGC for 45 years!

After stepping down from that position in June 2016, Albright remained on staff as pastor of care, a position he holds to this day. Debi has her own calling, working with a number of children’s ministries, music and meeting individually with women from the church. We have been truly blessed to have them serve among us all these years.

Final thoughts

God has been with us every step of the way since that first home meeting in 1931 and has continually shown his people that his promises never fail. Being located in a city of nearly one million people has both its challenges and opportunities. The fields are truly “white unto harvest.”

Like all churches, we have had our struggles at times, but we remain absolutely convinced that God is still at work here. We simply need to respond to his call and be the hands and feet to do the work of the Great Commission from Matthew 28:19-20: ”Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. Be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

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