The Last Time That I Was In L.A. Part One

17 Dec

The Last Time That I Was In L.A. Part One

 

By Bob Gersztyn

 

December 16, 2015

 

All Photography Copyright by Bob Gersztyn

Hollywood Blvd #2

 

 

The last time that I was in L.A. was 2010.

B Los Angeles inner city  4 Square Church 1973

 

It was for a reunion with my brothers and sisters in Christ that I had met back in the Summer of 1971 when I first moved to the West Coast from the Detroit, Michigan area, with my FiancΓ© Kathy.

Bob & Kathy's Agape Inn Wedding

 

We got married during intermission in a Christian coffee house. Since we didn’t know anybody in Los Angeles yet. The minister, Laverne Campbell got a married couple to be our witnesses. We became good friends with them and everybody else in the church. The Jesus movement was exploding and we became part of it.

Calvary Chapel

 

The epicenter of the Jesus movement in Southern California was at Calvary Chapel, in Costa Mesa, a beautiful ocean front suburb, where groups like Children of the Day, Love Song and Mustard Seed Faith were becoming the musical prophets of the movement and even began a record label called “Maranatha!”.

Love Song #3

 

Laverne Campbell the Pastor of the Highland Park Neighborhood Church (HPNC), located in the inner city was good friends with Chuck Smith, the Pastor of Calvary Chapel. So all the music artists came to our inner city church to play in the coffee house or concerts in the sanctuary.

Los Angeles Sunset Blvd at night 1974

 

The 1970’s was an exciting time in L.A., with everyone converging on the Hollywood district to hawk their religion or whacky idea that they were selling. Everyone from Moonies, Hare Khrisna’s and Scientologist’s to the Children of God, Tony and Sue Alamo and doomsday preachers.

Laverne Campbell 1973

 

By Fall 1973 Pastor Campbell had transformed the old time religion of the HPNC to a hip place for the Jesus movement to thrive, with a Sunday morning attendance of nearly 200. Then he and his family moved from Los Angeles and ended up being the Pastor of a Calvary Chapel church in an Atlanta, Georgia suburb.

Pastor Staley 1974

 

His replacement was Pastor Gerald Stahley, who came from old time religion and didn’t care about the Youthful Jesus movement and changed the name of the church back to the Highland Park Neighborhood Foursquare Church. He and his co-pastor wife also believed that Christians could be demon possessed. This upset the church council who believed that if you were filled with the Spirit of God then there was no room left for demons, so after six months the Stahley’s left. By this time Sunday morning services had about 100 people in the Spring of 1974.

Pastor Larry Field 1974 #2a

 

Pastor Larry Field was only 40 years old like pastor Campbell, but he was still into old time religion and not the Jesus movement. So after fighting with the church council and membership over issues like thermometers on the platform indicating how much money was being collected in offerings for church improvements he got frustrated and left after nine months. By now the church attendance was down to about fifty on a Sunday morning, by Spring 1975.

Mark Ballard

 

Pastor Mark Ballard was the youth pastor at HPNC when Laverne Campbell was Pastor and ended up becoming the senior pastor in Spring 1975. He helped Laverne start the Agape Inn coffee house back in 1970 and was a musician himself. He was part of the Jesus movement and put the church back on the right path.

Agape Inn Sign

 

We closed the Agape Inn around New Year 1974, when Pastor Stahley was there. The reason why we closed it was because hardly anybody was coming to it anymore. Sometimes it seemed like it was only the staff.

Bob G 1973

 

At the same time I began the multi-media ministry, so the youth helped me. At the same time we continued to have concerts in the sanctuary on occasion. From 1972 until about 1976 many of us attended the Saturday night concerts that Calvary Chapel presented to standing room only crowds.

Keith Green 1976

 

In 1976 I was in my third year at Bible college and came on paid staff at HPNC as an associate pastor in charge of youth and concert promotion and production. We began to have concerts every Friday night, beginning September 1976. Our very first artist was an unknown, up and coming Jesus rock star named Keith Green. Chuck Girard recommended him to me. He was a phenomenal performer and preacher. I was the emcee at the concerts, but after Green finished his set, there was nothing left to say. He came out of the Hollywood crowd that Ken Gulliksen, a pastor from Calvary Chapel was nurturing. He was beginning a ministry to the movie stars and rock stars called the Vineyard Fellowship, up in Malibu.

My favorite corner

To Be Continued

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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