The Church at Litchfield Park
300 North Old Litchfield Road
Litchfield Park, AZ 85340
Page updated Sun Apr 17
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Click here for a brief version of our history.
The colonnade (right) was the first major construction since the sanctuary. It was a line of classrooms with the kitchen in the north end. The facade of arches and the cowbell lights (left) are exactly as we see them today.
James Ostergren, fourth pastor, was ordained by the Payne Avenue Baptist Church of St. Paul, Minnesota (Swedish Baptist at the time). He was here for ten years and returned later as an interim pastor. Rev. Ostergren became very involved with Mr. Litchfield and the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, particularly Mr. Litchfield’s Desert Devotional Program.
The Desert Devotional Program was Mr. Litchfield’s idea. With the partnership of this church and Rev. Ostergren, they began a springtime tradition of holding interdenominational spiritual programs at the Open Air Chapel at Rancho La Loma. It was Mr. Litchfield who felt strongly that interdenominational services would “promote a closer fellowship among people of different churches and creeds, in the belief that the crucial needs of mankind today call for a more inclusive brotherhood of all men.” The services were sponsored jointly by this church and the Phoenix and Arizona Councils of Churches. Layman and religious leaders from across the nation were invited to speak, and music was performed by many different choirs, including the Mormon Tabernacle Choir of Salt Lake City, Utah. One Sunday there were over 2,500 people at the service. This program flourished until 1959, the year Mr. Litchfield died.
Arthur H. Zieske Fellowship Hall was dedicated in April and named for the first chairman of the newly organized 1938 church council. At the time he was the Vice President of the Goodyear Farms operations. Mr. Zieske (left) died six months later. Great care was taken to make the sanctuary, the colonnade, and Zieske Hall appear to be one building, including the cowbell lights at the doors. It was the church social hall until Souers Hall was built, and initially it had a stage. The Thrift Shop started there in 1969. Then in 1974 the stage was removed for partitioned classrooms and a large storage area was built out the south side for the Thrift Shop sale items. In 1993 the stained glass window was inserted, titled “Jesus Loves the Little Children” (right). During the sanctuary renovation Sunday services were held there. Renovation in 1997 created the pastors’ offices and a conference area.
C. Arnold Dockery (left), fifth pastor, was hired in May 1958 and resigned in August 1960. There is very little information about him; he was the pastor in 1959 when Mr. Litchfield died here in Arizona.
The earliest available documentation for Men’s Fellowship is in the June 15, 1960 Mission Bell newsletter. They have always had charcoal-broiled steaks and a speaker. The mission of Men’s Fellowship is to stimulate an intellectual and spiritual interest in the work of the church; the objective is to provide a forum for men to engage in fellowship, worship, and service projects. Their programs have included speakers on survival, racecars, POW experiences, school district issues, the Old Testament, religious topics, financial planning, military topics, health issues, and so much more. Over the years they have contributed to the missions of the church by helping with the WCSF cookie walk, delivering Christmas gifts, and supporting the Agua Fria Food Bank. Currently they are purchasing the nametags for new members. They fund their projects with a donation from the men at each meeting. Men’s Fellowship is open to all men attending the church and their friends. The photo is from the Men's Fellowship cookout on June 10, 1963.
James Ord (left), the sixth pastor, had ministered at the First Congregational Church in Tucson prior to coming here. We have no information regarding his education or ordination. During the 1960’s the church was valued at $23,000. Rev. Ord’s 1967 salary was $7,860, of which $660 was his annuity paid for by the Women’s Christian Service Fellowship. By his last year there were 318 members and 80+ in the Sunday school.
The official groundbreaking for the parsonage was June 19, 1967. The church purchased the land for $1,600 and the house was donated by The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, since the church was still owned by the company. It was dedicated on October 6. Rev. Ord and his family were the first to live there. Rev. Plumlee also lived there, but after he moved to a house in Litchfield Park, it became rental property. In 1982, at the insistence of parents, it became a gathering place for the church teens and dedicated as the Watt House in honor of Jess and Beulah Watt, long-time members. It wasn’t until 1991 that the carport was converted to the Thrift Shop. The women moved their items from the storage closet in Zieske Hall; in the Watt House they were able to leave their sale items displayed between sales.
There are no Women’s Christian Service Fellowship minutes for 1965, the year it was organized. There is a May 23, 1967 newsletter titled “Women’s Christian Service Fellowship” that reports that the executive board met and decided to postpone the formal installation of the newly-elected officers. We don’t know who were elected officers for 1966-1967, and the newsletter isn’t signed by the president. However, from then on, we have minutes for every year filled with information on bazaars, fundraisers, as well as items which had been purchased, organized, and contributed to the church. Their Benevolence Program has always been the heart of their organization. Since 1967 they have donated well over $75,000 to charities. For the church they have spent over $250,000, along with $50,000 to the PAX building fund. The circles, called “the Circles of Friends,” were born in 1983, designed to create small groups of women who share common interests, needs, and fellowship. Today there are six circles all involved with study, fellowship, and philanthropies. Over the years there have been Helping Hands, speakers, field trips, ice cream socials, annual bazaars, potluck dinners, and brunches for Mother’s Day, Christmas, Father’s Day, and St. Patrick’s Day. Together with the other churches, there were the Ecumenical Fashions Shows and the annual World Day of Prayer events.
The first Thrift Shop sale was October 20, 1966, in Hank Raymond’s Boswell Cotton Gin. It was Millicent Whitwell’s idea; she was the church organist and choir director. The objective was to raise charitable funds to help migrant farm workers, provide funds for the church, in addition to providing fellowship, purpose, and Christian opportunity for the women. The ladies gathered clothing, washing and mending it for the sale. The first sale netted $56.02; by May they made $1,033.19, and spent it on air conditioning for the sanctuary and other items. The Thrift Shop was moved into Zieske Hall in 1969, but all of the items had to be brought out from storage for the sale and then returned. In 1991 the parsonage carport was enclosed, allowing the women to display their sale items and leave them out between sales. There was quite a celebration. Over the 46 years the Thrift Shop has earned over $350,000, and it was only open one day a month until 1991, when it was expanded to two days a month.
Ray Plumlee (left), seventh pastor, was ordained by the United Methodist Church, California-Nevada Conference. Prior to coming here he had served as a school administrator in both Missouri and south of Tucson. He was very involved with the community, including the Maryvale Samaritan Hospital’s Chaplaincy Program, the Governor’s Advisory Council on Drug Abuse and Alcohol, the Arizona Ecumenical Council, Shriners, and Rotary.
The first scholarships were given to students at Agua Fria High School. This program continues today, with scholarships being awarded by the church and the Women’s Christian Service Fellowship. A scholarship committee seeks candidates from the Agua Fria Union High School District, who are then screened and interviewed, and recipients are chosen.
Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company gifted the church buildings and the land to the congregation on November 21, 1971. Until that time the church was owned by the company, which covered the expenses under a church council and trustees guided by the 1938 constitution. Goodyear’s chief counsel, Arden Firestone, and Goodyear Farms general manager, George Busey, blessed the church with this benevolent gesture. Mr. Firestone ended his presentation by saying, “...I feel both humble and proud to stand in Mr. Litchfield’s rightful place today as Goodyear’s representative at this service. We hope that you shall always be proud of and preserve and treasure this edifice to the Glory of God.” Roger Nelson, council chairman, accepted the documents which transferred this church property to the congregation.
The council rewrote the constitution to be in line with the Articles of Incorporation. They created the bicameral form of government with the Board of Directors responsible for the corporate affairs and the Church Council responsible for the spiritual affairs.
This was also the first year of a stewardship campaign. The year before the transfer the church budget was $16,775. The first year’s budget grew 72% to $28,845. Their budget included salaries, insurance, building maintenance, lawn care - all that was required of a church. It was not an easy task. Their total pledge amounted to $25,537 from 71 pledges, of which 62 were from member families. They followed up with teams visiting those who hadn’t pledged. Each year following there were stewardship campaigns including: Pass the Hat; Pony Express; Stewardship is a Good Investment; We are Family; Christ, Compassion and Community; The Lemonade Stewardship Drive; Assurance of Support; and more recently a Pledge from the Heart; Faith, Hope and Love; Heart to Heart Ambassador Program; and Forward by Faith.
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