First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood (FPCH) was formed in 1903. The present site was purchased in 1908, and the cornerstone of the current sanctuary laid in 1923. FPCH has been a vital evangelical church within the PCUSA for well over a century, reaching out to Los Angeles and producing many pastors, missionaries and leaders for the Church around the world.
FPCH was established in 1903 when Hollywood was a small community with a population of 700. It was considered by the Presbytery of Los Angeles to be a very unpromising location for the beginning of such a church. Nevertheless, founding pastor, the Rev. Dr. Henry Newell, and his wife Lizzie, the first Sunday school teacher, along with 25 adults signed up as Charter Members promising to “…make the glory of God, the salvation of the Soul and the welfare of the Church the great object and main business of [our] life.”
The charter congregation purchased the present site in 1908 and began construction of the first building, then known affectionately as the Presbyterian Storm Cellar, now just “The Cellar.” In 1909, the first sanctuary superstructure was built, now the gymnasium. During its second decade of existence, the women of the church organized the Women’s Home and Missionary Society and supported Margaret Hartsock as the church’s first oversees missionary.
The Rev. Dr. Stuart MacLennan, called as pastor in 1921, began the legacy of great preaching that is a hallmark of FPCH. During his twenty-year tenure, he inspired the church, established a local radio ministry, and led the campaign to underwrite and build the present sanctuary, that cornerstone being laid in 1923. So vital was worship to the life of the church that the sanctuary was designed to hold 1,600 people, well beyond the 1,000 on the membership role.
Dr. MacLennan was instrumental in persuading Henrietta Mears to take the position as Director of Christian Education, where for 35 years, from 1928-1963, Miss Mears established a legacy of Christian education and ministry that was unique in American Christendom. During the 1950s, she ministered through the College Department to many hundreds of men and women, including such future leaders as Louis Evans, Jr.; Bill Bright, Donn Moomaw, and Dale Bruner. Her vision for a Christian camp in the local mountains led to the purchase and subsequent development of Forest Home. She also founded Gospel Light Press (Sunday School curriculum).
In 1941, the Rev. Dr. Louis Evans, Sr. was called as pastor. Dr. Evans continued the tradition of strong pulpit ministry and invested in the development of the lay ministry. During Dr. Evans’ tenure, in the period of post-war, burgeoning congregations, the membership of the church grew from 1,400 to 8,900. At the invitation of Dr. Evans, in 1941 Dr. Charles and Mrs. Lucy Hirt became music directors who founded the Cathedral Choir and expanded the ministry of adult and children’s choirs. The Hirts led the choirs to offer music as a spiritual experience, a ministry and witness rather than a performance.
The Rev. Dr. Richard Halverson joined the staff during which time he helped develop World Vision and International Christian Leadership. Dr. Halverson was later appointed as the Chaplain to the U.S. Senate. Hollywood Presbyterian began a deputation ministry which sent Christ-empowered collegians to minister to war-devastated Europe as well as to needy areas of our own city.
The Rev. Dr. Raymond Lindquist was installed as pastor in 1953. He was known as a “poet of the pulpit” and served until 1972. During the 1960s, the Rev. Dr. Don Williams, then pastor of the College Department, initiated a unique coffee house ministry for the young people of Hollywood called “The Salt Company.”
The Rev. Dr. Lloyd John Ogilvie was called as Senior Pastor to FPCH in 1972 in which capacity he served until 1995. During his tenure, Dr Ogilvie oversaw the development of significant ministries. In 1978, Dr. Ogilvie began Let God Love You, a national television ministry. Later, the Munger Center for Counseling opened, providing professional, Christ-centered services to the community. In 1987, members of FPCH began a new and innovative work in the entertainment community by establishing Actors Co-op theater ministries. Other ministries reaching out into the broader entertainment community included Inter-Mission, Act One: Writing for Hollywood, Hollywood Connect, and the Hollywood Prayer Network. The Hollywood Urban Project ministry provided a physical presence in the local community with a team of City Dwellers, now continued by DOOR. The Lord’s Lighthouse was started, and today offers physical and spiritual food, social services and shelter to friends on the streets of Hollywood. In 1995, Dr. Ogilvie accepted an appointment as Chaplain to the U.S. Senate where he served until 2003.
Beginning in 2005, FPCH entered into a very tumultuous chapter, resulting in pastors leaving and great congregational upheaval. Dr. Gary Stratman came in as a long-term interim to provide stability through mid-2009. He was followed by remarkable co-interims Rev. Bill Hansen and Dr. Paul Pierson, who shepherded the church towards its next chapter.
In November 2010, Rev. Dan Baumgartner was installed as the Senior Pastor. Since then, FPCH has been growing into a three-fold identity as a church that is: multi-generational, learning about community, and thriving in an urban context. A team approach to leadership, new learning opportunities and exposure to the visual arts have added to this new chapter of following Jesus together. In May 2013, the FPCH Session voted to affiliate with the Fellowship of Presbyterians, an evangelical group of churches within the PCUSA.
In May of 2019, Pastor Dan Baumgartner left FPCH to answer the Holy Spirit’s call to serve at a newer congregation as it continues to put down roots. Pastor Dan was a gift of wisdom, clarity, and growth to the congregation, and his past leadership is still an evident blessing as the church enters a time of transition.
On Sunday, September 8, 2019, Rev. Dr. Tim Eichler was warmly welcomed as the Transitional Pastor and Head of Staff. FPCH looks expectantly toward the future as it waits on God’s leading and direction for the next season.