Telling Our Story and Celebrating 40 years of God’s Story at Woodbridge
Rich Samuelson, a youth pastor in San Jose, had a vision for starting a new Baptist General Conference Church on the growing Irvine Ranch. In 1969 Rich and his wife, Cookie, moved to Irvine, and with the support of the Southwest Baptist Conference (SWBC), they began contacting others in the area to plant a church. At the time, the only two churches in the area were Irvine Community Church and the Methodist Church. Small fellowship groups began meeting in homes in the church’s early days. During fellowship, Rich shared a vision for a church centered on equipping believers to serve Christ at the crossroads of the world. Reverend Bill and Shirley Cox joined in the pioneer efforts of establishing the new work.
The church was incorporated as Irvine Hills Community Church on June 4, 1971. The church selected the name Irvine Hills Community Church for two reasons: first, there was already an Irvine Community Church, and second, Rich and the leaders were hopeful of developing a rocky ridge in Turtle Rock as a potential church site.
The church quickly grew beyond the capacity of living rooms and began to meet on Sunday mornings at Turtle Rock Elementary School. The early core group consisted of Rich and Cookie Samuelson, Dave and Gladys Samuelson, Bill and Shirley Cox, Don and Marian Bowman, and Don and Beverly Talley. The new work attracted a number of students from the University of California Irvine, and many of these students went into full-time service. This established one of the predominant features of the church through the years: preparing and sending out workers to many parts of the world.
On August 27, 1976 the church purchased a three-acre parcel of land in the village of Woodbridge. This was a big step of faith for the small band of believers and also strategic in the future development of the church. In 1979 the church voted to change the name to Woodbridge Community Church (WCC), reflecting the new area where land had been purchased.
Over the next few years, the church continued to grow and plans for a building were discussed. A committee was formed to work toward construction on the land purchased. Construction of the church’s first worship center and classrooms began in 1983. In February 1984 the new building was dedicated and services began in the “L”-shaped portion, which consisted of the worship center, classrooms and offices. In 1986 the church launched a new ministry for children called Awana, which met on Sunday evenings.
In 1987 Dave Beckwith began his ministry as Senior Pastor at WCC. In November, the WCC Leadership Team met to consider plans for planting a Filipino-American Church in Irvine. The financial considerations for planting a church seemed very difficult, but the leadership felt God was clearly leading to proceed. Three months later, a few families agreed to step out by faith and start the Filipino-American Church of Irvine (FACI) with Sam Lacanienta as Pastor.
In 1989 the Leadership Team negotiated an agreement with Nurseryland for the monthly lease of a section of the front property. The following year, WCC began a second Sunday morning worship service since the single service was at capacity. In 1992 the Southern California real estate market dipped severely and recession set in. As a result, approximately 30 families relocated due to job changes and economic conditions, and over half the Leadership Team moved from the area. The congregation responded with a commitment to eliminate the church debt over a three-year period and expand the outreach ministry.
On October 31, 1995 James “Walkie” Ray stopped by to meet Pastor Dave Beckwith. He was interested in some form of a “win-win” plan involving the Nurseryland building, a parking agreement and other possibilities. This began the process of several years of discussions and negotiations that resulted in the development of the Master Plan. On April 15, 1996 Walkie Ray proposed building the new Worship Center, donating and moving the Nurseryland building, and constructing the WCC parking in exchange for a section of WCC property. On August 4, the congregation voted in favor of a revised Master Plan that included construction of a larger Worship Center, installation of a driveway and parking areas, and donation of the Nurseryland building as a Youth Center.
On January 11, 1998 charter member Shirley Cox did the ceremonial burning of the mortgage, which was the primary of goal of Vision ’96. On April 27 the WCC congregation unanimously approved the WCC Master Plan and financing for a new education wing. On January 3, 1999 the groundbreaking ceremony for the new children’s wing was held in a combined WCC and FACI service.
The demographics of Irvine and the church changed considerably between 1987 and 2000. The church’s growth represented countries all over the world including the Middle East, Europe, South Africa, Asia, South and Central America, Australia and New Zealand. God was bringing the world to the doorsteps of the church. On November 19, 2000 WCC launched a new worship service and congregation on Saturday evening called the Gathering. Pastor Frank led the ministry of this new work aimed at Generation X.
New community ministries were formed with an emphasis on reaching out to the needs of the community. “Mentor Me” was started as a ministry to help young fatherless boys develop healthy relationships with male role models. “Homework Help” was begun as a supervised homework study hall for children along with individual tutoring as needed. A Woodbridge Toastmasters was also developed with unique church-centered goals to develop leadership in the church and outreach to the community.
On June 26, 2003 Jim Thayer was selected as the architect for the new facilities, and the leadership announced God’s incredible miracle: a $2.5 million gift to Woodbridge Community Church designated for the construction and completion of the new Worship Center and Master Plan of facilities. March 28, 2004 was the groundbreaking for the new facilities with Charter Member Shirley Cox turning the first shovel full of dirt. On April 24, 2005 the FACI voted to become an affiliate congregation of WCC.
2005-2011: The journey has continued with a fresh face on Barranca Parkway, Woodbridge Community Church, now completed and modeling a multicultural, mulitgenerational church welcoming all Believers who love the Lord Jesus Christ.
Pastor Dave Beckwith retired in December 2006, Pastor Frank Winans became the new Interim Senior Pastor through August 2007 when a congregational vote installed him as the new Senior Pastor (our 4th).
Throughout 2006-2009 two congregations worshipped side by side, slowly merging ministries and worship until January 2010 when the Filipino-American Church of Irvine congregation formally merged with the Woodbridge congregation to become ONE church. We remain a single church reflecting “…from every nation, tribe,people and language standing before the throne…”(Revelation 7:9b)