A mainly Filipino congregation in a poor neighborhood in central Fresno feels it now has the improved facilities to help others.
For the past 21/2 years, Iglesia ni Cristo (Church of Christ) has held Sunday services and activities in its social hall rather than its sanctuary, which needed major renovation.
The project, including the installation of outdoor double steeples, was recently completed. Services are now held in the sanctuary with new pews, flooring, heating and air-conditioning, sound system and lighting from three large chandeliers. Bathrooms also were remodeled.
Now, the church is planning a Neighborhood Appreciation event in late January.
"The church wants to be involved in outreach," says Norman Dela Cruz, the new church minister. He replaces Max Vito, who was transferred to an Iglesia ni Christo church in Alameda.
Iglesia ni Cristo is a self-proclaimed global church with 104 ecclesiastical districts in the Philippines and in 90 more countries and territories. The Fresno church is affiliated with the Iglesia ni Cristo Northern California District, which has 35 churches.
At a recent Sunday service, deacons and deaconesses guided visitors into the sanctuary, where men and women sit on separate sides.
Twenty choir members, led by Marieann Soriano, sang six songs from a hymnal before deacon Bernard Prado gave an emotional prayer that prompted some choir members to wipe away tears.
Then, Dela Cruz gave a sermon on the importance of remaining strong in the faith through serving God and worshipping him.
Susan Leongson, church finance officer, says: "We are very happy we can worship God in a proper place. For God, this is the most proper — more than we've been before."
Here are other notes from the visit:
What's the first thing you notice from your pew? The chandeliers create a palace-like atmosphere.
What might you see here that you can't other places? Deacons, in dark suits, sit at the ends of rows on the men's side. Deaconesses, in white dresses and gloves, sit at the ends on the women's side.
What's everyone talking about? It's the chapel dedication on Dec. 28, when church executive minister Eduardo V. Manalo came from the Philippines to officiate.
Who's the behind-the-scenes hero? Member Ron Cadiz helped make new banners and sign boards promoting the dedication.
Location: 826 N. Palm Ave.
Contacts: (559) 352-5191; incmedia.org
Services: 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and 9:30 a.m. Sundays; Children's service 11:30 a.m. Sundays
Child care: Available
Minister: Norman Dela Cruz
Congregation: Estimated 200
History: Moved to current location three years ago. Located previously at 4097 E. Hamilton Ave.
Religious association: Iglesia ni Cristo (Quezon City, Philippines); Iglesia ni Cristo Northern California District
Doctrine: "... to worship the Almighty God based on his teachings as taught by the Lord Jesus Christ. The Church of Christ adheres to the unadulterated teachings of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ written in the Bible. The faithful firmly believe that this Church is the fulfillment of biblical prophecies that the Church established by Christ would re-emerge in these last days for the salvation of man," according to iglesianicristowebsite.com.
Key programs: Bible study Mondays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Direct TV Channel 2068 and Comcast Channel 238 broadcasts, devotional prayer for officers, Light of Salvation
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6304 or firstname.lastname@example.org.