In 1945, a group of lay people who had been traveling to the eastside of Los Angeles for worship discussed the idea of organizing a new Methodist church which would service the rapidly growing African-American population on the Westside of the city. The early pioneers included Ulysses S. Griggs, Sr., J.W. Bryant, J.B. Jones, William Page, Ethel Page, Mrs. Charlie Jackson, Nina Lott, Mary Harris, and Chaplain J.L. Jones. Early accounts of those first meetings indicate that the people always prayed together for guidance and depended on the presence of the Holy Spirit as they sought to create a new opportunity for the people of God.
On February 11, 1945, this vision became a reality and the first service was held in a Seventh Day Adventist Church on West Thirty-Sixth Place. Reverend J.L.Jones, an ex-army chaplain, was appointed as the first interim minister and the church was named Morgan Chapel. During the first two years, services were held in various locations including a dance hall at the corner of Jefferson Boulevard and Normandie Avenue. Glen Smiley, Henry Cook, and Ted Evans were among those who served as interim pastors. In April 1945, the church school opened and the Women’s Society of Christian Service began its mission work.
God blessed and guided this fledgling group of committed individuals and the congregation grew in numbers and Christian service. At that time, Dr. Calvin Holman, Superintendent of the Los Angeles District of the Methodist Church, was instrumental in officially organizing the church and Morgan Chapel was later re-named Holman.
Still growing and pressing on, the congregation purchased its first permanent building in 1947 – a former Jewish Synagogue on the corner of Cimarron Street and Jefferson Boulevard. Reverend Lanneau L. White was appointed the first permanent pastor of Holman. He and his wife Bernice, and their three sons arrived from the Washington Conference on July 14, 1947.
Under the leadership of Reverend White, the church continued to grow and in 1951 purchased the Pepperdine Estate at 3320 West Adams Boulevard. The membership had grown from the original seven to nine hundred thirty-eight. The congregation supported a successful building fund drive and in 1958 the award winning sanctuary, designed by architect Kenneth Lind, was completed. In 1965, the Educational Building was constructed with Clyde Grimes as the architect. Associate Pastor Edward S. Williams served Holman from 1959 to 1974 focusing on congregational care. A dynamic tradition of excellence in music, programs for youth, community outreach (including the Storehouse), and evangelism flourished. Reverend White remained at Holman for twenty-seven years.
In 1974, Reverend James M. Lawson, Jr. answered the call to assume the leadership role at Holman. The Lawson family, including wife Dorothy and their three sons, arrived in Los Angeles from Tennessee and the faith led journey continued. Pastor Lawson, a close associate of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a leader in the civil rights movement, and an advocate of non-violence, emphasized ministries of peace and social justice which became cornerstones of Holman’s outreach programs. A major construction undertaking, the Multipurpose Building (later named the James M. Lawson, Jr. Multipurpose Building), and multi-level parking structure was completed in 1992. The Sanctuary was later retrofitted to meet earthquake standards. The full service campus provided a safe and welcoming place for worship, Christian education, and a variety of outreach programs. After the retirement of Pastor Lawson in 1999, Reverend Paul A. Hill, the Associate Pastor, served as Interim Pastor until 2001.
Rev. Dr. Henry L. Masters, Sr. served as senior pastor from 2001 to 2012. He and his wife, Rev. S. Dianna Masters are originally from Texas. A former District Superintendent, Seminary Adjunct Professor and Consultant to the Upper Room, Dr. Masters is a recognized leader in church growth and innovation. He is the author of the book titled Simon of Cyrene, The only African Eyewitness to the Crucifixion of Jesus. He brought new energy and enthusiasm to the work of the church, including Alternative worship services, Disciple classes, health and safety programs, Jobs for Kids, liturgical dance, H.O.P.E. (hiv/aids) Ministry, and the prison ministry, are among the programs which enable members of Holman, as Christian servants, to help meet the needs of the diverse Los Angeles population. Holman now has a Permanent Endowment Fund which receives gifts and estate property to perpetuate the life and legacy of Holman’s history and its members.
On July 1, 2012, Holman welcomed Rev. Kelvin Sauls and his wife, Rev. Judi Wortham-Sauls, as our new Senior Pastor and First Lady. Born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, Rev. Sauls, brings to Holman United Methodist Church years of experience in, and passion for congregational vitalization for community transformation. A bridge-builder for cross-cultural and multi-ethnic congregational development in racially diverse communities, Rev. Sauls continues to be excited about God’s plans and promises that come with his appointment to Holman, and fueled by his passion & compassion, hope & commitment to his call as a servant of God.
Holman UMC, the Church of the Bells, continues to be a beacon of light, God’s light, in the Los Angeles Community and beyond. God is still moving in the life of this congregation as we celebrate 68 years of service. Like our founders, we engage in prayer, study the Word, and invite the guiding presence of the Holy Spirit into our lives as we continue walking in “obedience to the faith.”