In 1939, the citizens of San Marino pursued a Protestant Church in the Presbyterian denomination. Within the year, church services and Sunday school commenced at a nearby school. By 1941 the Los Angeles Presbytery’s Approval was received to establish the San Marino Community Church, Presbyterian. A few years later, an attractive three-acre site on Virginia Road was acquired and construction began. In 1947, Sunday services were held in the newly-constructed Fellowship Hall.
For the next nine years, fundraising and construction continued with the Sanctuary, in particular, a remarkable achievement with world-renowned artisans and suppliers hired to install stained-glass windows, a top-quality pipe organ, a hand-carved pulpit and lectern, a medieval baptismal font, and historically correct, hand-embroidered antependia to adorn the pulpit and lectern.
In 1958, with over 1,000 members, Church leaders established the San Marino Community Church Foundation in the hopes that an endowment would encourage congregants, over time, to make lasting contributions and bequests that would support the long-term success of their cherished institution.
During the 1960’s and 70’s numerous programs benefitted church members, the community, as well as local charities. By 1980 membership grew to 1,557, and the institution seemed secure. However, within the next decade Church membership in the U.S. overall was on the decline. The city of San Marino witnessed its own changes in demographics, and emerging styles of worship attracted the next generation to attend elsewhere.
Despite the downward trend, SMCC has adapted more successfully than most congregations. Though it experienced a dip in membership during the 1990s, from 2002 to 2020 SMCC membership rebounded to 1,157 members as it embraced diverse styles of worship and as new population groups brought their gifts to the community.
In 2008, SMCC added a second worship service to its Sunday schedule. A contemporary music ensemble, The Virginia Road Band, was formed. Those looking for an alternative to traditional services found this new, modern service to be joyful and inspiring. Up to this writing (in 2021) the service has continued to attract a growing following.
SMCC also launched new member-led programs to meet needs within the local community. Weekly Conversational English classes have been offered for those who have limited English skills, regardless of their faith. Also, weekly table tennis sessions, and Bible study for Mandarin speakers, have been added to the programs. SMCC also addressed the need for large repairs and improvements.
In 2010 a capital campaign raised $6.8 million to pay for the facility’s deferred maintenance, mission and outreach endeavors, as well as a Sustainability Fund for future maintenance needs.
Over the years SMCC has maintained a healthy financial status (derived primarily from donations), enabling it to support new programs and staff. Remarkably, while new expenses for necessary online activities (due to the pandemic) were adding new costs, healthy income allowed SMCC to continue to thrive. Namely, the hiring of technical staff, the installation of cameras, lighting, and production control equipment enabled the switch to live streaming along with in-person attendance as pandemic restrictions are gradually easing.