Laurel Heights SDA Church

LHSDA History

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Laurel Heights Seventh-day Adventist Church History

The Seventh-day Adventist church in San Antonio was first organized in 1900 with only seven members who met in various locations until 1916, when a church building was erected at 443 Winnipeg Ave.  That served as the church home for 34 years.  Pastor K. K. Phillips’ vision of a new church home began in 1945 and the present site at the corner of Breeden and W. Ashby Place was purchased on December 18, 1946, at a cost of $12,000.  Soon after, in 1948, Elder E. B. Hallsted was making an effort to get the work on the church school completed at the Winnipeg location.  The church building was partially completed in 1950 when Elder Stanley Harris conducted a 12 week evangelistic campaign which added 100 new members to the church.  Funds for the completion of the building were raised by zealous members and with help from the Conference under the leadership of Elder Douglas Marchus.  The cost of the building was $97,328, not including the value of the member-donated labor, estimated to be more than $12,750.  The Laurel Heights Seventh-day Adventist church was dedicated on March 27, 1954, under the pastorship of Elder Charles Keymer.  The dedicatory address was presented by Elder W. B. Ochs, president of the North American Division. The membership at that time was 458.

Laurel Heights has long been considered the “mother church” of the San Antonio area.  In 1962, 88 members transferred to form Highland Hills, followed by Scenic Hills in 1977, Schertz in 1978, Seguin and East Terrell Hills in 1980.  A new church school was built in 1967, which was operated by a constituency of churches until 2008.

From the 1950’s to the 1970’s, we were fortunate to have the Servicemen’s Center next door to the church (across Breeden).  It was owned and operated by the General Conference and was initially directed for many years by Pastor and Mrs. C. A. Holt.  The military presence has always been strong in our church and we welcome their attendance and support in many of the church programs.  We are privileged to have many military and ex-military guests return years later speaking of fond memories of their church fellowship with us.

In the early 1970’s, air conditioning was added and the sanctuary windows were no longer cranked open to let the breeze in.  In 1975, the church was refurbished, including new carpet, restaining and cushioning the pews, and addition of six wrought iron chandeliers, which were made by one of the members. Over the years Laurel Heights has been refurbished several times; and with the help of talented, generous and dedicated members, ongoing remodeling and redecorating continues.

On April 17, 1992, Laurel Heights celebrated Homecoming Weekend, and many former members and pastors joined in a special weekend of memories, music, and renewed friendships. The Fiftieth Anniversary on March 27, 2004, was an occasion of great joy.  Featured speakers – Buell Fogg, Ron Merchant, and Larry Moore – were all sons of Laurel Heights members and all three had grown up in our church and then become ministers of the gospel.

The youth have always been a vital component of our membership, and their enthusiasm and abilities are a continual inspiration to the church.  Many of the youth have been able to participate in various mission trips.  Prior to 1999, three trips to Mexico had been sponsored by the Southwestern Union Conference, but more recently, our young adults have joined the Ultimate Workout programs of the Maranatha Organization, and those have provided memorable experiences and wonderful spiritual growth opportunities. The church has been blessed by their enthusiasm in these challenging ventures.

The Community Services program has been a strong component of the church’s outreach efforts.  In participation with the local Food Bank, many individuals needing food assistance are given help each week.  The Dorcas program has an active quilt ministry, which meets weekly, and their beautiful creations have been offered to new brides, graduating students, and others celebrating special occasions.  The quilts also have provided a successful way to raise funds for the outreach programs.  A health food store operated by the church is frequented by many in the San Antonio metropolitan and south Texas areas, and a large variety of meat substitutes and healthy food staples are offered.

The first Laurel Heights Pathfinder Club was organized, with G. W. Hancock as the director, in 1954, the same year the church was dedicated.  Today, the youth continue to enjoy the activities of the Alamo City Pathfinder Club, and the campouts with other Pathfinder clubs are highlight events they truly enjoy.

Since the first pastor in 1945, the roll call of 26 pastors has been full of dedicated men.  Many have gone to positions of leadership at various conference levels.  Elder Larry Moore, the current president of the Southwestern Union, had joined the Laurel Heights church with his family following evangelistic tent meetings held by Elder Joe Crews on West Avenue in the late 1950’s.

Laurel Heights offers a rich heritage to the many members and guests through the years.  It is our prayer that the love and Christian fellowship we enjoy in this church will continue for many years, and that Laurel Heights will exemplify the values and unique doctrines that are the foundation of our Adventist faith.  A statement from the 1954 dedication service remains a desire of the Laurel Heights church:  “May it always be a place of friendly fellowship to all strangers, a place of rest to all who are weary, a place of comfort to those who mourn, a place where God’s people dwell, and a center for the proclamation of the soon-coming of our Lord.”