The Community of Acton, California was founded in 1877 by railroaders and miners, some of whom had come from the town of Acton, Massachusetts. (See picture at left) These founding families came to California believing strongly that any good community must have a school and a church. It was this conviction that moved them to build a school for their children in 1881 and to organize a worshiping community.
Acton Presbyterian Church was organized on April 28, 1888, as the Union Religious & Moral Society. They elected a president and recording secretary, and the organization kept minutes of their meetings. The charter members were made up of families and individuals that were the founding members of the Acton Community itself. Services were conducted by retired ministers or volunteer preachers for many years. The congregation met in what was known as "The Little White School House" which had been built in 1881 and was the home of the school and church until the Soledad School was built in the 1890's. That second school facility was designed so that the school used half of the building and the church the other half. That building still remains in Acton and is now a private residence. The bell for the school was moved from that building and now hangs in the bell tower of the present Acton School on Crown Valley Road.
A Sunday school was established the first Sunday in May, and some weeks later the congregation arranged to purchase a pump organ on credit for 50 cents a week. Classes were taught by individuals who were also teachers in the school. The membership, baptismal, and wedding records of the church stand as an interesting chronicle of Acton history in and of themselves.
In 1916, the congregation voted to affiliate with the Presbyterian Church (USA) and became a member church in the former Presbytery of Los Angeles. (In 1960, the Presbytery of Los Angeles was divided into four inner city presbyteries and the Acton Church is now in the area known as the Presbytery of San Fernando.) Acton resident Alberta Bell was the first infant to be baptized in the newly chartered Presbyterian Church in 1916. The present church sanctuary (often referred to as "that cute little white church on Crown Valley Road") was constructed on property donated to the church by one of the member families. The building was dedicated in June, 1924.
The Sanctuary was constructed entirely of California redwood and the handmade siding and internal tongue-in-groove ceilings are original. The bell was donated by one of the large churches in the Los Angeles Presbytery, and the pulpit was hand-carved from a solid block of oak by a member of the Wilshire Presbyterian Church. The Sanctuary interior was completely gutted in 1988 in preparation for the church's 100th anniversary in order to insulate the building, to install a new wall heater,install new lighting and circulations fans, and to replace the crumbling wallboard. New windows were donated by a member of the community. The seating capacity of the Sanctuary was increased at this time by opening up the two areas in the rear of the room which had formerly served as classrooms and which now provided extra space for pews. New pews were donated by members, friends, and community residents as memorial gifts with the first 10 pews installed that Spring just prior to the 100th anniversary celebration. The remaining pews have been installed in the subsequent decades. The stained glass window was a gift of the Milburn Family in 1985, in memory of Elder Jack Milburn who had been a member of the church since 1948 and who had almost single-handedly cared for the Acton Cemetery for many years prior to his death. A new Johannus organ was dedicated November, 2006. This year (2009) the church celebrated its 121st anniversary on what has become known as Reunion Sunday (the Sunday closest to April 28) with a special service and a barbecue lunch.
The church became a not-for-profit California corporation in 1923. It was also that same year that the Acton Cemetery was deeded to the church by the last remaining member of the Deuhren family.
In 1951, the Presbytery "yoked" the Acton Church with the
Community Presbyterian Church of Littlerock, CA which had been chartered in 1931. In this way the two congregations shared the services of one pastor. Four successive pastors served this "yoked" parish until 1979 when the two churches once again became separate entities by their own choice. Rev. Henry Keaton was the first pastor of that yoked parish. Through the years both congregations had become very small with very sparse membership, and it was decided to allow each church to seek its own future. Both have prospered in the years since.
Because the congregation saw the need for a place of public
assembly as well as a facility for educational classes, fellowship gatherings and such, it was during those years that members and friends of the church gave time and talent and donated much of the materials that went into the building of Hedgecock Hall in 1958. Most of the materials were post-war surplus. The Hall was the only facility available to the community for public use prior to the construction of the Community Club building. A number of times it was used for classes from Acton School due to an enrollment crunch and during years when it was possible to use other public facilities as temporary class space. The interior of the hall was redone in 2000 to remove old ceiling insulation, install new recessed lighting, and paint the hall for the first time since its construction. A new community computer lab has been installed at the south end of the hall to serve members of the community. The hall bears the name of Elder John Hedgecock, long-time church member and a county employee who served at the Acton Rehab Center for many years and who served the church as its Clerk of Session until his death in the 1960's. It is still being used today by many community groups and two other churches.
A Veterans' Memorial Flagpole was erected in front of the Hall in 1991 and funded by several groups and business organizations in Acton. It was the first veteran's memorial erected in Acton and continues to serve as a reminder of the church's commitment to our men and women who have served in the Armed Forces in the past as well as in the present.
Through many decades the ministries of the church were directed and empowered by dedicated, loving and committed volunteers who believed that Acton Church was still necessary in the present as it had been in the past. The congregation continues to see itself as an integral part of the history and life of Acton, and many of its present activities and ministries are designed to benefit not just the congregation but the community as a whole. The Rev. Dr. Judith Hirsch-Fikejs, assumed leadership of the church in August, 1985, when the congregation received Presbytery, Synod, and General Assembly funding to renew and redevelop the ministries of the church and a new era of growth began, reflecting new growth in the community itself. She was the church's first full-time pastor. The Sanctuary was gutted and renovated in 1986 as part of the centenniel celebration and the congregation has continued to improve the building in the years since.
The church Annex was purchased in the late 1980's for added classroom space and an office for the pastor. It also serves as a meeting place for small groups, a play yard for children, a picnic area for summer gatherings, and local Town Council elections are held there. The church also purchased a two-acre parcel on the corner of Crown Valley Road and Gillespie Streets, which now bears the name of Heritage Field. Local groups, movie and television companies, and various other entities have used the field for a variety of purposes.
A number of gifted women and men have pastored the congregation through the years. They each brought their own particular gifts and leadership style to the church and after many years, the church became self-supporting in 1993. The Presbytery has continued support of various projects through the years but the main support remains with the congregation.