‘Hour of Power,’ excellent worship and mission endeavors join hands in Irvine
May 16, 2019
A Southern California church headed by the grandson of “Hour of Power” founder and televangelist Robert Schuller is merging with a Presbyterian church in Irvine, California.
“Hour of Power” broadcasts, which reach millions of homes in 24 countries, will continue from Irvine Presbyterian Church.
The merger, approved by the Presbytery of Los Ranchos between Shepherd’s Grove Church, led by the Rev. Bobby Schuller, and Irvine Presbyterian Church is being hailed as “an excellent fit” by the people who’ve worked for more than a year to make the blended church possible.
“They are genuinely excited about becoming part of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and that is very encouraging,” said the Rev. Tim McCalmont, bridge pastor at Irvine Presbyterian Church, which will be known as Shepherd’s Grove Presbyterian Church once the merger has received an anticipated civil endorsement. Schuller, grandson of the popular preacher who founded the Crystal Cathedral, was ordained in the Reformed Church in America — as was his grandfather, who died in 2015.
The merger includes continuing a major television outreach hosted at the Irvin church: the “Hour of Power,” a television broadcast of the weekly worship service that includes guest appearances, splendid music and sermons.
McCalmont, who like Schuller is a Fuller Theological Seminary graduate, said the genesis of the merger occurred at the home of a ruling elder at Irvine Presbyterian Church.
“We had breakfast together and heard each other out,” McCalmont said of his meeting with Schuller. “We saw so much common ground (between the PC[USA] and the RCA).”
The two churches put together a lease agreement and began worshiping together — with Schuller doing the bulk of the preaching — beginning on Palm Sunday 2018.
After about three months, “it became clear that the single worshiping community was going to work,” said the Rev. Forrest Claassen, presbytery co-executive and stated clerk at the Presbytery of Los Ranchos. An important task, he said, was to honor the church’s trust clause while preserving the Hour of Power as a separate legal entity.
“Bobby’s congregation needed a new site, and our congregation needed additional income that a lease could bring,” Claassen said. The presbytery approved the lease agreement — including the joint worship service — in February 2018.
Shepherd’s Grove and Hour of Power pastors Schuller, Russ Jacobson and Chad Blake will be received into the PC(USA) after they’ve celebrated their five-year ordination anniversaries in the RCA and are thus exempt from Presbyterian standard ordination exams, Claassen said.
“After a difficult season five years ago when several congregations wanted to leave Los Ranchos and the PC(USA), it is a joy to welcome a congregation who looks forward to being a part of our ministry here,” Claassen said. “They are an excellent fit for the part of Irvine where the campus is located (right next to a high school). And we look forward to the blend of Irvine Presbyterian Church’s historic emphasis on mission endeavors and Shepherd’s Grove’s excellence in worship.”
That excellence, McCalmont said, includes an orchestra and 50-voice choir. When “Hour of Power” set up shop at Irvine Presbyterian, the church made room for about 75 new staffers.
“It’s a blend of contemporary and traditional worship,” he said. “Putting that together along with what we think are important Presbyterian distinctives is where we are at right now.”
The “Hour of Power” broadcast has opened new horizons for McCalmont.
“I’m getting mail from places I never got before. So far, it’s been good stuff,” said McCalmont, a graduate of Hollywood High School. “We’ve tried to keep in mind this is a television audience seeing a local church at worship.”
When Schuller preaches, “he brings some good content in a way that is interesting to the TV audience,” McCalmont said. “He’s a guy who strives to be himself, and he does it with authenticity and integrity.”
The presbytery blessed the merger in a near-unanimous vote. McCalmont said the transparency of the process, including “the fact that we had done so much work” laying the basis for the agreement, led to a fairly quick vote.
Mike Ferguson, Editor, Presbyterian News Service
Today’s Focus: “Hour of Power” Broadcasts
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