(Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Alcorn)
Thousands of parishioners from St. Callistus Catholic Church in Garden Grove, Calif., flocked to the Crystal Cathedral mega-campus this weekend to celebrate their first Mass at the facility now named The Christ Cathedral and commissioned more than 30 years ago by the Rev. Robert H. Schuller.
Possibly 3,000 worshippers joined the St. Callistus congregation on Saturday as they embraced their new sanctuary, which the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange purchased last year for $57.5 million through Crystal Cathedral Ministries' bankruptcy proceedings.
A report from the Los Angeles Times indicates that an air of excitement and hope for the future of the facility hung heavy among those who attended the inaugural Mass.
"... Of course, we don't like to leave the old place, but look at this new place!" Mary Sanchez told the publication. Sanchez a 26-year member of St. Callistus Catholic Church, described the gathering at the sprawling 34-acre campus on Saturday as a miracle.
The church's new vicar, Father Christopher Smith, said he plans for The Christ Cathedral to "be a place of welcome for people of all faiths or no faith."
"We want it to be a shiny example of what it means to do outreach to the poor or the marginalized," said Smith. The priest added that the mega-campus, which houses a chapel tower, welcoming center, art gallery and other structures, would be a local beacon for the arts.
"Here we will honor the human person," he said. "We will support the arts, music, dance, painting. We will make it a wonderful home."
Another priest, Father Tuyen Van Nguyen, called the Roman Catholic Church's ownership of the former Crystal Cathedral "a gift from God."
As Roman Catholics celebrated Mass on the Crystal Cathedral plaza on Saturday, members of the Protestant congregation founded by the Rev. Schuller in 1955 marked on Sunday their final service at the iconic glass worship facility. The Catholic and Protestant congregations, through a deal brokered by the diocese, swap campuses this week, each making the transition to their new home final this weekend.
Crystal Cathedral Ministries, renowned for its "Hour of Power" broadcasts, has rebranded the church as Shepherd's Grove and will be holding services just two minutes away from its longtime campus.
More than 2,000 people reportedly turned out Sunday as Pastor Bobby Schuller, grandson of the Rev. Schuller, preached on the subject of "Moving Together with Joy!" The pastor's father, Robert A. Schuller, also joined him in the pulpit.
A parishioner, Cindy Pesavento, described the final service at the former Crystal Cathedral campus as "bittersweet."
"It's a beautiful place. It's been a big part of our whole family growing up here, going to Sunday school here," Pesavento told NBC Los Angeles.
Crystal Cathedral Ministries President and CEO John Charles previously told The Christian Post, "As you can well imagine, the congregation does have some sadness in leaving this beautiful facility but realizes that the church is more that just a building. We are a community of believers and committed to bringing the message of hope and healing to the world."
Charles insisted to local media, however, that his former church home "will always be recognized as the Crystal Cathedral."
"It may become The Christ Cathedral, but around the world it will always be the Crystal Cathedral," he added.