Our history...


                    In 1954 Palmdale was primarily a simple desert and rural community that depended on aerospace, ranching, and travelers passing through. At that time four aviation companies were involved in flight testing their supersonic aircraft over the skies of Antelope Valley. Tenth Street West was two beat-up lanes of pavement bordered on both sides by desert brush land. Thinking about future generations, a group of farsighted residents began discussing the growing need for a Methodist church in the small community of Palmdale.

                    In the spring of 1954 Dr. Fletcher Scharer, district superintendent of the San Bernardino District, visited Palmdale, arriving from San Bernardino on the Southern Pacific train. The local people met him at the depot and showed him what the community could offer a new church if it was established there. Following his visit, people who were interested in forming a church held several meetings in local homes to discuss the situation.

          In May 1955 two carloads of residents went to Claremont to the home of Dr. Scharer to talk to him about acquiring a pastor for the fledging church. Also in June 1955 a number of interested residents from Palmdale attended the Annual Conference at Redlands. During this time, a general survey of area residents revealed a projected Methodist population of at least 150-175, and the survey results proved the need for a Palmdale church.

                    After discussing the location of the church and accepting the offer of a two-acre site by Joe and Ruth Hunt, the Church Extension Committee of the Southern California-Arizona Conference applied to the Committee of the Southern California Council of Churches for permission to allow the Methodists to enter the area. Before this time, North Antelope Valley had been assigned to the Methodists and the South Valley to the Presbyterians. This request to form a Methodist church was granted. When the initial planning started, the Palmdale area was in the San Bernardino District and later moved into the Tri-State District. At the Annual Conference of 1955 the area was placed in the Pasadena District.

                    Initially the church leaders started discussions with Dr. Scharer and Dr. Trotter; however, the actual administrative planning was finally completed with Dr. Will Hildebrand, District Superintendent of the Pasadena District, and Dr. Frank Williams, executive secretary of the Conference Board of Missions.

                  It was recognized by the Southern California-Arizona Conference at this time that a sustainable ministry in the southern part of the Antelope Valley was needed. The Lancaster United Methodist Church was already established 10 miles north of the First United Methodist Church of Palmdale’s location, but the Antelope Valley growth and new families related to the growing aerospace industry made this new ministry even more important.

                  In late November 1955, Rev. Gerad Kaye and his wife came from Arizona to meet with the nucleus of interested residents. Bishop Gerald Kennedy appointed him as minister, and the Kayes took up residence in Palmdale on December 6, 1955.

                  Pastor Kaye recalled, “The old timers recalled the many jackrabbits loose on the desert. Many people came from down below to participate in the sport of hunting them across the wide expanse of land. Laughingly, a warning was sent out to the hunters to be careful so as to not shoot an aircraft worker. We thought that the population of 10,000 was dense for its time.”    

                  The first service of Palmdale Methodist Church occurred December 18, 1955, at the Hunt Construction Co. Mill on 10th Street West, north of the present church location. The mill interior was quickly turned into a sacred chamber where the minister celebrated the sacraments on a six-foot-long banquet table that was used as an altar and the communion set was placed on top of a band saw. Members donated hangings for the walls, rugs to cover the power tools and the concrete floor, folding chairs and a piano. 

                  Sunday school classes were held in the mill office building, in cars, in station wagons, in buses and in everything that was available. Soon two worship services became necessary along with two Sunday school sessions.

                  After 22 days of extensive planning and calling, the church organization was formed on January 8, 1956, with 87 charter members. The charter members of the new First United Methodist Church of Palmdale chose the following scripture as their guiding light: “Make straight in the desert a highway for God.” Isaiah 40:3. It has continued to be an inspiration to the church family.

construction plus

                  On August 12, 1956, church officials oversaw the groundbreaking for the new building at the site where the church is still located today. The first 7,7000-square-foot building at a cost of $9 per square foot consisted of the fellowship hall, kitchen, lounge, chapel, nursery and restrooms. Members donated many hours of volunteer labor and completed all the electrical and plumbing themselves. Many came to help after they had done a day’s work on their jobs. According to comments from the early church records, “The fellowship of working together was just wonderful.”

                  And many more hours went into raising money for the church. “Four thousand miles of dollars pamphlets were sent to interested people.” The congregation moved into the new building October 20, 1957, and consecration services occurred the week of January 19-26, 1958. Participating in the services were Bishop Gerald Kennedy, Dr. Fletcher Scharer, Dr. Will Hildebrand, and Dr. Ray Ragsdale.

As the mission of the church continued to grow, so did the needs of neighboring communities. A group from the First Palmdale UMC, including Rev. Kay, helped the establishment of the Santa Clarita Methodist Church. It was chartered in 1957. In addition to the original donation of the land for the church and many money gifts from members, the building was financed by a loan from the General Board of Missions.

                  On March 1, 1960, “Our Abiding Memorials Book” was dedicated to the people of the church who had donated gifts since the beginning of the church. The loose-leaf book that sits in a stand in the sanctuary narthex records the names and gifts that were given for the building over the years – labor, materials, organ, pews, furniture, and equipment. During the construction of the church, Pacific and General Telephone Co. and Southern California Edison donated 30 power poles for the parking lot.

                  Dedication service of the memorial book reads, “This church of which each one of us is a part was made possible by human sacrifices and prayers. That their names and gifts may be constantly kept fresh in our minds and that their spirits may be with us in our common union. These pages of the memorial will be a constant reminder of days of the past. To look at the past turns our eyes toward the future.”

                  At the June meeting of the Annual Conference in 1961, Rev. C. Barton Clapp succeeded Rev. Kay as minister. As the church continued to grow, a long-range planning and building committee was formed in 1961. Eventually this group employed Hal C. Whittemore as the church architect. After many months of study and discussion, they completed a master plan for the future development of the church’s facilities.

                  During February and March of 1963, a financial campaign was conducted to begin construction of one unit of the master plan, an education building; and some remodeling of the social hall to make it conducive for worship was well as fellowship. Approximately $35,000 was pledged during this financial campaign over a three-year period.             

                  In April of 1963, Rev. Inman Moore was appointed as minister. Carrying through the previous plans, the building committee arranged to borrow $45,000 from the General Board of Missions. On February 2, 1964, the congregation participated in a groundbreaking ceremony for the new six-room education building. Contractor George Blair, who was awarded the contract, completed the building in July, and the formal opening occurred July 12.

                  The growing attendance at worship services prompted the remodeling of the fellowship hall to accommodate the Sunday congregation that year. An elevated level built at the west end of the hall afforded a stage or the pulpit, lectern and choir with altar railings in front. Brown wooden walls surrounded the worship area.  

                  By the 10th anniversary celebration on January 16, 1965, the church budget was $38,850; and the membership had grown from 87 members to 582. Rev. Norman Yetman was appointed minister in 1967 to replace Rev. Moore, and Rev. Yetman served until 1971.

                  From the early days of the church there have been an active United Methodist Women, (formerly known as the Woman’s Society of Christian Service), United Methodist Men, church school, youth fellowship and music program.

                  Of note, from 1965 to 1970 the Church Youth Choir consisting of eight to twelve year olds in beautiful blue robes performed once a month at the worship service in place of the adult choir. The choir director was high school student Lisa Wallace, daughter of Art Wallace, long-time adult choir director; and Marcia Ulfers was the accompanist on the organ. For several years the youth choir sang Christmas carols on the church float in the Palmdale Christmas parade, winning several trophies.

burning the mortgage and beyond

                  Rev. Clyde Erwin was appointed minister in 1971 and served from 1971 to 1976. On January 25, 1976, at the 20th anniversary of the church, Bishop Charles Golden of the Southern California-Arizona Conference dedicated the church buildings and delivered the Sunday sermon. Past ministers and current and former members of the church participated in the morning worship service. On Saturday, January 24, 1976, the congregation celebrated the burning of the church mortgage at the Bicentennial anniversary dinner. Carl Porter and Lou Arjemi dressed in Bicentennial costume along with Rev. Erwin and other church officers performed the ceremonial burning of the mortgage.                

                    On January 18,1981, Pastor Dr. Robert J. Stimmel, 1978-1981, dedicated the new stained glass windows for the sanctuary. They included the Madonna and Child memorial to Shelly St. Clair Foley; the Word and Light memorial to Terry Clark; Our Friends and Loved Ones; the Resurrection Lily memorial to John Rigby; and the Descending Dove, memorial to Leslie McDonald.       

                  The church members observed their silver 25th anniversary with the theme “Silver Reflections for a Golden Future” on January 24-25, 1981. Following a dinner of roast Baron of beef au jus, Bishop Jack M. Tuell and the pastors spoke about the church’s 25 years of progress. The former pastors included Reverends Gerard Kaye, Inman Moore, Norman Yetman, and Clyde Ervin, along with Dr. Stimmel.                   

                  Rev. Jack Preston was appointed pastor in 1981 succeeding Dr. Stimmel, and he served until 1991. On January 21, 1984, PUMC celebrated the church’s 30th anniversary and 200th anniversary of Methodism with a “Jubilee! Let the Celebration Begin” program portraying “People Called Methodists”. Following the dinner, Rev. Preston welcomed the charter members present: Dorothy and Ken Falls, Rosa and Warren Taylor, Vergil and Coral Eslick, and Eleanor and Bruce Thomas.

                  Highlight of the evening was the presentation of a new banner featuring the cross and circuit rider with “Methodism –1784-1984 and Palmdale” appearing on a white background. The crafts section headed by Betty Bundy did the banner.          

                  Carl Porter narrated a bicentennial skit, “People Called Methodists”. Ken Falls portrayed John Wesley and Dorothy Falls as Susannah Wesley, his mother. Others in the skit in costume were Edward Kelly and Donna Stoll. Porter closed the skit, saying, “Let it be enough that we see our church beginning through the lives of our founder, John Wesley, and those who influenced him. As the year continues, let the celebration continue.” In celebration of the U.S. Methodism’s bicentennial in June 1984, Elwood and Mary Bly donated a Cokesbury Replica Bell, which was placed in the sanctuary to be rung on joyous occasions.

A new sanctuary

                  In July 1985 Palmdale Methodist Church broke ground for its new sanctuary adjacent to the existing church facility and parking lot north of the church. According to General Contractor Art Wallace, of Snow –Wallace Development Co., the 296-seat sanctuary will be 22-feet high with a 600-foot tower. Services in the new sanctuary were celebrated September 27, 1987.

                  Six stained glass windows were built in the new facility, three on each side of the new sanctuary. The windows include on east side north to south: the Glory of God memorial to Elwood and Mariouise Bly; the Crucifixion window memorial to Viola Gordon by her family; and the Eastern Morning Joshua Tree memorial to Helen Schriever family. On the west side north to south are the Christmas Star memorial to George and May Kariozian; the Epiphany Trinity memorial to John and Gladys Horn; and the Western Evening Joshua memorial to Lou Arjemi by the Marriage Encounter Flame.

                  The five stained glass windows that were dedicated in the chapel on January 21, 1984, were moved to the narthex of the new sanctuary when the building was completed. They included Madonna and Child memorial to Shelly St. Clair Foley; Word and Light memorial to Terry Clark; Our Friends and Loved Ones; Resurrection Lily memorial to John Rigby; and Descending Dove, memorial to Leslie McDonald. 

                  On June 4, 1988, the church Board of Trustees created an annual Layperson of the Year award and presented the first award to Art Wallace. The plaque was hung in the hallway to the sanctuary. The Palmdale United Methodist Church Foundation was founded in 1989 as a separate non-profit corporation under the California state laws to receive donations, invest them and return the income generated for the church. The Foundation manages these assets to increase their value to ensure growth for years ahead. The programs that the foundation has supported include missions, scholarships, music programs, memorials, and other ministries.          

In 1989 the United Methodist Men began holding a Summer Church Barbecue to pay off the new sanctuary mortgage. The barbecue featuring Chef Cleve’s famous Carolina style recipe (Cleveland Speight) continued for some time, but is no longer held in the summer.

moving ahead

          The Palmdale United Methodist Men in 1991 founded the first annual Valentine’s Day Brunch for their wives, loved ones and widows in the church hall. This tradition continues to be held every February.

          In June 1991, Rev. James R. Powell was appointed to the First United Methodist Church of Palmdale to succeed Rev. Preston. He was serving as the Associate Director of Camping and Outdoor Ministries for the California-Pacific Annual Conference in Pasadena when he was appointed on July 1, 1991, by Bishop Roy Sano. Pastor Jim and his wife, Stephanie, were already living in Palmdale at the time and attending the Lancaster UMC. Stephanie Powell was also serving on the LUMC staff as Director of Children’s Ministries until their new appointment was announced. In 1992, with growth in young families, children’s programs, and a new youth group, plans were underway for new ministries in order to reach the growing bedroom community of the Antelope Valley. Population growth in Palmdale, during 1990-1992 was exponential, and the newly renamed Palmdale United Methodist Church needed to respond.

          One tradition that Rev. Powell started was the Easter Flower Cross that has grown to be very popular with congregations over the years. Individuals attending Easter services are invited to decorate the cross with flowers symbolizing “the death and sacrifice of the new birth of Christ,” he said.

                    An All-Church committee decided in 1992 to organize a Service Auction to raise funds to support missions locally and world-wide through apportionment giving. The auction consisting of a themed dinner and silent and live auctions has continued annually through 2013, raising thousands of dollars for congregation-donated items from artwork and baskets to exotic vacations.

                    A preschool was opened in 1992-1993 for ages 2-5 year olds. Using the Education Building as a base, the school grew rapidly over the next few years. The PUM Preschool was re-staffed in 1999 with a new director and teachers. Enrollment includes preschool children ranging from 2 years to 5 years and kindergarteners. An After School Program for kindergarten through sixth grade was started in 2008, with several vans added to provide a pick-up service at the schools.

          On January 20, 1996, the church’s 40th anniversary included a pastors’ reunion with Pastor Jim Powell welcoming three of the seven former pastors. They were Rev. Inman Moore, 1963; Rev. Robert Stimmel, 1978; and Rev. Gerard Kay, 1956.  

          The need for space all over the campus led to the remodeling of the original church parsonage behind the church property on 11th Street West into the Church Office in 1995. It provides administrative space for the pastor, office manager, staff, volunteers, and a conference room. The additional space in the first chapel and office building was converted into additional Sunday School rooms and general meeting space.

          By 1999, the membership and worship attendance had exceeded the 10th Street West property capacity, and the Church Council made the decision to begin exploring the possibilities of additional building construction on the 2.4 acres of land. After several years of planning, the City of Palmdale demanded that any construction on the Palmdale UMC campus would require an execution of easement by the City for 24 feet more roadway to expand 10th Street West.

          This master plan of the City of Palmdale would have encroached on the Sanctuary building and eliminated too many parking spaces. After realizing that this proposed easement and costs of developing a new education/office building on the current property were too overwhelming in 2000, an all-church meeting decided that the church needed to search for more property for future development.

          The first capital campaign since the building of the new sanctuary in 1987-88 was held in 2001. It was called “Building on Faith” and was directed at raising money for the purchase of 15-20 acres somewhere close to the 10th Street West campus. That was followed by another campaign and all-church celebration in 2004, by which time a Property and Building Committee had looked at dozens of potential properties. Finally, in 2005, the Palmdale UMC purchased 15 acres of land on 25th Street West and Rancho Vista Blvd. (aka Ave. P).

          PUMC traditions continue to be created to encourage congregation participation in worshipping Christ; among these are Candlelight Christmas Eve Services (1992); August Gospel Month, and Vacation Bible School for primary grades (2000) and summer camp sessions for youths. These activities teach children how to have fun, build relationships and learn about God.

                    In observance of the church’s 45th anniversary in 2001, Pastor Jim Powell announced that worship attendance had increased by 300 on Sunday and 580 different people were in attendance during one month. During the past year the church underwent a complete facelift, including a new tile roof, a new layer of stucco and color, new parking lot with 33 more spaces, and all new landscaping. Among additions in various ministries, the music program added two bell choirs and a youth praise band and 10 new small groups. The mission statement of “Building the Next Generation” and all-church campaign was launched for the future expansion of the PUMC’s outreach into the Antelope Valley.

                  During 2005 with purchase of land at 25th Street West and Rancho Vista Boulevard, plans began for a 124,000-square foot church and school complex at the new site. On Saturday, November 20, 2005, and Sunday, November 21, 2005, PUMC staged an old-fashioned tent revival on the site of the future church. A 40-foot by 80-foot tent, which seated 300, was erected on the land, along with heaters, lights and AstroTurf.

                    The service featured “Preaching for Everyday Life, Stories of the Heart and Inspirational Music,” according to Pastor Jim Powell. Rev. Cathy Ledgerwood of Lancaster United Methodist Church, Rev. Greg Pittman, assistant pastor, Namor Enriquez and Rev. Powell of PUMC all preached. Gospel Singer Brenda Lakios and her Mama’s Kids performed a series of spiritual and gospel songs. Her past musical career involved performing with Stevie Wonder, Sonny and Cher and Quincy Jones. 

                    In October 2006, PUMC was awarded a Church of Excellence Award for churches with 300 or more in worship attendance. The award is given annually by the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, Kansas City, KS, and covers churches across the United States. The award included a full scholarship for five participants and all expenses for the senior pastor at the COR leadership conference in Kansas City.  

celebrating 50 years

                 In observance of the 50th anniversary in February 2006 California Pacific Conference Bishop Mary Ann Swenson dedicated the future church site on the 15-acre site at 25th Street West and Rancho Vista Boulevard. The congregation attended the 50th Jubilee semi-formal dinner celebration at Palmdale’s Oasis Hall in the evening; and Jubilee co-chairwomen Nineeah Frazier and Mary Bly stressed that the guests must dress up for the banquet. During the evening program Pastor Jim Powell presented a slide show about the founding of the church. Past pastors in attendance included Founding Pastor Gerard Kaye and his wife, Mildred, Rev. Inman Moore, and Rev. Leo Hsu.

                  Jubilee Co-chairman and Charter Member Ken Falls said, “I was here in the beginning and, believe me, there’s been a lot of progress and changes.” Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford, a church member, said, “This is my spiritual home and I am proud that it is a vital and growing part of our community.” Larry Grooms, representing Sen. George Runner, R-Lancaster, and Assemblywoman Sharon Runner, R-Lancaster, and Norm Hinckly representing Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich made presentations to the church at the Jubilee.

                    In 2009 PUMC unveiled the new planned church on the 15-acre site at the 25th street west and Rancho Vista Boulevard. Pastor Jim Powell said that the congregation had outgrown the facility, on the 10th Street West, dive years ago and the new campus is designed to meet the congregations's growing demands.

                    The first phase, encompassing 51,000 square feet of construction, will include a multi-ministry building, a children's ministry building and a 10,000 square foot atrium. The children's building will contain the existing preschool and before and after school program. The second phase will consist of a gymnasium building, a second worship center and outlying building, including a second children's ministry building. The new campus plaza is planned to have a pond, a baptistery, and a small-scale river running from the front of the campus to the back.  

                    According to Pastor Jim Powell, planning for the new facility has covered three years of demographic studies which show growing numbers of single-parent families, singe adults and children not in traditional homes. "So we are basing some of the new ministries on the spiritual needs of those children and their families."

                    As part of "Building the New Generation" campaign, the congregation held a Big Tent Event at the Rancho Vista Boulevard site June 6, 1010 and told Assistant Pastor Greg Pittman good-bye. Pastor Greg had served the church as assistant pastor and youth minister for nine years. On July 18, the Church welcomed Angela Galanis as assistant pastor of the church family.

                    In July 2011, PUMC received a conditional use permit from the Palmdale City Planning Commission which allows the construction to begin on the first phase on the 124,000-square-foot church complex, including a multipurpose sanctuary and preschool. In pursuing the property for the future site, the Master Planning Team raise $50,000 for the preparation of infrastructure on the site.

                    In June 2013 Rev. Powell was reappointed as PUMC Senior Pastor for his 22nd year. Rev. Angela Galanis, newly ordained as a United Methodist minister, was appointed as PUMC’s associate pastor. Also as the “Building Next Generation: Becoming An Asset” fund-raising campaign continues, plans are underway to pay off the property and to build the first phase of the new church campus, a 51,000-square-foot multi-ministry facility and school and 10,000-square-foot atrium.  Rev. Powell ended up serving a total of 24 years as senior pastor, before being selected by Bishop Minerva Carcano to be the North District Superintendent in July 2015.  

                  Since 1954 the Antelope Valley region has evolved into a bulging population of more than 500,000 spanning a wide range of the Mojave desert – an area larger than several states, and the village of Palmdale now numbers more than 150,000 residents. Blessed by Our Father, the 87 dedicated charter members of First Methodist Church have multiplied into more than 1,100 vibrant members of Palmdale United Methodist Church, looking at a dynamic future focused on Jesus Christ forever and forever. 


          Those loyal Methodists who made this book possible: Jan Churchill, who provided our successful publication services; Rebecca Hendrix, who devotedly has coordinated the Church History Scrapbooks for many years; Inge Strauss, who Is our busy church photographer; Pastor Jim Powell, who blessed and directed the History; and Katie Corbett, who compiled, wrote, and edited the History of the Church.  


          The 1956 Palmdale United Methodist Church Trustees, who God blessed in the creation of our Church: Charles A. Nansel, S. Joseph Hunt, Joseph E. Budge, Chrystal G. Soihl, Anne Benton, Fred Schriever, A.L. Falls, Gerard Ernest Kaye, Minister.

(Written by Katie Corbett)