Every local congregation has an origin story and every origin story involves people with a dream. According to one document by early Conejo Church member Morris Womack, there were church leaders at the Camarillo Church of Christ as early as the summer of 1968 who had dreams of helping plant a congregation in the Conejo Valley within five years. In early 1973, meetings in local homes led to the securing of the Transcoast Savings and Loan building at Agoura Road and Westlake Blvd for Sunday services, with Glenn O’Neal, Billy Skillman, and Harmon Fox planning the first meetings of the congregation.
On March 11, 1973, the Conejo Valley Church of Christ was officially born. The first meeting was at 2:00pm, and Bible classes followed at 3:00pm. At that first meeting, Pat O’Neal led singing and Hugh Mingle preached the first sermon. The 53 people in attendance that day included Larry and Carol McNutt who are with us still today! During those early months, the gathering venue changed from Transcoast Savings, to Thousand Oaks Resident Care Home (TORCH), to the Waverly School building, to Colina Middle School. The first person to be baptized into Christ as part of the Conejo Church was Janet Bundy, at the home of Jerry and Bettilou Lipham. The first part-time preacher was Roger Hawley, who preached until February, 1974, when Carl Mitchell began his years of fruitful ministry.
Early in 1974, the congregation purchased over four acres of property on the north side of Hillcrest Boulevard. Groundbreaking on the building began on January 18, 1975, the foundation was poured June 13, the first worship service in the new building was held on January 2, 1977, and the building dedication proper took place on March 13, 1977.
Since those early days, the Conejo Church has always supported mission efforts around the globe, both in sending individuals and in providing financial assistance for congregations overseas. Conejo has also invested significantly in the spiritual formation of children and teens, with leaders such as the Wileys, Resners, and Moores serving as early youth ministers. Our first recorded congregational youth trip to San Felipe was in November, 1973! Our congregation has also emphasized local ministry in the community, with early efforts including juvenile hall visits, a bus ministry, a “Bible Call” program, and meals for the homeless, among numerous others.
Why are we celebrating Conejo’s 50th anniversary this week? Why share this rehearsal of Conejo’s origin story? First, because we have much to be grateful for as we consider how God used those early individuals and families to pull together this congregation and to build the meeting place that has served us for nearly half a century. Second, it’s good to remember that we are building upon the work of others, that we are the recipients of the sacrifices of earlier generations, and that we deeply value this legacy. Third, it’s helpful to remember the dreams and dreamers who created our congregation even as we continue to build on those dreams and pursue fresh ways to serve and share the Good News with our neighborhood and community. May God bless the Conejo Church in our next 50 years of ministry! To God be the glory!