The story of the LVCoB Sanctuary Choir and a “progressive church… with a pipe organ.”
The history of the La Verne Church of the Brethren Sanctuary Choir began 133 years ago when this church was founded. Members of the German Baptist Brethren Church began arriving in the town once called Lordsburg in 1889, intent on establishing a church and a college. The congregation was established in 1890. Classes began at what was then Lordsburg College in the fall of 1891. The first choir rehearsals were in 1895. At the time, the use of music instruments in the church was prohibited, so members met in private homes for practice. Finally in 1923, the church allowed the use of a piano inside the sanctuary.
Since those first days, the church (and the choir) has strived to be inclusive, caring and peace-minded. As both the community and the church evolved during the Progressive Era, society changed. So did names. In 1908, the congregation took the name of their reorganized, progressive denomination, the Church of the Brethren. In 1917 the town of Lordsburg became La Verne, alluding to a French term meaning “spring-like”. The college changed to the new name as well and became La Verne College.
The construction of a new church sanctuary began shortly before the unforeseen Great Stock Market Crash of 1929. Despite the economic challenges of the Great Depression, the completed church sanctuary, equipped with a newly installed pipe organ and a choir loft with stadium seating, was dedicated on September 21, 1930. Over the years, this resonant gathering place has not only been used as a house of worship but also as a local performance center for choirs and musical groups of area public schools and universities.
Today, the La Verne Church of the Brethren Sanctuary Choir is a multi-generational organization of 40+ voices sharing hundreds of years of choral performance experience. Formed around a core of professional and semi-professional singers, it includes music educators and exceptionally talented amateurs. Some of our singers represent the second and third generation of families active in this choir.
Our organization has a heritage of Christian service in ways that are inclusive, caring and peace-minded. Within our choir are members whose descendants were persecuted and imprisoned by federal authorities during both World Wars for being conscientious objectors. Others have family connections with the Sea Going Cowboys, a Brethren organization that helped reestablish dairy and other livestock herds after World War II.
In past years, in communities around the world, several in our choir served in Brethren Volunteer Service, a precursor to the Peace Corps. Still others were active youth in the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s.
Currently, several members help hurricane and tornado victims rebuild homes through Brethren Disaster Service or serve in Children Disaster Service, counseling children following gun violence and other disasters. Several of our choristers serve in our church program that regularly prepares meals for the Hope for Homeless Service Center in Pomona. Others work in our Peace and Carrots Garden growing tons of fresh produce donated each year to the Inland Valley Council of Churches Food Bank. Finally, several members help area organizations resettle refugees.
Sharing the leadership of our choir these past 17 years are two highly skilled musicians. Composer, pianist, and songwriter Shawn Kirchner serves as accompanist. Professional ensemble singer, soloist and Cal Poly Pomona professor of music, Niké St. Clair, D.M.A., is director. Both are members of the nationally renowned Los Angeles Master Chorale, performing locally at Disney Hall and touring the world with the Master Chorale’s Lagrimé di San Pietro, and are greatly involved in musical circles of the wider Los Angeles area.
Through real life practice as well as our music, our choir emphasizes the ideas expressed in the following church mission statement.
The La Verne Church of the Brethren continues the work of Jesus peacefully, simply, together. We create a Christian community, called by Christ to be inclusive, caring and peace-minded. We affirm that people of any race, ethnic identity, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability, age, economic status, faith tradition, or life situation are welcome in our congregation. We believe in compassionate service, stewardship of creation, respect for diversity and nonviolent reconciliation for differences among all people, nations and faith traditions. We claim no creed but the New Testament, as exemplified by the life of Christ. We strive to follow the way of Jesus. Through these efforts, we seek to grow ever closer to the mind and heart of God.
Thank you for your interest and we hope you will support our choir and attend our concerts.