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Church celebrates 120 years

December 12, 2005|By By Fred Ortega

La Crescenta Presbyterian Church holds a banquet to celebrate its 120th anniversary.La Crescenta Presbyterian Church has come a long way since Benjamin Briggs got together with six neighbors at his home on Briggs Terrace in 1885 to form a small congregation in the foothills.

On Sunday, about 220 of the church's 410 members gathered in the sanctuary building on Montrose Avenue for a banquet to celebrate the church's 120th anniversary.

The event, which featured a presentation of photos and video clips highlighting landmark events since the church's inception, also recognized a former pastor, the Rev. Ted Koopmans, and his wife, Grace, as the guests of honor.

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Koopmans, 93, came to La Crescenta Presbyterian in 1938, just out of Princeton Theological Seminary. The following year he and his brother, also a pastor, married two sisters from the Mills family in a 1,300-person double wedding which was profiled by the Associated Press and picked up by newspapers around the world, Grace Koopmans said.

"They each officiated the other's wedding," she said. "It was unique, and we heard from people all the way in China who had read about it in the papers."

Grace Koopmans, 85, spoke for her husband, who has trouble talking due to a stroke. She said his stewardship during the World War II years was his greatest legacy at La Crescenta Presbyterian Church.

"He could really get people to tithe, so we could support our missions overseas," Grace Koopmans said, adding that her husband's fundraising prowess also helped add two buildings to the church grounds on Montrose Avenue, where La Crescenta Presbyterian moved in 1923.

"They built Fellowship and Kelso halls, the latter named after an earlier pastor, about two years after we arrived," she said. "They have both been demolished since then. But he also did the fundraising for this building, the sanctuary, and it was under construction and well on its way when we left [in 1951]."

The church was thriving with between 700 and 800 members in those days, Grace Koopmans said. During that time, Ted Koopmans started a couples program called the Mariners that survives to this day, and helped expand the church's youth programs.

Another thing the reverend is remembered for is his "Singspiration" events, Grace Koopmans said. Held following services, this spiritual music celebration would feature hymns sung by three choirs, culminating with the illumination of a lighted picture of the head of Christ.

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