In 1913 a group of Episcopalians met on Palm Sunday to worship in the upper room of a building in downtown Los Altos. The group received mission status from the Diocese of California and soon bought two lots on Orange Avenue, just one block from downtown. The cornerstone of the small English-style church was laid in April 1914, and the church was dedicated that August.

Christ Episcopal Church, Orange Avenue, c. 1915

Christ Episcopal Church, Orange Avenue, c. 1915

Through the next 50 years, as the orchards gave way to ranch-style houses, the church grew with the town. By the 1950s, the Sunday School was bursting at the seams.

Easter 1951, CC church school children, Orange Avenue.

Easter 1951, CC church school children, Orange Avenue.

 

In 1954 church members bought an orchard plot on Border Road. After acquiring two more parcels, the church sold the Orange Avenue property to Foothills Congregational Church. Two parishioners took down the original 1913 bell and stored it until it could be hung outside the new sanctuary.

The first buildings erected on the new site were the parish hall and three wings of classrooms that could house a school. Sunday services were held in the parish hall until the sanctuary was completed in 1968.

Christ Church parish hall early 1960s

Christ Church parish hall early 1960s

 

In 1984 a windows committee commissioned the French artist Gabriel Loire to create four glowing walls of chunky dalles-de-verre glass—huge stained-glass windows for the sanctuary.  In conjunction with the campaign to fund the windows, church members raised an equal amount of money to endow an outreach fund to serve the needs of others beyond the parish, locally, regionally, and internationally.

 

By the late 1990s, Christ Episcopal Church was at the heart of what had become known worldwide as Silicon Valley, a place where whirlwind change had become the norm. To serve an increasingly diverse community and to use the church’s resources more fully in fulfilling its mission—to nurture the minds and hearts of people living in Silicon Valley—church members founded Ventana School. From its beginning in 2005 as a preschool with four students, Ventana School has grown to an Episcopal school serving more than 140 children, from toddlers through elementary school. The progressive educational philosophy and focus on the whole child have attracted families and teachers who helped shape it as an innovative community of learners.

To celebrate Christ Church’s centennial, parishioners dressed in old-fashioned clothes for a 1913-style Sunday service.  One evening we returned to worship in an Evensong service at the Orange Avenue church. Rector Malcolm Young spoke of “the sanctity of that night as we marched through town in a light rain back to our original church buildings … I am deeply grateful to God who has guided us and sustained us in creative ministries for one hundred years.”