Santa Cruz County History - Religion & Spirituality

Santa Cruz Spirituality: European Free-Church
by Paul Tutwiler


  1. Quaker
  2. Mennonite Brethren

As the Reformed Churches in Europe took shape in the sixteenth century they tended to become territorial. It was difficult, it seems, for the populace to feel comfortable with a multiplicity of religious beliefs in one place. From the beginning, however, some groups in central Europe were stoutly non-conformist. Of these some were conspicuous for their pietism, and so they have been placed in the Pietist-Methodist family, whereas others were more noted for the non-conformity: they were free of state control. None of the latter groups was ever large in the United States, and none has had a commanding presence in Santa Cruz, but two of them are found here, Quakers and Mennonite Brethren.


Since the 1650s in both England and America the Quakers, or, more properly, the Friends, or Society of Friends, has been generically Christian in doctrine and positively spiritual in its meetings, which may or may not resemble the worship services of others, but which, in any case, involve individual and group recognition of a divine "inner light" that is also invoked in making community decisions. Resolutely egalitarian, Quakers have exerted social and educational influence far greater than their numbers would warrant.

» Quaker Center. Conf center, Ben Lomond, 1949-2010.

At 1000 Hubbard Gulch Road, PO Box 686, Ben Lomond 95005, tel. 336-8333, ( 2010) this facility was established by the Society of Friends in 1949 as Camp Ben Lomond for boys. It shared its property with Sequoia Seminar from 1950 to 1977, when the latter became totally distinct; it was incorporated as the Ben Lomond Quaker Center in 1981. This and additional historical information can be found in the Quaker Center website.

» Quaker Meeting House. Santa Cruz, 1958-2010.

The church structure at 225 Rooney St., Santa Cruz 95065, tel. 425-4563, has been the Quaker Meeting House since 2003. (2010 Yellow Pages) The Christian and Missionary Alliance Church, which is found under the Holiness Family, had been there through 2001.

Presumably the present meeting house is the successor to the Quaker Meeting House at 231 Forest in Polk 1958 through 1961.

In 2010 the White Pages have "Quaker Meeting House", but the Yellow Pages have "Santa Cruz Friends Meeting".

Mennonite Brethren

The Mennonite movement, which originated in Central Europe in the early years of Protestantism, stresses "godly living," which can go beyond merely rigorous codes of morals to living in separated communities of the godly. One thinks of Amish and Hutterites.

» Shorelife Community Church. Capitola, 1975-2010.

According to its website, 2010, this congregation, affiliated with the Mennonite Brethren, was established in 1997. It was, however, incorporated as the Mennonite Brethren of Santa Cruz in 1970, with a name change in 1971 to Cliffwood Heights Neighborhood Church — Mennonite Brethren. (Santa Cruz County Articles of Incorporation no. 3361)

The congregation was listed as Cliffwood Heights Neighborhood Church in Polk 1975 and 1980 and as the Cliffwood Heights Neighborhood Church of the Mennonite Brethren in the SC Sentinel, July 26, 1984. It is located at 875 Monterey Ave., Capitola 95010, tel. 462-7490. (2010 Yellow Pages, where it is listed under "Community Churches.")

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