Santa Cruz County History - Religion & Spirituality

Santa Cruz Spirituality: Christian Science-Metaphysical
by Paul Tutwiler


  1. Christian Science
  2. Various Metaphysical

In early nineteenth century America the findings of Franz Anton Mesmer led to interest in hypnotism and to the healing of physical illnesses by applying a magnetic cosmic force. A further development was belief in the primacy of mind - that mental power was the basis of existence and could be instrumental in shaping one's physical and mental state. The bestknown American form of spirituality which arose from belief in the primacy of mental power is Christian Science, but there is also "New Thought," which is closely related to it.

The following passage from John K. Simmons and Brian Wilson, Competing Visions of Paradise, pp. 66-67, not only aids in the understanding of Christian Science and New Thought, but also says something important about California spirituality in general:

During the Pacific-Panama International Exposition held in San Francisco in 1915, Saturday, August 28 was officially declared 'New Thought Day.' On a typically gorgeous, sunny morning on the Exposition grounds, while presenting a medal commemorating the occasion, Mr. James A. Edgerton, president of the International New Thought Alliance, made the following comments:

Mrs. Annie Rix Militz, as representing the California New Thought Exposition Committee, referred to this California sunshine as New Thought weather. While it is perfectly true that New Thought stands for mental sunshine, we are entirely willing to give God and your wonderful climate out here some of the credit for this perfect day, but ask you to note the one fact, that New Thought flourishes most where physical and spiritual sunshine abound, as is proven by its strength upon the Golden Coast. I believe our Cause is stronger in California than in any other part of the world. New Thought is an attempt to express California weather in our lives (Master Mind, Vol. IX, 50).

Mr. Edgerton was right. Christian Science and New Thought, two nineteenth-century sectarian religions that embrace a 'mind over matter,' positive-thinking philosophy, simply worked better in the gentle climate of California. These metaphysical religions and California were meant for each other, as though California represented a kind of exterior assurance that inner, psychological affirmations of health, happiness, and prosperity were attuned with cosmic harmony. California was an outer manifestation of inner abundance; a place where the possibilities were endless.

Christian Science

Mary Baker Eddy experienced spiritual enlightenment as a consciousness that only the spirit is real and sin and evil are a deviation from spirit. Sin and evil are not illusions; neither are they powers in themselves, but with the guidance of Christ Scientist we free ourselves from them. The ability to heal ourselves of what we call physical ailments is the form of this creed which attracts the greatest attention. The Church of Christ, Scientist was founded in 1879 in Boston, and within a few years it had spread all the way to Santa Cruz.

» Christian Science Church, Santa Cruz. 1897-2009.

The congregation held meetings in Santa Cruz as far back as 1897. (Koch, Parade of the Past, p.216) In 1935 the address of its church was 251 Ocean St., and in 1955 it was 608 Ocean St. (Polk 1935 and 1955) In 1964 it opened a new structure (SC Sentinel clipping file with date missing) at 612 Ocean St. The reading room was at the same location. (2008 Yellow Pages, which listed the church as First Church of Christ Scientist) The church and the reading room are not listed in the 2010 telephone directory, having been, as a member told me, closed in January 2010.

» Christian Science Church, Watsonville. 1898-2010.

Incorporated in 1907, the congregation had existed informally from 1898. It built first one church and then another, larger one at the present location. (Koch, Parade of the Past, p. 172)

The April 11, 1903 Pajaronian list of church services states that Christian Science services were held at 32 Brennan Street. According to the Pajaronian, Nov. 9, 1963, church services were held in Watsonville from 1900, a church structure was built on East Lake in 1931, and the building on Arthur Road was dedicated in 1963. Its address in Polk 1967 was 460 Arthur Road, but in the 1976 Yellow Pages and subsequently the address was the present one.

The Santa Cruz County Directory, 1923-34 and Polk 1925 give its address as 12 Brennan; Polk 1946 gives it as 230 East Lake St.

The current address of both church and reading room is 352 Arthur Road, Watsonville 95076, tel. 724-5872. (2010 Yellow Pages, which list it as First Church of Christ Scientist)

» First Church of Christ Scientist, Boulder Creek. 1909-1996.

Organized in 1909, this congregation bought the former Grace Episcopal church structure in 1923. (SC Sentinel, July 28, 1978) The entry for Grace Episcopal Church under Episcopalian has information on the history of the building before 1923. The structure was used for worship until 1996, when The San Lorenzo Valley Museum bought it for use as a museum. ("The San Lorenzo Valley Museum," undated pamphlet published by the Boulder Creek Historical Society)

» Christian Science Church, Soquel. 1916-2010.

A Christian Science congregation began meeting in a Soquel private home in 1916. In 1926 they built a structure that burned down in 1927, but they replaced it the same year. As listed in Polk 1955, the building was at 2835 Porter St., and as listed in Polk 1970 it was at 2841 Porter St. The present structure, built in 1973, (Santa Cruz News, Apr. 28, 1927 and Koch, Parade of the Past, pp. 216-217) is at 3200 Center St., Soquel 95073, tel. 475-1919. (2010 Yellow Pages, which list it as First Church of Christ Scientist)

The reading room, at 3021 Porter St., has the telephone number 475-6177.

» First Church of Christ Scientist, Felton. 1956-2006.

In 1956 a group began meeting in private homes in Felton, and in 1962 they dedicated their newly built structure at 187 Laurel Dr. (Koch, Parade of the Past, p. 217 and SC Sentinel, Aug. 17, 1962) I do not know when the reading room was opened at 6227 Hwy. 9, Felton, but in 2006 it had the same telephone number as the church. (2006 Yellow Pages)

In early 2007 (as I observed when I visited both locations) the church structure was for sale and a commercial store was in the place where the reading room had been.

Various Metaphysical

» Home of Truth. Santa Cruz, 1915-1918.

This congregation used quarters on the second floor of a building at Pacific and Soquel Aves. (SC Surf, May 29, 1915 and photo in UCSC Special Collections, dated 1918)

In 1887 Annie Rix Militz and her sister, Harriet Rix, established in San Francisco a New Thought church which they named Home of Truth. Los Angeles came to be its headquarters, and it had congregations in many California cities by 1900. Only one of these, in Alameda (where it still existed in 1993), survived Rix's death in 1924. (John K. Simmons and Brian Wilson, Competing Visions of Paradise, pp. 79-81, 84)

» Unity Temple of Santa Cruz. 1924-2010.

Unity Temple of Santa Cruz is the Santa Cruz "New Thought" congregation, ( 2010) representing the New Thought organizations, Unity Village and its Unity School of Christianity. The first Unity Church was founded in 1903 by Charles Fillmore and his wife Myrtle in Kansas City, Missouri with the name, "Unity Society of Practical Christianity." (Melton, Encyclopedia * 797; pages 107-109 of the same work treat the history of the New Thought movement.) There are 79 Congregations in the Association of Unity Churches in California, including Unity Temple of Santa Cruz. ( 2010)

Unity Temple of Santa Cruz has existed at its present location and with its present name since 1955. This is 407 Broadway, Santa Cruz 95062. Tel. 423-8553. (Yellow Pages through 2008; White Pages 2010)

The earlier stages of Unity Temple are:

Universal Truth Center, which was in the Hihn Building in Polk 1924, and at 5 Walnut Ave. in Polk 1926 through 1928. According to Polk this was at 151 Garfield St. from 1929 through 1939.

Society of Practical Christianity at 151 Garfield St. from 1928 to 1953. (advertisement of Unity Temple in the SC Sentinel Oct. 29, 2006, p. 77) Chartered in 1928, this society was for action, and was not a religious corporation. (Santa Cruz County Articles of Incorporation no. 945)

Unity Truth Center of Santa Cruz. According to the Santa Cruz County Articles of Incorporation no. 1773, the Unity Truth Center was incorporated in 1953, and it changed its name to Unity Temple in 1955.

Unity Truth Center at 151 Garfield St. in Polk 1946 through 1955, although according to the 2006 advertisement the name was not changed to Unity Truth Center until 1953.

In 1953 the Unity Church of Santa Cruz was incorporated, in 1955 its name was changed to Community Church of Santa Cruz, and in 1960 it was dissolved. (Santa Cruz County Articles of Incorporation no. 1782) Not having details about this incorporated entity, I suppose it was in reality the same as Unity Temple.

» Center for Conscious Living. Live Oak, 1964-2010.

This congregation is one of dozens which follow the teachings of Ernest Holmes, who was a follower of Mary Baker Eddy. (Melton, Encyclopedia, p. 107 and *774. *780, *789, *792, and *796) The general website for this group is 2010.

The Center for Conscious Living in Santa Cruz has a history under the name of Church of Religious Science and First Church of Religious Science. It was founded "30 years ago" according to an article about the 100th birthday celebration of one of its co-founders, Marcella Portia Wainwright. (SC Sentinel, Apr. 24, 2005) This article states that it is in Felton, which evidently is a mistake based on the similarity with "Felt St."

As stated when it incorporated in 1963, the broad purpose of the organization is "To engage in religious, educational, social, charitable and recreational activities and to provide, furnish and make available education, information, advice and training in relation to religious and mental science, philosophy, psychology, religion, metaphysics and related subjects" as well as to conduct religious services. (Santa Cruz County Articles of Incorporation no. 2739)

In Polk 1964 it was at 1303 Seabright Ave. under the name Church of Religious Science; in Polk 1965-66 through 1968 it went under the name First Church of Religious Science, and was located at 1307 Seabright Ave. Then, in Polk 1970 through 1988 it went under the latter name, but was 429 Pennsylvania Ave., although in the 1989 through 1991 Yellow Pages it used the former name at the Pennsylvania Ave. address. It has been at its current address since 1993, initially as the First Church of Religious Science, and, at least since 2003, as the Center for Conscious living. (1993. 1998, and 2003 Yellow Pages) The location is 1818 Felt St., Santa Cruz 95062, tel. 462-9383. (2010 Yellow Pages)

» Inner Light Ministries. Soquel, 1997-2010.

Founded in 1997, this organization is resolutely non-dogmatic: "the church does not preach any dogma." It met at 846 Front St., Santa Cruz until 1993, when it moved to the previous site of the Church of Grace in Soquel. ("Church's vision now a reality," SC Sentinel, Sep. 23, 2003) (See Assemblies of God for the Church of Grace.)

In 2010 it is at 5630 Soquel Dr., Soquel 95073, tel. 465-9090 according to the Yellow Pages, which list it under "Churches-New Thought."

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