History of the Modesto Central Church

In 1902 here in the San Joaquin Valley, six Seventh-day Adventist families, desiring to have a place to worship together purchased a church building in Modesto from the Baptist denomination for a price of $700.00.  It was located on “I” Street between 6th and 7th Streets.  The church was dedicated in 1907.

The Tonge family became members of the original congregation in 1906, and the Kirkles in 1907.  The Tonge's are the only family that remain from the original church prior to 1910.  The growing church sent several families to become charter members of the Salida church. The Salida Church is now the Parkwood Church.  In the early days all baptisms were held in the Tuolumne River.

During World War I, in 1917, the thriving congregation sold their original church building and moved to 6th and J Streets where the new larger church was erected for a cost of $7,000.  The church grew steadily during the depression years and was a beacon of hope and light to the Modesto Community during those difficult years. Despite the economic hardships the members demonstrated their faith in God's ability to provide by sacrificing their money to enlarge the building. The expansion was completed in 1931 with a full basement at the cost of $2,000. However, growth continued and on September 5, 1944, land on the corner of 17th and H Streets was purchased from the City of Modesto for $10,000. 

After five years of planning under the direction of Pastors Leslie Melendy, M.L. Venden and J.E. Young, the official ground breaking was held on May 11, 1949.  Pastor J.E. Young led out in the construction phase of the present building with opening services on January 12, 1951. Memorial Day, May 30, 1953, was dedication day for the Modesto Church which was erected at a cost of $150,000.  Elders J.L. McElhaney, president of the General Conference, and C.L. Brauer, president of the Pacific Union Conference, were participants at the special service.

Two of the very early pastors were Elders Cady and Osborn.  Elder Sanborn served in 1926.  Elder King pastured here from 1930-1933, when Elder Burke arrived to take the pulpit.  Elder Walter Bradley replaced him, serving from 1934-1936. Elder George Westerhout served from 1936-1938, followed by Elder Paul Campbell.  In 1940, Elder Roy Baker was pastor.  Elder Leslie Melendy was pastor for two and one-half years, 1942-1945.  He was followed by Elder M.L. Venden who was pastor from 1945-1948. 

Elder J.E. Young served from 1948-1952.  He was followed by Elder A.V. Bentz who was here from 1952-1955, and by Elder Raymond Libby, 1955-1964.  Elder C.E. Smith pastored from 1964-1967 and was followed by Elder E.W. Voyles, 1967-1971 when Elder David Neidigh accepted the call from the Santa Ana Church in Southeastern California Conference to become the pastor of what was now called the Modesto Central Church.

The church has undergone extensive changes.  A $200,000 remodeling was completed in 1972.  An extensive air conditioning unit was added.  Parking facility changes were made.  An office was constructed and finally the adjourning Methodist Church complex including the main sanctuary which will be converted to the welfare facility, youth recreation, and pathfinder rooms, the parsonage which will become a resident custodian home and adjoining buildings were added.  The development of these new facilities took place in the fall of 1973.  The Modesto Central Church now encompasses nearly the entire block. As of December 2008 the membership is 698.