The mural behind the pulpit was commissioned in 1981 by Mr. and Mrs. Joseph and Vicki Sabad in memory of Joseph’s mother and father, Rose and George. The 18ft by 20ft mural was painted by Rose Roskin of the East Contra Costa Art Association. Rose was of the Jewish faith and struggled with the face of Jesus. But once inspiration hit her, she sketched a mock up and eventually painted the mural on thin sheets of plywood, attaching them to the wall. The mural shows the church in the valley beneath Mt. Diablo with the fertile fields and orchards along with farm animals, birds and a few fish. The total scene has the figure of Jesus Christ in white, appearing in apparition, with his arms outstretched as if embracing and blessing the valley. The mural was dedicated on May 3, 1981.
Thank you for being interested in our church history – and what a long history it is! As a formal Methodist church, complete with charter and appointed pastor, we’ve been here since 1881. We are all very proud of this church. The good people here have accomplished more in the last 10 years in developing our site and ministries than in our first 120. We have served thousands of meals and by the time you read this we will have provided many more through our food pantry run jointly with St. Anne Catholic Church and Delta Community Presbyterian Church. We’ve given thousands of hours sitting with, praying with, supporting and caring for, in a myriad of ways, those living with life-threatening conditions through what has become the signature expression of our identity: Kaleidoscope, a movement of hope and connection for people living with cancer. Through Kaleidoscope we are discovering more ways of providing spiritual care than we knew existed. Among them are an organic garden, a labyrinth (recently installed), the enormous nurturing potential of providing, let alone eating, a home-cooked meal, and so on. Then there’s Byron’s United Methodist Women who have assembled and sent to Africa, Latin America and other places of need, a mountain’s worth of health kits, backpacks of school supplies, Christmas boxes, baked goods for armed forces….the point is obvious. This is a vital church, connecting people in east County and beyond, to what truly matters.
Byron United Methodist Church has a history as old as the pioneers that settled this area. It began in 1868 modestly, with folks meeting in one another’s homes. There were no paved roads, no electricity and no trains. Antioch was the nearest town, 13 miles away, and the quickest way was via riverboat, boarded at Point of Timber. Byron and Brentwood would not exist for another 10 years!
In 1873, on the southeast corner of what today is Excelsior School’s property, settlers built a Grange Hall. This gave the church a place to worship outside one another’s homes. By 1878 the railroad went through to Brentwood and the Grange went with it, leaving the Hall to the church.
By 1887 Byron had grown so much the church decided to move to town and its present location. The story is they dragged it, rolling it along on logs, using draft horses. The plan was to place it farther south near Byron Hot Springs. But sundown Saturday night found them only so far as our current address. They had to worship the next morning, so this was the spot. Once the building was in place, the old windows were removed and Gothic windows with stained glass were installed. A belfry was added, with bell; new pews, altar and altar railing were hewn, sanded, stained and brought in along with three red plush pulpit chairs. The original redwood pews are still in the choir loft. Once everything was in place and ready for worship, Alpheus Richardson presented the church witha new, 18 pound, hand-illuminated Authorized Bible. Finally, in 1920, the Byron Methodist Episcopal Church built a new sanctuary, same location, same foundation, and dedicated it debt-free in 1921.
By the 1950s the Standard, Associated and Shell pumping stations were closed and many church and community members moved away. The church needed improvements, the parsonage needed renovations and the church had to borrow money for a sewer connection. In 1957 a memorial fund was started for additions and upkeep. $1000 and lots of volunteer labor renovated the parsonage in 1966, giving the pastor a proper kitchen and study. The mural in the choir loft, depicting the risen Christ, the church and the surrounding community, was painted in 1981. When it was dry and mounted, there was a sense among members that the building, finally, was complete.
Like any church that’s been around, we’ve weathered challenges and seen success. What has bonded us and made us strong is our commitment to people and to connecting them to what truly matters: belonging, support, hope, and new life in Jesus Christ.
Our Ministers through the Years
1881-Rev E.A. Winning-congregation of about 50
1893-1894-Rev D. Brill-supply minister from the Brentwood Church
1894-Rev C.H Von Glahn-first occupant of our very own parsonage
1895-1900-Dr. A.S. Gibbons-remained for 5 years, the longest of any minister to date. Dr. Gibbons was formerly one of the first presidents of College of the Pacific (currently UOP) and at Sunday school would often have children marching to old hymns as he sang with them
1908-Rev John Pardee
Rev J.E. Wright
Rev S.M. Woodward (3 years)
Rev Thomas A. Atkinson (1 year)
E.A. Shapland (2 years)
1920-Rev Otis Green-brought the gift of helping to build a new church building and in 1921, our new building was dedicated without debt of any help from the Conference
Rev Harry Pressfield (1 year)
Rev Homer Gallaher
Rev George Brice
Rev L.D. Cook
Rev W.C. Robins
1931-1941-Rev Sam Hocking-minister during the Depression
1941-1949-Rev Ada Hocking-supply minister-took over after husband died of a heart attack while ringing the church bell in 1941. Ada was instrumental in construction of the church kitchen.
1950-1953-Rev Joseph Kueger and Lewis Ray
1952-Rev John Robt Blesse
1954-Rev Wendell Kramer– became the originators and managers of the Heifer Project
1955-Rev Charles A. Silberstein
1957-Rev Kenneth Knepp
1958-1960-Rev Howard Chapin
1960- Rev Oscar Escamilla-continued improvements to the parsonage
1962-Rev Philip Hall
1965-Rev William Lawton-two church members, Ray and Clara Houston, were killed in an auto accident. Donations in their name were given to the church and allowed us to buy new pews for the sanctuary.
1967-Rev S.L. Rice
1969-Rev Robert Baker
1971-Rev Bruce Jones-shared with Brentwood
1977-Rev Darrel McCorkell-enabled us to financially have a minister of our own
1982- Rev Andrew J. Weaver
1984-Rev Jan Everheart-purchased the existing parsonage during her tenure
1989-Rev Steve Watson
1991-1995-Rev Bob Chicou-purchased 3 1/2 acres of land at the back of the church
1995-2001-Rev Chuck Jack-roof was repaired, kitchen remodeled, landscaping completed, children’s area started, air conditioning repaired and added to pastor’s study, covered patio completed, old parsonage torn down
2001-2012-Rev Dan Sturdivant-Kaleidoscope Cancer Connection started as a ministry, and was spun off as a non-profit. Began hosting the ecumenical Delta Christian Community Food Pantry. The church got new windows, carpeting, and a new roof; the Sunday School and Kaleidoscope buildings were added, and Labyrinth constructed.
2012-2015- Rev Joan Pell-new playground installed, labyrinth fenced in
2015-present-Rev Christine Shiber