The Altar Cross

The Altar Cross

Inside the Montgomery sanctuary when it first opened in 1951

One evening while seated with the choir at the back wall of the chancel area, I commented on the bronze plaque dedicating the cross given in memory of Mrs. Lillis LeBaron. I thought it was good that the plaque was still there, even though the cross had been removed about 50 years ago. A singer sitting nearby was surprised, as she thought the plaque referred to the brass cross sitting on the altar. Not so, I said, and told her what I knew of the story of the large cross.

Mrs. Lillis LeBaron was quite active in the Methodist church. Though related to the three LeBarons who initially moved into the area, she is no direct relation to John LeBaron, photographer husband of historian Gaye LeBaron.

Lillis LeBaron died in 1948 and when plans were being made for building the “new” church on Montgomery Drive, funds were donated in her memory for the large gold-colored wooden cross that hung in front of red velvet drapes at the back of the chancel. This photograph, taken close to the opening on September 15, 1951, shows the cross. Note that there is no brass cross on the altar, the large cross serving that purpose.

I have been unable to determine the exact date, but years later the Rapp family purchased the stained glass altar window and it was installed in place of the cross. Fifteen years after the Methodist Church on Montgomery Drive opened, Christ Church on Yulupa Avenue opened, and our large cross formed the backdrop for their altar, having been donated to them.

In 1984 the Christ Church sanctuary burned, taking the large cross with it. With a history of serving two churches and their congregations for 33 years, Mrs. LeBaron’s memorial was certainly a worthy one.

Another historical note is that the formation of Christ Church, which was officially chartered by the Annual Conference in 1962, was the act that caused the “Santa Rosa Methodist Church” to change its name to “The First Methodist Church of Santa Rosa.” In 1968, following the merger of the Methodist church with the United Brethren church, we became “The First United Methodist Church of Santa Rosa.”