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GARDEN GROVE, Calif. — (RNS) For nearly 30 years, the Rev. Robert Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral was not only a religious landmark, but an architectural wonder and an embodiment of flush times in Southern California’s Orange County.
Schuller, who began preaching to motorists at a drive-in movie theater in 1955, captured the ebullient positivity of midcentury America, and by the 1970s he was one of the country’s top televangelists, best-known for his broadcast, “Hour of Power.” The symbol of his success was Crystal Cathedral, a 128-foot-tall building designed by the cutting-edge mondernist architect Philip Johnson to be the largest glass building in the world.
Disneyland - Inside - Holidays - Services - Animals
From the top, you can see Disneyland. Inside seats almost 3,000. On holidays, services included live animals and acrobatic performers. It was a physical representation of the limitless hopes of the evangelical community of the time.
But the landscape began to change.
Turn - Century - Schuller - Following - Evangelicals
Around the turn of the 21st century, Schuller’s large following of white evangelicals was aging, and the population of nonwhite residents in California was increasing. Membership and donations to Crystal Cathedral began to decline. The cathedral filed for bankruptcy in 2010.
At the same time, the Roman Catholic Church started seeing an increase in Southern California. In 1976, the Diocese of Orange consisted of about 300,000 Catholics. Today, the numbers are closer to 1.6 million, supporting 62 parishes, 41 schools, three hospitals and care centers and a number of agencies serving the poor, according to The Orange County Register.
People - Hank - Evers - Director - Communications
“It’s like, ‘Where are all these people coming from?’ They keep coming and coming,” said Hank Evers, director of strategic communications for the Diocese of Orange, adding that the overall population growth of the area impacted everything from the economy to the local churches.
Fittingly, then, Crystal Cathedral is almost ready to open as a church again — this time as Christ Cathedral,...
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