The History of Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church
The roots of our church go back to the turn of the Twentieth Century: An old Sunday school document, dated 1903, indicates that there was a Presbyterian church in Fair Oaks at about that time. It had only been 3 short years before that two local businessmen, including the co-owner of the Sacramento Bee, incorporated the Fair Oaks Development Company. The men, calling Fair Oaks the “crown of the valley in the heart of California,” set about to create better road and rail access to the little town.
The first task was to find a preacher. So a search committee went off to Red Bluff to talk with a highly-recommended pastor named Reverend Eugene Nelson. The new Presbyterian Church of Fair Oaks was chartered in 1952, with Rev. Nelson as its organizing pastor, along with 247 charter members. The young church purchased five acres of land for $1,000, just over a mile North of the picturesque Fair Oaks Village. Ground was broken on November 22, 1953, and the church met for the first time in its new location on September 12, 1954.
By then, the Sunday school had almost 400 students and teachers and, by the end of 1956, the growing church had 592 active members. But they were bursting at the seams! Though the town of Fair Oaks had ceased being known for citrus production in the mid-thirties after devastating freezes wiped out most of the groves, the town still grew in numbers because of its proximity to Sacramento. To accommodate its new growth, the church approved the purchase of nearly five acres just West of the present property. Shortly thereafter, a new sanctuary, now called Nelson Hall, was completed. In 1961, the property was mortgaged and a Christian education wing was added. In 1979, a project was started to build the present sanctuary. In more recent times, the people of Fair Oaks have built a recreation and conference center, named after Gene and Lydia Nelson, a stunning chapel, named in honor of Henry and Debbie Wells, and has built a new, kids and youth building in 2015.
In 1980, Henry Wells was ordained a Presbyterian Minister and became Associate Pastor in 1982. A year later he became Co-Pastor. He received his doctorate and became Senior Pastor in 1985, as the congregation moved into the present worship center. After Henry Wells retired, Kirk Bottomly was Senior Pastor for almost ten years, until his retirement at the end of 2017. Josh Hall is the present Senior Pastor.
The story of a church, of course, is more than the recounting of land purchases and buildings and pastors. It’s really a story about faith– the faith of many, many people across the years who answered God’s call to be salt and light in this community. Fair Oaks Church now finds itself in exciting times of transition as it creatively works to discover new ways to reach the world– a world far different than the one its founders would have recognized. But, by faith and with God’s leading, the church at Fair Oaks will give thanks for the past and look forward to a bright future of continued ministry and witness.
“We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” — 1 Thessalonians 1:3