Church Among the Palms
The Church Among the Palms (CAP) has its beginnings with the American Presbyterian initiative for mission work among students and faculty of the then College of Agriculture and School of Forestry, now University of the Philippines, Los Baños, Laguna.
The Presbyterian Missionaries (1907-1960)
In 1907, Rev Charles and Dr. Edith Hamilton arrived in Laguna to join the early Presbyterian Mission. Starting in Pagsanjan then Sta. Cruz and eventually Los Baños, they saw a great opportunity to do mission and evangelism among students and faculty of the College of Agriculture and School of Forestry. Holding Bible Studies with students in the homes of some faculty and staff, the membership grew to a pint where worship services started. The Presbytery of manila reported them as a growing church in 1914.
Presbyterian mission through Presbyterian Church USA acquired a 1.7 hectares lot adjacent to the College campus. Construction of a chapel and student center immediately followed. The construction was finished in March 1917 and was dedicated on the same month.
In 1923, a parsonage was constructed, which was later on called the Sage Hall, in honor of Margaret Olivia Sage who gave it as a gift to CAP.
During the term of Rev. and Mrs. Hugh H. Bousman from 1928-1936, the ministry grew in many respects. Significant among them was the planting of different species of palm trees in the compound, giving the chapel and its congregation its present name, The Church Among the Palms.
Through their efforts, expansion of the compound was made. A “manse” was constructed for the pastor’s residence, Sage Hall became a women’s dormitory and the Student Christian Center was built in 1932, which was financed by the donations from the American Churches. “The Center” as it was called among the Campus students became a place where events such a cultural presentations, conferences and seminars were often held. It had a library, recreational facilities, athletic equipment and covered basketball court. The Rural Life institute for Pastors and Church leaders also began from one of the conferences led and initiated by Rev. Bousman. This was later adopted by the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) in celebrating “Rural Emphasis Sunday” in the month of July.
Rev. and Mrs. Benjamin Bollman (1935-1941) arrived. Major renovations were undertaken for the chapel and a kindergarten school was established with Ms. Esther Capili as its first teacher. Midweek Bible Studies and Sunday Vesper Services became regular activities. Rev.Bollman also initiated two publications that were widely read and anticipated during his term: The “Church News” and “Pulpit and Parish.” During the time of the Japanese in 1941, the chapel was turned into a stable for horses. The Japanese sacked and burned the College campus. The Student Christian Center was not spared and was burned to the ground, while the chapel was severely damage.
Rev. Dr. Albert Saunders (1940-1942), there’s little known information about him but he is the pastor during the war.
Rev. Bousman (1945-1952) again took the helm of CAP and the challenges for the repair, reconstruction and rebuilding. During this time, the United Church of Christ in the Philippines was formed on May 25, 1948 and Rev. Bousman became the “General Evangelist.” Church Among the Palms become one of UCCP’s first member under the South Luzon Jurisdiction with Bishop Cipriano Navarro as the first jurisdictional bishop. From 1952-1953, Rev. Paul Dotson then served briefly as pastor of CAP.
1954-1960, Rev. James and Louise Palm served CAP. Rev. Palm encouraged the Presbyterian Church to let Filipino pastors to be given the opportunity to take the pastoral leadership responsibilities as well as work towards self-reliance. The foreign mission support for CAP’s Ministry was stopped and before Rev. Palm’s term ended, the local congregation was already supporting all the expenses for the ministry.
In 1973, the Presbyterian Church USA donated the 1.7 hectares lot and its facilities, including the chapel to the United Church of Christ in the Philippines and was received by Bishop Estanislao Abainza who was the General Secretary then, of UCCP.
Filipino Pastoral Ministries (1960-2019)
The first Filipino pastor of Church Among the Palms was Rev. Ciriaco Lagunzad (part-time). Then followed by Rev. Ciriaco Ganchorre a full-time pastor from 1961-1962. Deaconess Anna Maturan was the matron for the Ladies Dorm and kindergarten teacher from 1960-1964.
1962-1970, Rev. Benjamin and Julieta Orteza then served CAP and focuses his ministry to the indigenous people in Mindoro and Pampanga. Deaconess Remy Zamora from 1964-1980 served as Kindergarten teacher and Christian Education Director. In 1970-1977, Mina Contado served as Student Center Director.
1970-1971, Rev, Hilario M. Gomez served CAP as a weekend pastor.
1971-1972, Rev Stenio Labrador followed for another brief stint as a full-time pastor.
1972-1993, Rev. Emilio and Aurora Puerto started their service in CAP as part-time minister then. However, they decided to serve the church full-time and turned into a two-decade long ministry. Church Among the Palms became incorporated in 1976 and Christian School International (CSI) was established in 1980. CSI, as a ministry of CAP has its roots in the aspirations of the Bousman ministry which was to offer a sustainable program for internationals that will give them opportunities for quality education, social integration and spiritual aspiration.
Successions of Associate Pastors for the Youth during Rev. Puerto’s two decades of service: were Ptr. Oscar Suarez, Cito Cruz, Noel Baybay and Rev. Billy Veloso. It is during Rev. Puerto’s and Rev. Veloso’s time that the Tagalog worship started.
1994-1996, Rev. Billy and Eva Veloso served CAP. During his term three CAP members entered the seminary namely Leiza Espanto, Victor Paller and Bernardino Tandang. Reverends Leiza Espanto and Victor Paller are practicing pastors until now while Bernardino Tandang is CSI’s School Director.
1996-1997, Rev. Dennis and Hannah Duhaylungsod served as full time workers. During their term, CAP-CSI Gym was finished and additional CSI classrooms were built due to the school’s increasing enrollment. Ptr. Jefferson Rodriguez served as Youth Pastor for a year as intern-pastor.
1998-2000, Bishop Eliezar M. Pascua was the Pastor and during his term, he encouraged the church to update it’s Constitution and By-Laws. His term was cut because he was recalled to assume the position of jurisdictional bishop due to the death of then Bishop Ellen Briones.
2002-2004, Rev.Dr. Melanio L. Aoanan assumed the pastoral leadership. It was in his term that the Phase 1 of the Main High School building was finished.
2004-2005, Rev. Emilio Puerto assumed again the position of CAP’s pastor during weekends.
2005-2009, Rev. Leslie Guerrero and Deaconess Euvelyn Guerrero, served as CAP’s Admnistrative Pastor. Deaconess Euvy served as Christian Education worker and Deaconess Thelma Quizon served as Music Director.
In 2007, a Centennial Committee was formed for the preparation of CAP’s 100th Anniversary in 2014. They have set about to put Centennial Projects like the CSI High School Building, Bay Outreach Multi-Purpose Fellowship Building, a Columbary, and the expansion of the chapel into a 400-seating capacity sanctuary.
In 2009, Rev. Leomyr and Marissa de Jesus joined CAP. He was with Ptr. Nehemias Millares as Associate Pastor for the Youth and in that same year Ptr. Lilibeth Tendero join the team and served as Christian Education Worker.
2012-2014, Rev. Ricardo Bernardino served the community of faith. During his term, the “CAP New Sanctuary” and CSI’s New Building at the back of the Center Hall are on its completion stage.
2014-2016, Rev. Lilibeth Tauy-Tendero served CAP while in their busiest time for the preparation for the celebration of Church Among the Palms 100 year anniversary in which she was assisted by Rev. Ivie Francisquete as Associate Pastor for the Youth and at the same time Christian Education Worker.
2016, Rev. Pumphrey Rizal and Ptr. Jeffrey Rivera assumed the pastoral leadership of CAP as Admnistrative Pastor and Youth Pastor respectively. A year after Diaconial Minister Joyce Rizal, served as Christian Education Worker up to the present. We have opened our doors to reach out to the community through our “Blessing on Plate” and “Jail Ministry.” Likewise, the first phase of the New Elementary Building was dedicated.
In recognition of God’s steadfast love, let us lift up our praises and thanksgiving to the One who started it all and who will give us many years of witnessing, evangelizing, discipling, and service. To our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who makes the Teachings of Moses and the Prophets Come True in these Changing Times…