We believe that the Church is built around the reality of who Jesus is.
Every member of the body of Christ is indispensable and though every member functions differently, every member has a function in the Body as they are gifted by the Spirit.
To bear God’s image most fully is to do so in Christian community, submitting to one another in love as God first loves us.
As a result, we don’t just go to church, we are the church that embodies hospitality, courage, health, community, and impact every day and everywhere with everyone as we follow Jesus.
In 1946, the Church Extension Board of the Los Angeles Presbytery approved a tentative location for a new church to be built in the community of Bel Air. The plans to develop this ministry and site lay dormant until September, 1955, when the Presbytery responded to the growth of Bel Air and asked the Rev. Louis H. Evans, Jr. to serve as organizing pastor of Bel Air Presbyterian Church. The first meeting of 51 people was held in the manse (pastor's house) on April 8, 1956.
The congregation began meeting at the Bellagio Road School and in October 1956, work began on our current Mulholland site through rock blasting and grading work (which took seven and a half months).
In October 1959, construction began on an award-winning chapel and on a Christian education building. On December 4, 1960, a happy group of people crowded into the doors for two services. Soon, three services each Sunday morning were required, and these continued until the church moved into its present Sanctuary in September, 1991. In 1974, membership grew to 1757. In order to accommodate the number of worshippers, a south wing, balcony, and educational lounge were added to the chapel. In 1977 the Christian Service Center was completed, and the church staff offices were moved out of the Christian Education Building to an administration building.
In 1983, the decision was made to proceed with plans for a 1600-seat sanctuary to be constructed on the middle parking lot. Groundbreaking was held in 1988, and on September 6, 1991, the new sanctuary was dedicated. On January 17, 1994, a 6.8 magnitude earthquake shook the Los Angeles area at 4:31 a.m. Damage to the church facilities was extensive. A pipe connected to the sprinkler system in the new sanctuary burst and caused major damage to the Casavant organ, and cracks and broken windows were widespread. The Sanctuary was classified to be unsafe, and worship services resumed in Evans Chapel. Repair work commenced immediately and extended over a two-year period. Bel Air has launched two church plants, one in partnership with Union Presbyterian Church in downtown Los Angeles, called The Bridge, and the other in the South Bay, called Water's Edge.
In 2015, Bel Air launched a year, called, "LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY." This was in preparation for our 60th anniversary as a congregation. The people of Bel Air encircled the campus and in unison said the Lord's Prayer.
Fall 2015 Session voted to start using the shortened name of Bel Air Church as people have called this church family since its beginning. We hope this new name makes us easier to find and tells newcomers that they are welcome to discover Bel Air for themselves. April 2016 marks the 60th anniversary of this dedicated and faithful congregation. We are excited to see how God will continue the amazing work He has been doing in and through this church.
When the present Bel Air Presbyterian Church Sanctuary Organ was dedicated on September 29, 1996, it represented the world’s largest digital/pipe combination organ. Our present organ was built to replace a previous 67 rank tracker action organ installed by Casavant-Freres (Opus 3689) in 1991 that was destroyed in the 1994 Northridge earthquake.
After it was determined that Opus 3689 was not repairable, our congregation embarked upon a careful study of the role of an organ in our church life and determined that we needed a new organ that would have sufficient flexibility to provide strong musical leadership regardless of the worship format or style operative at any particular time in the life of the church. The new organ had to satisfy a demanding litany of needs: to effectively lead the congregation in the singing of traditional church music; accompany the choirs and other choral groups in a wide variety of musical styles; properly interpret the great organ music of the past and present in our worship services and as part of the church’s mission of outreach to the community; and lead in contemporary worship styles which incorporate more orchestral sounds and effects than are found on a typical pipe organ. It was determined that these needs could best be served by building a combination pipe and digital instrument. Robert Tall & Associates, Inc. were selected to create and install a new organ which blended 60 ranks of pipes salvaged from the previous Casavant organ with “Digital voices” from the Rodgers Instrument Corporation to create an instrument with 151 ranks and 118 speaking stops, operated from a computerized console.
Many elements from our church’s musical history were integrated into the organ. Twelve pipes from the M.P. Moller organ (Opus 9607) in Evans Chapel, our former sanctuary, seamlessly replaced twelve 8’ Principal pipes destroyed in the earthquake. The organ bench survived, and 60 of the original 67 ranks now constitute the pipe portion of the organ. Great care was taken to preserve the tonal integrity of the original organ. Much, of course, was newly added. The addition of digital voices and MIDI created an instrument with capabilities and flexibility previously beyond our reach. New electric-action windchests were used throughout, including five new pallets and slider windchests for the manual divisions. The conversion to electric key action made possible changes in the location of the Swell and Pedal divisions which created improvements in the sound and provided additional space and improved maintenance access. The long intended plan for the prior organ of adding a Celestial division was finally realized through the unique Cherubim and Seraphim divisions of the new organ, utilizing digital voices and placed high in the side gables.
Our new organ has proved to be both a delight to our congregation and a celebrated instrument of considerable worldwide renown in the organ and classical music communities. The organ regularly blesses our congregation in worship with joyful sounds of church music. It has also been utilized as a concert and recording instrument by a wide variety of notable artists, beginning with Frederick Swann, who performed the organ’s dedication concert, and including Richard Morris, Hector Olivera, Alan Morrison, Marsha Foxgrover, Jonas Nordwall, and various representatives of the American Guild of Organists. Our organ has been featured in two highly regarded recordings of organ music, Christmas at Bel Air by Hector Olivera, and Richard Morris, Organist: Bel Air Presbyterian Church, Los Angeles by Richard Morris. In a review of the latter recording for Fanfare, “The Magazine for Serious Record Collectors,” by Haig Mardirosian, recommending the recording, the reviewer described the Bel Air Presbyterian Church Sanctuary Organ as an instrument of “massive opulence.” Our digital/pipe combination organ and music recorded on it also have been featured several times on the celebrated public radio program devoted to organs and organ music, Pipedreams.