Harvest officially came into being on February 25, 1962, when 72 people signed the Charter of Organization. The church unofficially began in the late 1950’s when Rev. John Becker of Geneva Presbyterian Church and Mrs. John G. Veneman began talking to people about forming a new “non-fundamentalist” church in Ceres. This possible church was to serve the Hughson area also. A motion passed in December 1959 at a meeting of the Presbytery to conduct a survey of the Ceres area to determine interest in such a church. Mrs. Wallace Caswell offered two acres of land on Moffett Road for the purpose of starting a church; the San Joaquin Presbytery purchased 1.31 acres adjoining the parcel.
Subsequent meetings throughout the spring and summer of 1960 led to a committee procuring temporary quarters for services, zoning for the church site, and a sign advertising the proposed church. The first service was held on Sunday, September 25, 1960, in the Ceres American Legion Hall. Church began at 9:30 a.m., followed by church school to enable supply pastors to be at their own church services. By November 1960, attendance at worship averaged 35.
The infant church yearned for its own minister, and that call was answered in April 1961 by Reverend Robert Clark of Newport, Oregon. Rev. Clark set in motion steps for organization and expansion of the original group. After many meetings and discussions, the name “Harvest” was approved for the new Presbyterian Church. This name seemed right in many ways: it fit the historical meaning of Ceres, it suggested the task ahead (“the fields are already white for harvest,” John 4:35closeJohn 4:35 35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. (ESV) closeJohn 4:35closeJohn 4:35 35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. (ESV) 35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. (ESV) ), and it had a homey, down-to-earth sound that seemed to fit a small unpretentious farming community.
The group continued to meet in the Legion Hall spurred on by memories of Rev. Becker’s first sermon entitled “What is Your Dream Church?” A committee headed by Homer Jorgensen began seeking out possibilities for a building on the church site. A groundbreaking ceremony was held in the fall of 1963, and on March 1, 1964, worshipers moved into a fully furnished chapel-sanctuary, kitchen, and fellowship/school hall designed by architect Wayne Osaki of San Francisco.
Rev. Clark and his family continued to grow and serve Harvest until July 1966, when due to his wife’s illness they had to relocate to Arizona. The next five years saw three different pastors: Fred Kennedy, Dan Loomis, and Russell Chandler. Projects were taken on and groups formed to keep Harvest prospering. In April 1974, Rev. James McKaughan, wife Dorothy, and their three children accepted the call to pastor Harvest.
Rev. McKaughan had served as a missionary in Mexico for 20 years and as a teacher at the Presbyterian Seminary in Mexico City for 10 years. They brought a “heart and soul” attitude for mission work which Harvest members readily accepted. Community outreach expanded the church’s annual Chicken Barbecue to be included in the Ceres bicentennial celebration. A Neighborhood Church School was held jointly with The United Methodist Church attracting an average of 22 children each week. Harvest shared VBS and “Vacation Happenings” with the Methodist Church members, too.
As the 1980’s arrived, Harvest gained a new address even though the location remained the same. The post office assigned the number 1813 to the church site, formerly known as 1751. New carpets were installed in the nursery, a playground was expanded, lawn sprinklers were installed, and several Harvest-grown youth accepted the call to ministry and were ordained. Many others went on to serve God in various capacities. Rev. McKaughan retired in April 1981 and was replaced by Interim Pastor Marvin Weishaar and then Pastor Roger Peterson in 1982.
A second building was being planned to accommodate the growing youth programs. The parking lot paving was completed. A contract with the Ceres School District to rent the buildings for school classrooms was agreed upon. Rev. Larry Cardwell contracted to serve as Interim Pastor for a six-month period beginning Feb 1, 1987. A second piano was donated to Harvest by Maurine Lightwood, a charter member, for use in the Christian Education department. The church celebrated its 25th Organizational Anniversary at special worship services with a reception in between the two services. Many former members, charter members, elders, and deacons were in attendance.
April 17, 1988, an Open House and Dedication for the new CE building was held. The morning services included a musical, Fat, Fat Jehoshaphat, under the direction of Isabell McKay and Sue Nowicki. In October 1988, Brent Mitchell accepted the call to Pastor for Harvest.
A planning committee was formed for a new building proposal. After a year of deliberation, the committee brought their proposal in 1991 to the congregation for a vote. After much discussion and prayer, a vote was taken and the results were 34 in favor, 3 against. Pledges totaling $40,000 were received in two months to help finance a Family Life and Worship Center at Harvest in the next three years. Sunday, August 23, 1992 a groundbreaking ceremony was held for a new worship building. Pastor Brent told those present that, “The construction folks will be building us a new place to worship, but filling it will be our job. Only God can grow a church and bring people to Christ. We need to roll up our sleeves and begin our joyful task of inviting people inside.”
On Sunday, March 7, 1993, at 9 a.m. the first worship service was held in the new worship building, with 167 people in attendance. A reception in the fellowship hall followed the service. The Session agreed to order 200 new Bibles for the sanctuary. Session also agreed to purchase a Clavinova for the sanctuary—a piano keyboard that also has the ability to sound like a pipe organ and a harpsichord.
The first Men’s Camping Retreat was planned and carried out in August 1993. Denny Goss with the support of Pastor Brent hosted the complete R & R event at Kennedy Meadows for the weekend. Mariner’s was organized and held meetings the third Friday of the month for those retired, or near retirement age this same year. Late in the year a dedication and grand opening was held for the Church Library.
For the past 11 years youth club ended at 6th grade, so in 1994 the church hired a college student named Scott Kirkman to work with the junior/senior youth on a part-time basis. Harvester Barbara Parse was to attend General Assembly as the Stockton Presbytery representative. The only other member to attend GA was Grant Lucas in 1976. Late in 1995, Harvest approved the use of the chapel for a Hispanic Church to see if it could be an outreach to the Spanish-speaking families in the area. The following year saw a high priority given to finishing the playground and getting the courtyard into a usable condition. Session voted to discontinue the annual Chicken Barbecue and to participate in the Ceres Street Faire by selling grilled chicken sandwiches. By 1997, average attendance at Harvest was 98 per week! Pledges received for the 1998 budget was $83,685—the largest amount pledged in Harvest history.
In March 1999 the worship committee, with concurrence from Pastor Brent and the Session, voted to “give it a whirl”—that is, a Contemporary worship service to be held the last Sunday of each month. Two Women’s Circles were formed in the fall.
With the New Millennium the church published a photo directory and celebrated its 40th anniversary of ordination at a special service and reception that attracted numerous charter and past members and former pastors. Construction of a portico to the front of the Worship Center was completed. In 2003 Harvest Session approved and began the remodeling of the chapel facility. Next they hired Kevin Lind as full-time youth director. A new lighted message sign in front of the church replaced the wooden one, and a baby grand piano was added to the worship.
By 2004 the renovation of the chapel, kitchen, youth room and offices were completed. A new phone system was put into place that would include many needed features. A website was established allowing attendees unable to be in church to hear the sermon and see what was going on at church. An evangelistic opportunity, called Alpha Course, was promoted by Harvest’s session to encourage outreach of attendees to the community, and Harvest youth spent a week in July doing mission work locally. A total of 133 man hours of work was given to the various projects.
The year 2005 was one of many people changes—Youth Pastor Kevin Lind enrolled at Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey. Harvester Cyndee Pearson went to Lima, Peru, to serve as a teacher in an International Christian School for the children of missionaries; member Bette Holleman and son Zach traveled to Uganda to help train women in the use of knitting machines. A wooden Memory Tree was designed and installed in the chapel. After serving Harvest for 17 years, Pastor Brent accepted a call to pastor a church in Springfield, Illinois.
Interim Pastor Dan Thornton was hired in 2006 to fill the pulpit until a committee could be formed and search for a full-time pastor. Rev. Thornton led a first-time Sunrise Service for Harvesters and the community on the front lawn, followed by an Easter breakfast and regular Sunday worship. A stained glass account was begun to replace the original windows above the altar in the Worship Center. Plans for an additional parking lot south of the chapel and CE wing were approved by the city.
In 2007 a multi-media program was installed to allow for projection of worship service announcements, sermon notes, creeds, hymns, etc. Both the stained glass windows and the south parking lot were completed and dedicated. Interim Pastor Thornton was replaced by Pastor Nelson DeBrosse in October. In 2008 Pastor DeBrosse formed a Church Orchestra to help nurture and grow the faith of our church family. The Rev. Kevin Lind completed seminary and returned to Harvest for ordination as a Presbyterian Pastor prior to accepting a call to pastorship in Washington State. Kevin and wife Alisa were members of Harvest and supported by the congregation during his seminary years.
Spring of 2009, the huge, old, liquid amber tree was removed from the front lawn area after a winter storm broke off several large branches. In June Pastor Nelson submitted his resignation and made plans to move back to Georgia to be with his wife and family. Stepping into the pulpit as Interim Pastor was John Foster until his resignation in August 2011.
Various local Presbyterian pastors filled the pulpit until March 2012 when Pastor John Snyder was placed in the pulpit as Interim Pastor. Pastor Snyder helped discern the congregational needs and solidify the congregation and worship services. He says, “The Harvest family is a wonderful, loving community who look forward to being together. They are very supportive of one another and their Ceres community. Our family has been very blessed to be a part of this great church who have some of the very best cooks in the Presbyterian Church!” Don’t ever miss a potluck!
In July 2012, Pastor Jim Stochl and his wife, Beth, began serving at Harvest. They come from serving multiple churches in Southern California. Jim served for ten years at Faith United Presbyterian Church, a small inner-city church, and then for five years as the Business Administrator at Arcadia Presbyterian Church, a large suburban church in the San Gabriel Valley. Beth served as a City Planner in Glendale, Long Beach, and Los Angeles, as well as serving at Habitat for Humanity for Greater Los Angeles. They have a son, Mark, who graduated from UCLA and is now working for ULA in Denver. Their daughter, Rachel, is a Senior in Sociology at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. They have two Cocker Spaniels, Sunny and June.
We celebrated our 51st anniversary in June 2013 with a large gathering of current and former members, and the obligatory meal afterwards. It was a tremendous day, remembering what God has done in and through Harvest, but also eagerly anticipating what God will do in and through Harvest.