Melodyland Christian Center was a church in Anaheim, California that was located a short distance east of the Disneyland Resort. The Melodyland Theater and surrounding campus started as a theater in the round and later became an evangelical Christian church. Pastor Ralph Wilkerson took a musical theater and turned it into one of the largest (at the time) and most influential churches in the Evangelical or Charismatic/Pentecostal community.
The Melodyland theater and all the buildings on the church campus were demolished in 2003. Part of the Anaheim GardenWalk was later built on the site. Incidentally, the spot where the main Theater (or Sanctuary for the church) was located is the spot where the movie theaters are located for GardenWalk.
Christian Center Church, Anaheim
Christian Center Church, Anaheim started in 1960 and for a few years met at the "Anaheim Women's Assistance League" which was on La Palma Ave in Anaheim. Christian Center Church eventually built and occupied the Candlewood Building which was located on Candlewood in Anaheim, cross streets are East and Kenwood right off the 91 Freeway. The building is still there and is now a Nazarene church. The building can be seen from the 91 freeway. It is south of the interstate between East/Raymond and State College Blvd. Christian Center Church, Anaheim started as a congregation of the Assemblies of God denomination. Christian Center Church, Anaheim moved from the Candlewood building to Melodyland and later sold the Candlewood property.
Theater in the round becomes a church
According to the Yesterland website:
The 3,200-seat Melodyland Theater, located across Harbor Boulevard from Disneyland, opened in 1963. Audiences could enjoy Broadway musicals, concerts by popular performers, such as Johnny Carson or the Grateful Dead, and even ice shows. In 1969, Rev. Ralph Wilkerson bought Melodyland for use as a church. Melodyland must have seemed to be a good name for a church too, so they kept the name and even the original Melodyland sign. Melodyland was demolished in 2003. The parcel of land on which Melodyland sat is now part of Anaheim GardenWalk, a lifestyle shopping center. Freedman Way is now called Disney Way.
Melodyland Theatre was built in the 1960s by a Mr. Freedman, and was host to many entertainers. Some of them who appeared there included Don Adams, Pearl Bailey, Lynn Bari, Joan Bennett, Bill Cosby, Pamela Britton, Johnny Carson, James Brown, Bobby Darin, The Dave Clark Five, Don DeFore, Andy Devine, Grateful Dead, Don Ho, Tab Hunter, Betty Hutton, Liza Minnelli, Martin Milner, Robert Paige, Jack Palance, Laurel & Hardy, Connie Stevens, Kaye Stevens and many others.
In 1969 the property encompassing Melodyland was put up for auction. Christian Center Church, Anaheim, headed by Ralph Wilkerson, bought the property and kept the name Melodyland as the new name for the church and called the church Melodyland Christian Center. Later Melodyland would have a drug rehabilitation program, a High School and a School of Divinity called Melodyland School of Theology. Years later, a preschool and daycare center were added as well.
In 1976, two years after Motown formed a country subsidiary with artists such as Pat Boone, T. G. Sheppard and Jud Strunk using the Melodyland name, the Center sued, forcing the label's name to change to Hitsville. Hitsville folded in 1974
In the 1970s, during the summer months, the church would host what were called "Charismatic Clinics." These week-long events featured noted speakers from the Charismatic and Pentecostal movement, and drew people from all over the world.
Melodyland High School
Melodyland High School started in 1976 and used existing church grounds for the school campus. The school's unofficial nickname was Melo (pronounced "mellow," rhyming with yellow).
The team name for the school and its sports teams was "The Flames" as in the Flame of the Holy Spirit.
1976-1984 Started in the Fall of 1976, the class of 1977 was the first graduating class. The last class to graduate from the Melodyland Church Campus was the class of 1984.
1984-1985 In the fall of 1984, Melodyland High School left the church to a campus on Ball Road and became a separate entity. The class of 1985 was the last class to graduate with the name of Melodyland High School.
Southern California Christian High School
1986-2000 The school then became Southern California Christian High School or SCCHS for short. In 1987 SCCHS moved to a campus in Orange, California.The last graduating class for SCCHS was the class of 2000.
Eastside Christian High School
2000–Present The student body and school records were absorbed by Eastside Christian Schools in Fullerton, California in 2000.The school year of 2000/2001 was the first graduating class at Eastside Christian High School.
School of Theology
Melodyland School of Theology (MST) was a theological seminary college level school and had on its staff Walter Martin, who was also known as the Bible Answer Man and head of CRI (the Christian Research Institute), John Warwick Montgomery noted Christian apologist and lawyer, Dr. John Rea (noted Old Testament scholar and an editor of the New International Version of the Bible). The first president of the school was Dr. J. Rodman Williams (Charismatic Theologian, author of a Systematic Theology). He was succeeded by Dr. John Hurston in 1981. There was also a branch of the school dedicated to Social Work. The school granted MDiv. and MSW degrees. Although the school struggled to acquire accreditation through major regional accrediting associations, they were never quite able to reach this goal. However as the forerunner of Charismatic scholarship, the school influenced other institutions, especially Regent University in Virginia Beach. At its height, MST drew students from all over the globe. MST was renamed Anaheim Christian School of Theology (A.C.T.S.) in 1981. MST closed in the mid-80's, but still has an active alumni base.
Anaheim Christian College
Alongside the School Of Theology, there was a junior college called Anaheim Christian College. This school was dedicated to training Christian ministers and workers and awarded Bachelors degrees in Bible, Theology, Ministry, Apologetics, Christian Education, & Church Music. The junior college was successful at getting accreditation, but dwindling enrollment caused it to merge with other schools in the mid to late 1980s.
Several churches grew out of Melodyland Christian Center and went on to continue as organizations in the area.
The church building was sold to developers in 1998 just as Pastor Ralph Wilkerson was deciding to retire. He invited Pastors Neville & Wendy to join the leadership team and in the year following they were voted to become the Senior Pastors. Once the church moved, it was renamed Healing Word and now has its headquarters in Tustin, CA.
The building was demolished in 2003.
- Melodyland and Southern California High School Alumni
- Melodyland Theatre Under Construction
- Melodyland School of Theology Reunions
- Zion Christian Center in Orange, CA
- Arkaid Christian Center in Fullerton, CA
- State of the Art Church Growth (eBook by C. Peter Wagner, Editor with Win Arms and Elmer Towns
- Healing Word International
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