Presbyterian volunteers from seven Westside churches will break ground and raise walls today for two houses in a large Habitat for Humanity project in South-Central Los Angeles.
The pair of houses are among the first four of 26 houses in the 96th Street Initiative to be built this year and next, guided by the Los Angeles affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International. The Georgia-based organization builds low-cost housing that the purchasing families help construct.
"We hope this church coalition will serve as a model for other institutions to become similarly involved," said Barry Winter, president of the Los Angeles affiliate. "We are not aware of any prior case where so many congregations of one denomination pooled their resources to sponsor and build more than one house at the same time."
The idea of a denominational coalition came from James Adams of Westlake Village, an elder at Westwood Presbyterian Church.
"I'd been thinking about organizing something like this for a while," said Adams, a sales and marketing professional who has donated his time in past Habitat projects and in an unrelated housing project in Tijuana.
Participating congregations are the Bel-Air, Brentwood, Beverly Hills, Culver City, Knox, Malibu and Westwood Presbyterian churches.
Adams said the churches are raising $146,000 to build the two houses and will spend 14 straight Saturdays finishing the work under superintendents supplied by Habitat for Humanity.
Work on the Presbyterian-sponsored houses will start simultaneously with two other Habitat houses in the 96th Street Initiative, one promoted by television's Oprah Winfrey and sponsored by Cinesite Corp. and the other to be built by a coalition of six high schools.
Habitat for Humanity, founded in 1976, has 1,300 affiliates in this country and 200 abroad. The Los Angeles office, founded seven years ago, completed 49 homes through 1997, primarily in South-Central, East Los Angeles, Pico-Union and the Oakwood community in Venice.
The finished homes are sold at cost to "partner families," who receive no-interest loans from Habitat. In addition to paying off the loans monthly, each family contributes at least 500 hours of their own labor to Habitat projects.
In a different arrangement, delegates to the United Methodist regional convention June 17-21 in Redlands hope to spend part of their time, for the second consecutive year, aiding the construction of a Habitat house in that city.
The Rev. Doug Millham, who served as executive pastor, then interim pastor at Hollywood Presbyterian Church in the mid-1990s, has joined the 4,500-member Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena as the congregation's chief administrator. Millham, whose title will be executive pastor, holds advanced degrees from Fuller Seminary and has worked overseas with World Vision. Although the Lake Avenue Church is affiliated with the nationwide Conservative Congregational Christian Conference, the church is broadly evangelical in makeup. Senior Pastor Gordon Kirk was ordained by the Chicago-based Evangelical Covenant Church.
* Buddhist scholar Ananda W.P. Guruge, a former Sri Lankan ambassador to the United States and director of religious studies at Hsi Lai University in Rosemead, will be among six recipients of Peace Keeper Awards next Saturday from the Stop the Violence Increase the Peace Foundation in Inglewood. State Sen. Teresa Hughes (D-Inglewood) and Inglewood Mayor Roosevelt Dorn will speak at the 10 a.m. ceremony noting their induction into an eventual city-backed Peace Keeper Walk of Fame. (213) 777-4893.
The city of Beverly Hills, holding a series of "community millennium forums," has assembled a panel of high-profile clergy for its first discussion of religion's future impact. Scheduled to take part in the session, to be held June 15, are Father John S. Bakas of Los Angeles' St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Bishop Charles Blake of West Angeles Church of God in Christ, Rabbi Harvey Fields of Wilshire Boulevard Temple, the Rev. Cecil Murray of First African Methodist Episcopal Church of Los Angeles, and Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple in Westwood.
The free event, starting at 7:30 p.m., will be at the Beverly Hills High School Salter Family Theater, 241 Moreno Drive. The forum is the 11th in a series.
Former U.S. Treasury Secretary W. Michael Blumenthal will give the keynote speech at the American Jewish Committee's Los Angeles chapter dinner Monday night at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel. Blumenthal is president and chief executive of the Berlin Jewish Museum. (310) 282-8080, Ext. 325.
* Organist James Diaz, winner of last year's Calgary International Organ Competition, will perform works by Mendelssohn, J.S. Bach, Dupre and Franck in a concert 4 p.m. Sunday at Pasadena Presbyterian Church, 585 E. Colorado Blvd. $10 general admission. (626) 568-2608.
* Rabbi Ted Falcon, who founded the meditative-oriented Makom Ohr Shalom synagogue 20 years ago in Los Angeles before leaving in 1993 to begin a similar temple in Seattle, will speak on spiritual and physical healing next weekend in Brentwood. Falcon will lead a service at 8 p.m. Friday and a Torah study at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Brentwood Presbyterian Church. $10 donation. (310) 837-2460.
Notices may be mailed for consideration to Southern California File, L.A. Times Religion desk, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053, or faxed to the Religion desk (213) 237-7412. Items should arrive two to three weeks before the event, except for spot news, and should include pertinent details about the people and organizations with address, phone number, date and time.
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In an experiment to attract young Jewish professionals to Friday night services, Sinai Temple in Westwood will launch a monthly Shabbat service next week with singing, dancing and teaching.
Modeled after the services at B'nai Jeshurun in New York City, where 1,500 young professionals attend each Friday, the Sinai Temple service on every second Friday will feature the music of composer-performer Craig Taubman and the leadership of Rabbi David Wolpe.
"Instead of the often stodgy and distant prayer services with which many Jews grew up, 'Friday Night Live' will be participatory, warm and vital," said an announcement from the Conservative Jewish synagogue at 10400 Wilshire Blvd. The services will begin at 7:30 p.m. (310) 474-1518.
Taubman has released three albums with Walt Disney Records and writes regularly for television and film.