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Have Faith in Crenshaw

IMG_0183 Together Presbyterian Church | This Korean church is located adjacent to the Seventh Day Adventist Church pictured below. It has a uniquely modern design unlike that of its more traditional neighbor.
IMG_0307 Our Lady of the Bright Mount Polish Church | This Catholic church is attended by the Polish community in the area. Masses are given in the Polish language, and Polish food is often shared after services conclude.
Seventh-Day Adventist Church
Holman United Methodist Church
Trinity Baptist Church

Iglesia Cristiana Antioquia
Iglesia Cristiana Antioquia is a Christian church located on West Adams Boulevard in Los Angeles. The current pastor, Oriole Bulgarin, and his wife Olga, have presided at the church for the past 20 years.

Masjid Omar ibn Al-Khattab
Masjid Omar ibn Al-Khattab is a Muslim mosque located on Exposition Blvd. in Los Angeles.
Unique Crenshaw Businesses
The stores that line the streets of West Jefferson Boulevard are more than just shops, they are a community and a family as well.
Saving homes and history in West Adams
Historic Preservation Overlay Zones seek to preserve the character of Los Angeles neighborhoods. Homeowners in West Adams debate the effectiveness of the process.
Renovating parks, renovating Crenshaw
Members of the Crenshaw community are hoping to restore the Leslie N. Shaw Park, and residents talk about their hopes for the park.

By Cecilia Callas

Drive through the streets of Crenshaw on any given day, and one will see the plethora of churches and worship spaces sprinkled throughout the neighborhoods, beckoning believers to enter their hallowed halls. Drive around on a Sunday, however, and one will physically feel the fulfilling faith and prayer that comes from hearts beating in unison, calling on Gods and spirits to bestow their blessings.

There is no one singular faith in Crenshaw. Just like its people, the neighborhood’s religions are diverse and dissimilar, each one offering something unique to its followers. What is especially unique about the Crenshaw religious scene, however, is the various religious followers’ ability to not only coexist in such close quarters, but also to help one another in times of need.

Take, for example, the surprising amount of churches located nearby one another on West Adams Blvd. in Los Angeles. Located next door to one another are the Seventh-Day Adventist Church and the Together Presbyterian Church, both of which are attended by the Korean communities in the area. However, next door to these churches is Holman United Methodist Church, which is attended by an African-American population. Directly to the right of that sits Our Lady of the Bright Mount Polish Church, a Roman Catholic church dedicated to the Polish people of Crenshaw.

The diversity doesn’t stop there. Just to the left of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church is Saint James Armenian Church, which is home to the Armenian community. And across the street from the Methodist church is Iglesia Cristiana Antioquia, a Christian church with an entirely Hispanic congregation.

On the surface, these religious institutions could not appear more staggeringly different. Masses are given in different tongues, the members are all of different races and skin colors, and even their religious beliefs, while are all some form of Christianity, vary significantly.

“All up and down this street, there are churches with different kinds of people,” said Latanya Cunningham, the Minister for Community Engagement at Holman United Methodist Church. “We have a Hispanic church across the street, the Polish church right over there and the Koreans have their church next door. You see all kinds of people on this street on Sundays coming for their services.”

Not only do the churches all cohabitate the same street, but they help one another with religious trainings, fundraisers and community outreach programs.

“We do a lot with the Polish church, yes,” said Olga Bulgarín, the wife of the pastor at Iglesia Cristiana Antioquia, which is located across the street from Our Lady of the Bright Mount. “We do training with them, so if we need to go through training, we will only have one training for both of our pastors.”

Naturally, the language and racial barriers pose a problem. Oriole Bulgarín, the pastor of Iglesia Cristiana Antioquia, only speaks Spanish. And Rafal Dygula Schur, the pastor of the Polish church, knows very little English. However, Bulgarín said that with the help of translators like herself, they are able to collaborate and work together.

“They have people that speak English, so they can help. And I speak English, so I help my husband so that we can all learn together,” Bulgarín said. “We help each other because we all want to learn.”

Not only do the diverse churchgoers help one another with learning and training, but they also support one another’s fundraisers and outreach programs. For example, Our Lady of the Bright Mount had a flee market a few months ago to help raise money for their missionary programs. According to Michal Jusinska, assistant to the Polish pastor, many of the surrounding churches helped to bring in some of the money that was raised that day.

“I remember seeing a lot of people from the Methodist church [at the flea market], looking at what was being sold and kind of making conversation with us,” Jusinska said. “That happens a lot with the fundraisers on this street because we’re all so close together, and we’re all here around the same times on Sundays.”

Just as this one street accepts and helps to promote their neighbors, so do institutions of worship across Crenshaw. The people celebrating religion in mosques, temples, churches and other sacred grounds are all very different, but united in their dedication to their faiths and to peace with one another.

“There are many types of people in this area and are some parts where people can get into trouble,” Bulgarín said, noting that she has dealt with some scary incidents in Crenshaw. “But religions are all very strong, and we are all together because we want peace.”

Crenshaw Church of Christ | This Christian church is known for its youth and Sunday school programs, and for its dedication to helping the local community.

Trinity Baptist Church | This church is located on Jefferson Blvd. and is one of the largest Baptist churches in the Crenshaw area.