Deep roots for LA's first church

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Faith > Group of women founded non-denominational effort

By Bernadette Lauritzen

Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”


Once upon a time, the local movie house was the only place in Los Alamos to worship and celebrate religion.
In the spring of 1944, services would be offered by clergy “on the Hill,” with the addition of a local Sunday school class and nursery.

One hundred people attended the first gathering and a small group of women began the effort, which has resulted in the United Church of Los Alamos.

Former United Church of Los Alamos Rev. Jay Dee Conrad, came to the United Church in February of 1993 and in 2002, wrote a book titled, “The A-Maz-ing United Church of Los Alamos.”

According to Conrad’s book, in 1947, an old Army chapel became available after the closure of the Bruns Military Hospital in Santa Fe, at the end of the war.

Dedicated in May 1947, the chapel was used by three faiths: Catholic, Jewish and Protestant. That chapel still serves as the main building of the United Church of Los Alamos today.

Founding member, Krik Krikorian recalls, “Abe Sangrey was the pastor with the idea to initiate it and carry it on.”
The success of the effort is explained by Krikorian, on what allowed so many different people to come together to achieve one mission.

“The roots of it were a number of the women who really wanted to worship and push for it,” Krikorian said. “The idea was to focus on the centrality of Christ without all of the theological disputes or interpretations.”

According to Krikorian, the key thing was that they were able to blend or “meld their basic beliefs without the boundaries of theological belief.” That is what allowed them to work as one body with the same goal.

When the building once served as the only church in Los Alamos, a large number of weddings took place under its steeple.

According to church records, there have been 838 weddings since 1944 at the United Church.
• From 1944-1960, there were 220 weddings
• From 1961-1985, there were 407 weddings
• From 1986 to present, there have been 211 weddings

Today, the United Church of Los Alamos is still comprised of six denominations: American Baptist Church, Christian Church/Disciples of Christ, Moravian Church, Presbyterian Church USA, Reformed Church in America and the United Church of Christ.

The church is currently in a growth period, renovating spaces and adding an elevator and ramps to make access easier for the community.This is just the beginning and more work in being planned for the future.

In addition to brick and mortar, The United Church has revamped their website to provide a variety of information online. The site includes downloads of books written about the church, information about services as well as their covenant, values and the local and worldwide missions its members serve.

Visit the church at 2525 Canyon Road or view their website at unitedchurchla.org.