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Sonora Church celebrates its half century mark.

Christian Heights Church in Sonora turns 50 this week. The original church was founded during the first week of April, 1953.

Former Church Pastor G. Lee Thomas was one of those attending a special service at the Christian Heights church Sunday. “I came here in 1971, and we had our church across the street from the (Sonora) high school,” Thomas recalled. “We had a Christian school that we started there. We needed a bigger facility so that´s one of the reasons we ended up out here.”

He said it was the school that brought about the move to the top of Lambert Lake area hills off Tuolumne Road.

Looking at the church facility Sunday, he said he building was built to house the Christian school not as a sanctuary. “We built the chapel up on the hill as a prayer chapel and the sanctuary was to come later.”

Thomas was humble when asked if it was his decision to build the new church. “It wasn´t me, it was the congregation of people that got behind a vision I had for it,” he said.

As part of the Assembly of God church´s 50 year anniversary, pastors, staff and church members have buried a time capsule in front of the church to be unearthed in 2053.

Current senior pastor Craig Andres said they want people 50 years from now to the church was already praying for them 50 years before. In the time capsule will be a photograph of the church congregation taken Sunday morning, as well as memorabilia from today, and other historical information in writing and on DVD. Services and other church activities were also transferred to DVD. They also included a DVD player, in case, in 50 years, that current form of technology is outdated at that time.

“We hope 50 years from now, people will be able see the faithfulness of God 50 years ago and fifty years into the future,” Andres said.

Looking over the ten years he has been senior pastor at the Sonora church, Andres said the success and longevity of the church has nothing to do with him. “We want to give thanks to the Lord first for being faithful to us,” he said. “This is a testimony to people here to, the community and in Tuolumne County and Sonora. It´s also the people of this church who give of their time, talent and energy to make a positive difference on the community.”

State Assemblyman Dave Cogdill was also in attendance yesterday. The Republican lawmaker from Modesto presented a State Assembly resolution honoring the church´s 50-year mark.

Christian Heights was also honored by Northern California district of the Assemblies of God as the 2003 Church of the Year. The local church was named top out of more than 400 churches in the district. The awards will be presented in Sacramento April 28.