Yuba City pastor played role in movement
A Yuba City man had a hand in the explosive growth that turned a small southern California church reaching out to the hippies of the late 1960s into a national phenomenon.
Bob Fromm, now pastor of North Valley Calvary Chapel in Yuba City, was a youth pastor at Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa when attendance took off.
“It (attendance) went from 150 people on one Sunday to, two years later, 12,000,” Fromm said.
That first Calvary Chapel started in 1962 with a handful of people interested in learning what the Bible was about, he said. Its membership increased in 1969 when Pastor Chuck Smith's daughter wanted to date a hippie, Fromm said.
The young man, a Christian, told Smith churches wouldn't allow hippies in to worship because of their long hair, sandals and bell bottom pants, Fromm said.
Smith invited them to his church and the rest is history.
“The church already existed but the growth was a result of the church reaching out to (hippies),” the Yuba City pastor said.
Fromm had just arrived at the Costa Mesa chapel as a youth pastor.
“We (the church) brought guitars into the church, which hadn't been done anywhere,” Fromm said. “Our youth began writing their own music and other churches liked it.”
The church also started the first contemporary Christian music company, Maranatha Music.
The church conducted a baptism on a Southern California beach in 1969 because its baptismal tank wasn't finished, Fromm said, and about 100 youths come to Christ one night.
Another 500 were baptized the following month, with the service eventually baptizing more than 1,000 persons a month, Fromm said.
“We had more people accept Christ on a Sunday morning than most churches had in church.
“When I left (Costa Mesa) in 1978 there were more than 28,000 people attending the church,” Fromm said. There are now more than 1,400 spinoffs of that original Calvary Chapel in the United States, including North Valley.