A local landmark known as Menlo Park Presbyterian Church for 142 years adopted a new name a few months ago.
In front of the large white church at Santa Cruz Avenue and Johnson Street in downtown Menlo Park is a bright, clean-cut sign with a contemporary "M" logo and the new name. The church that has been known as "Menlo Pres" for generations is now Menlo Church.
The church is the same, only the name has changed, said Scott Scruggs, Menlo Church's executive pastor of ministry, strategy, and design. He explained that the church had previously used different names for its four campuses Menlo Park Pres, Open Door Church San Mateo, Open Door Church Mountain View and Menlo San Jose and this had confused some worshippers.
However, Pastor Scruggs said, "we are still Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, we are still part of (the) Presbyterian denomination (and) we still operate under the same form of church governance."
The name change took place in August, when Menlo Park Presbyterian Church went through a rebranding process. Its name was shortened at its four campuses to simply Menlo Church, and a new logo, a new website (menlo.church) were launched, said Mark Swarner, central ministry leader and missions pastor.
The "dot church" is a relatively new website domain name option, launched in September 2014. The aesthetics of the website, too, bespeak the tech savvy one might expect from a church in the heart of Silicon Valley: bold, clear letters, overlaid on vivid photographs, with not too much text.
The church did make a big change in March 2014, when it left the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) or PCUSA denomination and joined a newer denomination within the Presbyterian tradition know as ECO ("A covenant order of Evangelical Presbyterians").
An overwhelming majority of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church members supported the change: 2,024 members voted for it and only 158 were opposed, even though it came with a $8.89 million price tag to transfer the church's land title from PCUSA to local ownership. Menlo Church now owns its property, and can go about expanding to new sites more easily.
One of the issues that has divided Presbyterian denominations is same-sex marriage.
According to a Presbyterian website, Layman.org, while the PCUSA celebrated this year's U.S. Supreme Court decision making same-sex marriages legal in all states, three other Presbyterian denominations did not. The website quotes an ECO church executive as saying: "In ECO, we affirm that marriage is a gift from God between one man and one woman."
The Menlo Park church opened a new location in San Jose in March and, according to Pastor Scruggs, plans to open at least four new sites in coming years.
The church has been in its current location since 1950 after the old church was torn down. The Menlo Park Presbyterian Church was organized in 1873 and constructed its first building in 1875 on Santa Cruz Avenue near Chestnut Street, according to the Menlo Park Historical Society. As of 2014, it had 3,400 members.