On August 2, 1956, a group of people met to consider starting a church in the Rialto area. The first service was held in the home of founding Pastor Wayne Frase on September 9, 1956, with 27 people attending. Their prayer and vision resulted in the formal organization of Rialto Community Baptist Church on January 27, 1957, with 21 charter members.
Steady growth compelled the church its first sanctuary in 1958. The next eight years saw good growth and in 1966 the church opened educational units and went to dual worship services. In 1965, the church formulated plans for a 600 seat sanctuary which was completed in 1968.
A brand new two-story educational facility was built in 1979 to meet the needs of an expanding church body. This building was designed to house a preschool and kindergarten program.
Rialto Community Baptist Preschool opened in 1980 with 16 preschoolers and 12 kindergarteners. They added elementary grades in 1981, and by 1984 the combined schools totaled 243 pupils.
In 1984, the church purchased a thirteen acre parcel of property located at North Riverside Avenue and N. Ayala Dr. The property was paid for in 16 months by the freewill offerings of the congregation. The church leadership also recommended relocating the church and schools at the earliest possible time.
Following a Capital Gift Campaign in March, 1987, Sunrise built an Educational Building on the new site. A Dedication Service was held on August 13, 1988, and shortly after that the school began the new school year in the new building.
Pastor Raeburn Woodson retired in December of 1987, after 18 years of service.
In January of 1989, Rev. Jay Pankratz assumed responsibility as Senior Pastor. The church conducted Easter services at the new property on March 26, 1989, concurrently with the dual services on Grove Street. One year later, Sunrise launched a Saturday evening worship service at the Ayala site. On September 23, 1990, all ministries were relocated to the new property at Ayala.
The Grove Street property was sold in December of 1989, and the church contracted an architect to design a new multipurpose building. The first services were held in the new building (Family Center) on March 22, 1992, followed by an official dedication on May 31, 1992.
During the course of this narrative, we’ve referred to the church as “Sunrise Church,” but as we indicated in the opening paragraph, the church was organized as Rialto Community Baptist Church. In March, 1995, the church adopted the name Sunrise Church, taken from Luke 1:78-79. “Because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun (“sunrise”) will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
In November of 1996, Sunrise merged the ministries of First Baptist Church of Wrightwood with Sunrise Church, forming Sunrise Church Wrightwood. Three years later, in 1999, Sunrise Church opened its new Educational Building. In April, 2005, we dedicated our new Worship Center which seats over 1,800 people.
In late 2007, Sunrise Church became “one church in three locations” by merging with Rock of Life Church, Montclair, and Westpark Baptist Church, Ontario. In the next few years, three additional campuses were added: Mission in Rialto, East Valley in Beaumont/Banning, and High Desert in Victorville.
Over the years, God has added to our numbers and countless people have found Christ. As of 2012, over 5,000 people have attended Sunrise. The church looks to expand further to hopefully open new locations.
Pastor Jay Pankratz retired in May of 2019, after 30 years of service. Pastor Gerardo Zavala has served as the Spanish Campus Pastor from 2002 to 2019. In July of 2018, Pastor Steve Garcia was named as the new Lead Pastor of Sunrise Church. We look forward to what God will do in the coming years here at Sunrise.
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