Storefront Churches

Iglesia Evangelica Manantial de Vida

Peppered throughout neighborhoods of Los Angeles are storefront churches that testify to an evangelical Latino spirituality. To see them as a symbol of immigration is probably to understand half their story, says David Sánchez, professor in the Department of Theological Studies. U.S. evangelical missionaries planted seeds in Mexico and Central America. These churches symbolize a re-migration, he suggests, a spirituality that crosses and re-crosses an undeniably permeable border that today separates what once was Alta y Baja California.

Some see an immediacy, or directness, in the signage, imagery and the buildings themselves. Sánchez sees them as evidence of popular religion. “In the barrio,” he says, “our stores are meeting places, the modern-day plaza. It makes so much sense to worship there.”

Photographer Kevin McCollister echoed the views of Sánchez when he spoke about his fascination for storefront churches in his artist’s statement for this project:

“It’s striking to me that in 2019 there can be so many modest, simple structures here in a town that is not known for espousing either of these qualities. What’s more, the churches themselves stand not only as ongoing reminders that so many people in Los Angeles live their lives based on faith but that they do so in such a quiet manner that it barely registers in other parts of the city.

“This is just one more aspect of what this fascinating city is all about, and I believe it is worth acknowledging.”
—Joseph Wakelee-Lynch

Kevin McCollister is a Los Angeles photographer. His blog, “East of West L.A.,” was called “One of LA’s 30 Essential Blogs” by L.A. Observed. A collection of his photos appears in his book, “East of West LA.” Follow him @east_of_west_la.

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