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Lathrop church opening next to police station
Rodney “Noodles” Clark was the youngest member of the audience that attended Tuesday night’s Lathrop City Council meeting. The 18-month-old baby sits on the lap of family friend Toshia Thompson behind his grandparents Johnnie Clark Jr. and his wife Andrea who were there for the public hearing on their proposal to use a property on Seventh Street for their Living Word Ministries. Clark is the pastor of this newest church in Lathrop. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

LATHROP – By late spring or early summer, the Lathrop Police Services will be acquiring a new neighbor right next door on Seventh Street.

That neighbor is Lathrop’s newest church, the Living Word Ministries headed by the Rev. Johnnie Clark Jr.

The Lathrop City Council unanimously approved at their last meeting the church’s use-permit application to move into the 5,800-square-foot section of the building complex where the police department also has its offices. The commercial structure, which used to be the old Delta Market owned by the Lum family, is bookended by the police services to the south and The Giving Tree child care facility on the north side. Currently in between are a beauty salon and a pizzeria.

The council members, who were acting on the recommendation of the Planning Commission to approve the use permit with conditions by holding a public hearing on the matter, lauded the church’s addition to the historic downtown district.

“Any religion is a positive” addition to the city, said Vice Mayor Martha Salcedo during the discussion prior to the vote.

“Lathrop is a town with more churches than bars,” noted Council member Robert Oliver, himself a former minister of one of the churches in town but has since retired.

“Welcome to Lathrop,” he told Clark and a few members of his congregation who attended the public hearing.

Mayor Kristy Sayles also extended her congratulations to the small congregation.

“We love to see your contributions to the community,” she told the pastor and his members.

The church had an ally in the person of another pastor in town, Tim Voogdt of Lathrop Lighthouse Community Church, who said he was “excited” that a new church is moving “into that part of town,” referring to the section of the historic district on Seventh Street between Lathrop Road and Louise Avenue which is also home to the skate park, the city’s corporation yard, Head Start, the post office, two restaurants and the Lathrop Branch Library.

The approval came with a few conditions that need to be addressed prior to the church’s occupation of the property. Two of those conditions are adequate parking – the church will use on site plus proximity parking – and the provision of sewer capacity to serve the church.

Living Word Ministries is currently meeting in a 1,500-square-foot room in a building complex at 143 D’Arcy Parkway in the Crossroads Commerce Center on South Harlan Road. The pastor said the move is not only to have a place big enough for their growing congregation but also to be in an area that will “put us in a more visible location.”

Birth of Lathrop’s newest church started in the pastor’s living room
Andrea Clark, the pastor’s wife who is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker and a part-time worker at Target Store in Manteca, said the church started three years ago with 10 people meeting at their home in Lathrop. They started out inviting two friends, then those two invited co-workers who were part of their commuter group, who in turn invited other friends to the home Bible study and service meetings.

Today, their membership has grown to 70 people who regularly meet for the Sunday service at 10 a.m. and a Bible study on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. There is also a Children’s Church on Sundays held concurrently with the 10 a.m. worship service, and a Youth in Action program that meets in the church on Tuesdays at 7 p.m.

For more information about the Living Word Ministries, call the church office at 858-5850 or 679-5115.