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Thrive Church Center plans grand opening
Thrive Church Communications Pastor Arabela Whitlock, left, and Destinee Franco, Global University student intern at the Lathrop church, holds the sign announcing the Family Fall Fest. See story on Page A8. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO/ The Bulletin

Lathrop’s newest house of worship, which is holding a grand opening Sunday, Nov. 2, at 11 a.m., is called Thrive Church for a reason.

“Thrive means to blossom, to grow; it’s a healthy thing,” explained Communications Pastor Arabella Whitlock.

And that’s what’s been happening since Paul Gutierrez planted that seed of faith with a handful of people meeting in “just a little home” in Manteca.

Gutierrez was the first pastor. Pastor Marty Moreno came next. Then it was Pastor Joe Dunham. He was followed by Pastor Eric Baca who ministered to about 30 to 40 people in his congregation. That was 10 years ago.

Today, the average Sunday worship attendance is around 450 people. And Baca is now the lead pastor. He will be there when the congregation’s Thrive Church in Lathrop – formerly known to many as the Lathrop Christian Center – holds a grand opening at its new and, so far, the biggest of their former “worship homes” – in Lathrop. The building where Sunday services and church activities will be held from now on is the building at the east end of Towne Centre Drive, just a skip and a hop away from City Hall. Since the building is facing Interstate 5, its official address is 17261 S. Manthey Road and used to be a restaurant. It is right behind Lathrop Target store.

The church has come a long way since 1991 in more ways than one. For more than two decades, Thrive Church gathered in worship and prayer at various locations. After the group that initially met in a home setting grew to the point a bigger place was needed, they started meeting at the Glass Union Hall on West Louise Avenue. After that, they shared spaces with the Lathrop Baptist Church on J Street next to the Lathrop-Manteca Fire Station #1. They were there until the building was seriously damaged by fire. The church members then started meeting in the gymnasium at Lathrop High School.

“We’ve never had our own address,” until now, Whitlock said smiling.

Shepherding the faithful at Thrive Church has grown to five pastors. Besides being the lead pastor, Baca is also pastor for the Spanish-speaking. John Escalante is the leader for Pastoral Care. Discipleship pastor is Jason Tacderan, and Chris Scoz is the youth pastor with Whitlock as the Communications pastor for many years.

In addition to the Sunday services – 11 a.m. in English and 1:30 p.m. in Spanish – the church has Family Nights every Wednesday starting at 7 p.m. with nursery available. Adult Bible Study in both English and Spanish is offered at this time as well.

The church ‘s motto has its genesis from one of the church’s charter members, the late Alfredo Hernandez. He always used to say, “It’s always about people,” fondly recalled Whitlock. “He always made sure we are caring for the people, to make sure they feel loved” and that they are in a “friendly and loving atmosphere.”

Hernandez’s widow, Yolanda, is the only one remaining of all the original charter members of the church.

“God is good to us,” said Whitlock who, besides being a church pastor, coaches girls tennis and softball at Lathrop High School.

For more information about the grand opening or about the church and its worship service schedule, call 209.888.4626 or log on to