Memories. Someone once said they could be your best friends or your worst enemies. Well, my memories include both good friends and worst enemies.  Which memories meet me depends on the day.

Recently, the sprawling campus of the Calvary Chapel Conference Center and Bible College in Murrieta, California, was sold. I’m sure it was a hard decision. I get it. I have to make hard decisions all of the time. Because of COVID, the conferences stopped there a couple of years ago, but as of this week, the Bible College has moved on from the campus in Murrieta, California, and it’s stirring up a lot of emotions and memories.  When you combine that with the death of Pastor Chuck Smith, the ensuing and ongoing split in our divided family of churches, the relentless tension that daily exists, it’s just not easy to say goodbye to yet another meaningful piece of history of the Calvary Chapel foundation of ministry. But goodbyes are as every day as the hellos in life. As I was driving yesterday, I was emotional thinking about the campus in Murrieta. It holds a very special place in my heart and the heart of our little Taylor family.

Calvary Chapel Bible College MurrietaWhen I remember Murrieta, my memories are from a different perspective than the students. I didn’t enjoy the privilege of attending Bible College in person.  Being a teenage parent alters the course of your life in dramatic ways, and on-campus schooling just wasn’t available to me.  However, in particular, the Bible college and the Murrieta property impacted my life in beautiful ways, and it’s plain sad to see the campus no longer a tool for the glory of God.

When I remember Murrieta, I think of the many pastor’s conferences I had the privilege of attending. I remember the room being jam-packed with over 1000 men who dedicated their lives to pastoring and serving their communities. I taught my first and only study at one of the Senior Pastor’s conferences, with Pastor Chuck sitting right there in the front row. It was such a tremendous honor for me. I bombed, though. I got lost in my notes, went way over time, and yes, Pastor Chuck napped a little during my teaching. It was a humbling experience that I’ve learned much.

When I remember Murrieta, I remember joking with friends at the various conferences, sending text messages when we shouldn’t be, and laughing so hard that we became a little distracting. I remember praying with men who had prodigal kids, wives who left them, great marriage difficulties, and, more than any, men who felt isolated and alone in their ministry calling.  I remember learning and growing and leaving encouraged. Pastor Chuck was a generous man, and it showed with the conferences. There would often be a gift for our wives for us to take home to them in appreciation of all that they do in Jesus’ name!

When I remember Murrieta, I remember my kids, all three of them, launching off into adulthood by living on campus for their Bible College years. It was tough for us when Eddie, our firstborn, headed to Bible college; yes, he’s the one born to teenage parents.  Who would have predicted those teenagers would get married, get saved, and see the rescuing redeeming power of Christ revolutionize their families?  Sending off our firstborn son to live independently, make his own decisions, and take responsibility for his life was hard. He was a very responsible young man and excelled in every way, but as young parents, Murrieta helped us grow and trust God more with our kids. I remember one time we talked to Eddie on the phone and asked him to walk in front of the only webcam on the property they had back then (no FaceTime or WhatsApp, or Zoom) so that we could see him. It was a blurry distant shot, but it was comforting to see he was healthy, well, and safe. By the time we sent Joshua and Caitlin for their time at the Bible College, while still concerned parents, we learned how to trust God with our kids as they grew into adulthood.  All of our kids grew in grace at Murrieta, stood firm against the immature mimicry of newly convinced neo-Calvinists, navigated well through temptations, grew in their knowledge of Jesus and His Word, and faced the challenges and heartbreaks and all of the things that are normal for kids living away from home. Marie and I enjoyed visiting the campus many times while they were there. It was sometimes calm and quiet and other times bustling with youthful activity.  It was always a joy to be there. Our kids all graduated and continue to serve the Lord with their lives.  Unfortunately, Eddie passed away in 2013, but his legacy lives on!

When I remember Murrieta, I’m saddened to think that I will be unable to send my grandson Levi and future grandkids there to experience the unique learning atmosphere of the Bible College experience on the Murrieta campus. That thought alone stirs up a whole host of other emotions, but the future is in the Lord’s hands! #onedaylittleguy

When I remember Murrieta, I remember the many new friends I have because of my kids. That is a blessed surprise.  Our kids have the innate ability to invest their lives into real, meaningful friendships and keep them going strong. Through their friendliness to others, I have benefited from meeting so many new young people and being mutually encouraged by them and often their parents. Who would have ever predicted that we would enjoy friendship with people worldwide, and many of those relationships were not initiated by me but by my kids? What an honor!

When I remember Murrieta, I remember Pastor Chuck Smith. It was his vision to purchase the Murrieta property, refurbish it, and use it for the glory of God. Like many of you, I was not close to any of that.  I was born again in 1991 and remember hearing about the property a few years later. Our church invited anyone who wanted to help clean it up to head out to Murrieta to serve. I never went. I wish I had now. Even though I wasn’t involved in any of the details, we benefited and learned from them. Pastor Chuck was a true visionary. He could see in the spiritual realm what could be, not just what was. Moving the Bible college from up in the mountains near Lake Arrowhead, California, to Murrieta was an epic decision. It both provided more capacity for growth and broader opportunity for meaningful ministry. Pastor Chuck’s vision to provide a simple environment of immersive Bible instruction without the outside forces of accreditation kept things simple and practical. He believed that Bible education didn’t have to be expensive. It wasn’t about gaining head knowledge but instead learning to love Jesus and understand the Bible for ministry’s sake. I’m sure some would read this and think, “there is a lot more to it than that, Ed,” and you’d be right. I realize that. You should write it down and share it with us so we can learn from your unique experience. But from an outsider’s perspective, Pastor Chuck’s vision is perpetuated and repeated and continued here in Aurora, Colorado, in many different ways.

When I remember Murrieta, I remember things with a hopeful heart. It’s a bittersweet change. No one ever expects to see something so fruitful and outstanding come to an end. I wouldn’t say I like endings. I wouldn’t say I like goodbyes. I don’t know how you feel about them, but they hurt me in ways I never expected. Sure I hear the new owners of Murrieta will allow visitors to look around, but at what? The property is just that., dirt, hot springs, concrete, drywall, etc.  With the conferences, kids (students), and faculty gone, the life of Christ is no longer there. It’s back to being a nice piece of land that is lifeless. That’s sad.

I’m grateful to be a part of the Calvary Chapel family of Churches. I’m thankful to have the privilege of experiencing many years of unity and joy, and love that intersected on the Murrieta campus many times.  Thank you, Jesus, for your eternal love for us and for allowing us to be a part of so much in such a tiny amount of time.

Here at Calvary, we say, “we love the past but live the future.” It’s true, albeit painful at times.

There is so much more to write, but for now…

Goodbye Murrieta.