Pastor McElrath outside the historic Graham Memorial Presbyterian Church Sanctuary in Coronado
Reverend Dr. McElrath is well known for his ministry and many years of service at Coronado’s Graham Memorial Presbyterian Church. The pastor and his wife, Jody, have lived and served in Coronado for many years and reside at the beautiful parsonage located next door to the historic church sanctuary, proudly situated on the corner of 10th Street and C Avenue. Recently, I was fortunate enough to meet with Pastor McElrath and discuss his ministry, family, and the history of Graham Memorial Presbyterian Church.
Graham Memorial’s main sanctuary was constructed at the same time as the famous Hotel Del Coronado (the church was completed in 1890) and was built at the request of Isabella Graham Babcock, and named in honor of her parents, John and Susan Graham. Mrs. Babcock’s husband, Elisha Spurr Babcock, is well known for being the developer of the Hotel Del Coronado, and both the church and the iconic hotel were designed by the same architects, James and Merritt Reid.
Reverend Dr. McElrath grew up in Visalia, California, near Bakersfield and Fresno, in the San Joaquin Valley. Before he was called to serve in the Church, McElrath served in the US Navy for six years. He explained to me: “Before long, it began to be very clear that God was calling me into the ministry. Becoming a pastor was more of a response on my part rather than a decision.” After his time in the military, he attended Simpson College in San Francisco, where he double majored in Biblical Literature and Christian Education, and then continued his education at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, where he received his Masters of Divinity. Recently, Pastor McElrath returned to school and completed his Doctor of Ministry at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, located north of Boston, MA.
After a few years serving as an associate pastor to children and families at a church in the Long Beach area, Pastor McElrath was called to Coronado and began the first of many years ministering to a congregation of over 400 individuals at Graham Memorial Presbyterian Church. Both McElrath and his wife love living in Coronado and serving the community. Their children, Heidi and Andrew, are both proud graduates of Coronado High School.
I love this quote, from Pastor McElrath’s wife, Jody, said while they sat sipping coffee outside Cafe 1134 many years ago, just after moving to Coronado: “Some people are called to the jungles and some to the inner city… how in the world did we get called here???”
In his spare time, Pastor McElrath enjoys working on his golf game and playing his guitar and penny whistle. He also likes to watch old movies, read, and play the occasional game of cards. Since Coronado is such a great place to walk and explore, McElrath loves to walk around town and spend time visiting with the community. He explained to me that “A short trip to the post office or the bank can take over an hour more often than not, because I almost always run into people I know.”
Graham Memorial Presbyterian Church holds two services every Sunday morning, one at 9am and another at 10:30am. The earlier service is very traditional with a choir and liturgy, while the later service is a blended service with traditional and contemporary hymns, informal prayer time, and a children’s sermon. The church also offers many wonderful programs that benefit all ages of the Coronado community. They hold Sunday School, for nursery age all the way up to adult, every week during their 9am service, and childcare is provided during the 10:30am service. During the week, Graham Memorial runs a well-known preschool program for children ages 3 to 5. They also hold weekly bible studies, youth ministries, and Awana Nights (a time for young children to gather, play games, and learn Bible verses).
Pastor McElrath on the steps of the Graham Memorial Presbyterian Church at the corner of 10th St. and C Ave.
For more information about Graham Memorial Presbyterian Church, it's history, worship schedules, programs they offer, and Reverend Dr. McElrath, please visit the church's official website.
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