You won’t miss this church on a drive through the city of Garden Grove. Imposing and inspiring, the roof and walls are constructed from more than 10,000 rectangular panes of glass, secured to a steel frame.
The Crystal Cathedral was the brainchild of famed Garden Grove Community Church founder Robert H. Schuller. He changed the church’s name to Crystal Cathedral Ministries when the cathedral was completed in the early 1980s. He went on to build the congregation into one of America’s first “mega-churches’’ with a huge worldwide following. He became one of the world’s best-known televangelists. His weekly Hour of Power sermons, recorded at the cathedral, were watched by 20 million people worldwide at the program’s peak in the 1990s. Financial trouble has plagued the church in recent times and Schuller no longer has any involvement.
Visitors are welcome on the church grounds. This 40-acre (16-hectare) site includes a 236-foot 72-meter) high bell tower, and a 300-seat auditorium and café dubbed “The Welcoming Center.’’ There is also an outdoor courtyard, and gardens dotted with religious statues and water features.
The cathedral’s most striking interior feature is one of the world’s largest pipe organs. At capacity, the cathedral can accommodate an audience of 2,736 people. The 185-foot (56-meter) wide marble chancel often holds hundreds of singers and musicians during large services and holiday concerts.
Guided tours of the cathedral are usually available on Sundays following the regular morning service. Otherwise, self-guided tour maps are available in the lobby of the Welcoming Center. Allocate at least an hour to look around the grounds.
Changes are afoot at the church, so check in with the local tourism authorities ahead of any planned visit. The Crystal Cathedral Ministry sold the cathedral and its adjacent campus to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange County in 2012, for $57.5 million. The new owners plan to renovate the cathedral interior and will change its name to Christ Cathedral when they take possession, in about 2015.
The Crystal Cathedral is located in Garden Grove, just a few miles south of Disneyland. There’s plenty of free parking on-site.