‘Sayings are like hugs to the community’: Magliato’s messages bring light to Orange

Son of Light Church Bells marquee. Photo by Mia Fortunato

In some alternate timeline, the building diagonal from the Filling Station is an X-rated theater. Regardless of how Orange’s locals would react to that, we certainly don’t reside in that timeline.

Instead, the Son Light Christian Center stands tall, refurbished from an old theater, appropriately named the Orange Theatre, which was under escrow and slated to be developed into an X-rated cinema. However, once the potential buyers weren’t able to secure a down payment, previous owner Norm Goodin handed the building off to the church.

Opening its first Sunday service on March 28, 1976, there’s something else that separates this church from others – and it has to do with the marquee above the building’s sets of double doors. 

“About four years ago, the marquee was remodeled so that we could put up letters easily and that is when we started to use it as we do presently,” wrote Pastor Joe Magliato in an email to The Panther.

Presently, the marquee is used to deliver messages to both congregation members and passersby who see the signs as they walk, drive or bike through downtown Orange. The announcements aren’t limited to when the prayers, Bible studies, youth groups events or services take place; they offer messages that can vary from fun and seasonal to philosophical, reflective speech.

These past two weeks, some of the messages that furnished the marquee read, “Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument,” “No response is a response” and “Your ship won’t come in if you don’t send it out.”

“We don’t want the messages to be ‘churchy,’” Magliato wrote. “Our purpose is to put messages that provide passersby with hope, keeping in mind that not everyone who comes by attends church.”

Magliato isn’t only known for his ability to lead worship services. A jack of many trades, he is also responsible for placing the letterings in the marquee. He considers this process quite easy – thanks to a trusty pole and a suction cup attached to the pole’s end. 

“I enjoy changing the marquee each week. Once someone came by and asked me if I was the maintenance man,” he wrote. “I laughed and said I was the pastor and wore several hats.”

The messages are swapped out weekly on Mondays around 7:30 a.m. When asked what Magliato’s favorite posting has been, he wrote that every week brings a new favorite message – which he followed with a humble smiley face icon.

“I don’t have one particular favorite,” he wrote. “My goal is to provide an interesting statement that people can enjoy and find encouragement.” 

Ever since Magliato changed the way the marquee was used, the community responses have all been supportive, with several occasions of callers telling the Son Light Christian Center that they were blessed by the messages. Magliato added that there have been many instances he’s seen people taking photos or seen drivers passing by wave their approval.

“Sometimes people stand around trying to guess what the next word will be as I’m putting up the letters,” he wrote. “One person recently said the sayings are like ‘hugs’ to the community. I think they accurately described our desire.”

With the ultimate goal to offer hope and inspiration to the City of Orange, Magliato continues to put up these messages because he believes they offer solace to those in time of need.

“Some people will never enter a church building and we want them to be inspired as they go their way.  Everyone can use a ‘lift’ during the day,” he wrote. “Life is so demanding, it’s a nice thing to pause at a stop sign and smile at a message.”