Joseph Lowrey Fendrich Jr. was born in 1897 in Toledo, Ohio. He received his undergraduate education at Dubuque University and in 1917 was commissioned as a Navy Officer. During WWI he served on Submarine Chaser No. 155 and was stationed in Key West, Florida. After WWI he returned to Dubuque University and received a Masters degree.
He was licensed to preach May 1921 by the Presbytery of Philadelphia and ordained by the Presbytery of Philadelphia (North) on May 10, 1922. His first call was as Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church; Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, PA. He served this congregation until 1924 and during this period he also was a student at Princeton Seminary. His next call was to the Pulpit of the Second Presbyterian Church in Elizabeth, NJ.
In 1928 he received a Doctor of Divinity Degree from Dubuque Seminary and was called as Pastor of the largest Presbyterian Congregation East of the Mississippi River(the Central Presbyterian Church, Brooklyn, NY). While Pastor in Brooklyn he became acquainted with Norman Vincent Peale (Pastor of the Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan and author of “The Power of Positive Thinking”). In October 1931 Dr. Fendrich moved again to become Pastor of the Wilshire Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles, CA. In Los Angeles he met and was influenced by Ernest Holmes, the founder of the “Religious Science Movement” and author of the magazine “Science of Mind”.
In July 1935, Dr. Fendrich had surgery for appendicitis. Shortly after returning to work he suffered a relapse and on advice of medical consultants, he resigned his position and moved to Salem, W. Virginia to recuperate.In Salem W. Virginia he was employed by Salem College and is listed in the 1937 year book as the “Head of the Department of Speech and Dramatics.” In 1937 he was also called as the Pastor of the nearby First Presbyterian Church of Weston, W. Virginia. In January 1938, the Metropolitan Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC called Dr. Fendrich to serve their congregation.
Shortly after becoming Pastor of the Metropolitan Presbyterian Church, Dr. Fendrich started a Sunday radio broadcast program. Sunday attendance increased substantially and the Church membership grew. The Session reviewed the situation in September 1942 and concluded that the largest source of new members came as a result of Dr. Fendrich’s radio broadcasts; that the radio broadcasts were vital to the future of the congregation; and that a greater impact could be had if more funding for it was available. The Session expressed hope the Church and the radio program could be merged into a single closely-knit enterprise.
In 1943, drawing on his past relationship with Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, Dr. Fendrich arranged for an event at the Church with Dr. Peale as the speaker. This brought new and added interest in the Church. In addition, Dr. Fendrich began to administer the radio broadcasts under a separate organization called “The Institute of Applied Religion and Psychology.”
Despite the growth of the congregation and the success of the “Institute,” Dr. Fendrich in April 1944 informed the Session that he wished to accept a call from the City Temple of New Thought in Cincinnati, OH effective June 7, 1944. He requested that the Session and Congregation concur with his request for the dissolution of their bonds.
The Session expressed its deep regret and together with the Trustees, made a counter offer to Dr. Fendrich consisting of:consolidating the work of the “Institute” with that of the Church;making space in the Church for Institute classes; encouraging the development of the Institute;assuming financial responsibility for the Institute; employing an assistant Pastor to relieve Dr. Fendrich of some of his burdens; converting the adjacent building into offices for the Institute; and increasing Dr. Fendrich’s salary.
At the Annual Meeting of the Congregation on April 20, 1944, the Clerk of Session presented a resolution extending the Congregation’s “heartfelt and deep appreciation” for the services rendered by Dr. Fendrich. A Church member objected to the resolution on the grounds that it was not germane to the Annual Meeting. The resolution was withdrawn.Subsequent to the Annual Meeting, the trustees met and moved that to restore confidence, unity, cooperation, and helpfulness in the leadership of the Church and to prevent a deepening of the feeling of frustration and dismay, action needed to be taken regarding members who were creating dissention and disunity. The Session concurred in the motion.
The Congregation’s met on May 11, 1944 and dissolved their relationship with Dr. Fendrich and he left to take up his position at the City Temple of New Thought in Cincinnati, OH.However, by 1950 Dr. Fendrich had returned to Los Angeles as Pastor of the “Science of Mind Church.” Their church services were held in the Fox-Wilshire Theater and subsequently at the “Uptown Theater.”
On September 29, 1951, the Los Angeles Times reported that on September 26, 1951 the Minister of the Second Church of Religious Science, Dr. J. Lowrey Fendrich, had died;and that a service for him would be held September 30, 1951 at the Four Star Theater on Wilshire Boulevard. The newspaper noted that Dr. Fendrich was an ordained Presbyterian minister who had held several important Presbyterian pastorates including that of the Metropolitan Presbyterian Church, Washington, DC. Dr. Fendrich was 54 at the time of his death.
Dr. Fendrich authored a number of books including: What the Blind Man Saw (1927); So This Is Religion (1939); Mental Hygiene (1941); Creative Thinking (1941); How to Change Your Life (1942); Remake Your World (1943); Rediscovery of Christ (1946); How to Collect Life’s Dividends (1948); and Science Discovers God (1949).