As one travels in Los Angeles on the Santa Monica Freeway, near the south side of the Arlington Ave exit is a large sign that overhangs the highway, announcing J. P. Widney High School.
For those who know their Nazarene history, the name J.P. Widney rings loud bells of recognition. For it was he who served, along with co-founder Phineas F. Bresee, of what is now called Los Angeles First Church of the Nazarene, considered the "Mother" Church of the denomination. The Church, founded in 1895 in downtown Los Angeles, ascribed its origins to the call of God to minister to poor and discarded of society. Bresee himself wrote in 1898: "We went in poverty, to give ourselves -- and what God might give us -- determined to forego provision for the future and old age, in order to see the salvation of God while we were yet here. Hundreds of dollars have gone to the poor. . . the gospel comes to a multitude without money and without price, and the poorest of the poor are entitled to a front seat at the Church of the Nazarene, the only condition being that they come early enough to get there."
It was Dr. Widney who named the Church, the "Church of the Nazarene, one morning at daybreak, after a whole night of prayer. It immediately seemed to him to symbolize "the toiling, lowly mission of Christ." It was the name which Jesus used of himself, according to Widney, "the name which was used in derision of Him by His enemies." It was the name which above all others linked Him to "the great toiling, struggling, sorrowing heart of the world. It is Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth, to whom the world in its misery and despair turns, that it may have hope."
Dr. Widney was also a physician, founder of the Southern California Medical Association and the President of the University of Southern California Medical School.
It is unlikely that the highschoolers of Widney High School know much about this history. However, their school is unique as high schools go. Yet its naming is so consistent with the message of the early Nazarene Church and its commitment to the needy.