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Growing congregation dedicates new sanctuary

Hundreds fill Lynchwood Church of God on March 18
by: Shanda Tice, Bob Stewart, 82, traveled from Roseburg to join the dedication service of the new sanctuary at the Lynchwood Church of God on Southeast 174th Avenue held Sunday, March 18. A former pastor of the church from 1960 to ’70, Stewart helped build the original church sanctuary and gymnasium. The congregation is singing “Great is Thy Faithfulness.”

Riley 'Sparky' Sparks, a retired Portland Public Schools custodian, stands in the lobby of the new Lynchwood Church of God sanctuary and comments humbly on the 200 or so days of volunteer work he has put into building the place.

'I just wanted to see something good for God,' he says.

Sparks was one of dozens of volunteers who had worked with professional contractors to erect the sanctuary, which was dedicated during an afternoon service Sunday, March 18.

The new worship site can seat up to 600 people and features a platform area large enough to hold a 24-member choir; a balcony with seating; a state-of-the-art sound system and video screen; a two-room nursery; a church office; a pastor's office and an adult education classroom.

'It's great,' Sparks says of the $2.8 million building. 'I think people in the neighborhood, some of them have started to notice it. Over the years, I think it will make a big difference in the area.'

More than 400 people attended the dedication service, including such dignitaries as Sen. Rod Monroe, D-Portland; Multnomah County Commissioner Lonnie Roberts; Robert McKean, superintendent of the Centennial School District; the Rev. David Shrout, executive secretary of the Association of Churches of God in Oregon; the Rev. J. A. Barber, president of Warner Pacific College, a Church of God college in Portland; and the Rev. Bob Hanna, pastor of First Christian Church in Salem.

'When you're expanding your church, you're also expanding a good feeling in the community,' Roberts told the congregation.

The service featured scriptural readings and lively music, including a hand bell choir performance at the end. A reception followed in the church's gymnasium.

Located at 3818 S. E. 174th St., Lynchwood is affiliated with the Church of God in Anderson, Ind. Founded as Powell Valley Church of God in December 1938, the church changed its name in 1960, a church history states.

Lynchwood's membership has outgrown its former worship site, says Jeff Davisson, chairman of the building committee.

The former sanctuary was completed in 1962, and could seat up to about 230 worshipers, he says. By the late 1990s, however, the congregation had grown, and now consists of about 350 members, he says.

In order to accommodate the growing membership, Lynchwood went from one to two Sunday services in the late 1990s, Davisson says.

Meanwhile, the church history states that the Rev. John Kuykendall, pastor since 1987, envisioned the congregation growing and urged the church's board to start purchasing land to establish a new sanctuary. In 2000, the church began a capital campaign to fund the building of a new sanctuary.

'It's just been an adventure of growth, of stepping out in faith,' Kuykendall says. 'It's just taking the people from where they were to where I believed God wanted them to be.'

The building effort called forth the talents of the whole congregation as well as other community members, he says.

'It has involved so many people, from welders to architects to an army of volunteers to people who couldn't physically work, but who prayed and gave,' he says.

The former sanctuary will now be home to a youth center, Davisson says, noting the congregation wants to install a stage that can be used for musical performances in the center. Davisson says Lynchwood wants to construct the new stage by this summer.

'It's definitely going to expand our capability to reach young people,' he says of the youth center.

He says that the church's youth group events sometime draw as many as 36 junior high and high students, who have been 'shoehorned' into a small classroom up until now. The youth center will give the congregation's young people a place to call their own, he says.

'It gives them a more effective ability to worship and learn together,' he says.