Church celebrates past, future at special event
by: Contributed photo, The congregation of Sandy Baptist Chapel gathers outside their original Pioneer Boulevard church building to pose for a picture shortly after the chapel's founding in the late 1940s. The Sandy Senior Center now sits where the church once was.

Smelling food in the mid-morning hours makes it a little hard to concentrate in adult Sunday School class, but being in the kitchen takes it to a whole different level. Ask Tom Skipper.

'We called it the torture chamber,' said Skipper, who learned Bible stories in 1949 amid the sounds and smells of the Sandy Baptist Chapel's kitchen. 'They were cooking beans and stew on the kitchen stove while we were in class.'

He said the unique arrangement was made during the early days of the church because that was all the space available. 'It was just a very simple type of setting,' he said. 'That's where the class was.'

Decades later, the church has changed a lot more than just where Sunday School is held.

Congregations past and present will gather together Sunday, July 2, to celebrate Sandy Baptist Church's 60th anniversary - sharing stories, honoring the past and anticipating the future. The celebration also coincides with Pastor Fred Vogel's 24th anniversary at Sandy Baptist.

A 10:30 a.m. worship service will be held outside, followed by a barbecue picnic. Former pastors will be on hand, and a visual display will document the church's history and its plans for the future.

The first years

In 1946 the population of Sandy was less than 1,000 people, America was returning to normal after World War II, and Harry S. Truman was president of the United States. On the first Sunday in June of that year, the members of Sandy Baptist Chapel, later to be renamed Sandy Baptist Church, met for the first time in their new church building located on Pioneer Boulevard. There were 28 people in attendance, including those who had volunteered since 1945 to build the church themselves.

The church purchased two lots from Ed Bruns in 1945 for $400. Volunteers cut down the two dozen trees on the land, the stumps were removed, and the wood was sold for firewood. Later that year, Clarence Bennett logged trees, sawed them into lumber at his sawmill in Silverton and donated the lumber to the church. Volunteers often nailed that very lumber into place a day after it had been milled.

Ed Rodda was the first pastor of Sandy Baptist Chapel, serving until 1949. The average attendance of the church grew to 125 during his ministry.

'He was a great man for calling on people in the community,' Skipper recalled of Rodda. 'He was very involved in people's lives - in a good way.'

Rodda's ministry led Skipper and his wife, June, to become Christians and members of the church.

'At that time people were very friendly and had an open-door policy for everyone,' Skipper said. 'That's what we needed then - friends. We had lots of friends; we visited lots of people, sang hymns, drank coffee and had supper. It caused us to grow in our lives.'

Fifties and sixties

From 1950 to 1951, Ed Goodrick - a professor of Greek at Multnomah Bible College - pastored the church. He was followed by Art Skogan, a man whom current Pastor Fred Vogel said 'was a logger who had a real heart for God while logging.' He ministered to many of his fellow loggers and filled in as pastor while the church searched for a permanent person for the job.

On July 12, 1964, a new church building was completed - again, with volunteer labor - behind the old one and included a large basement, which held Sunday School classrooms, a large multi-purpose room and a kitchen. That building is now the Sandy Senior Center.

The old church building was sold to Mr. And Mrs. Allen Jannsen, who moved it to Colton and remodeled it for their home.

During that time, Harold Fuller served as pastor. Fuller still interacts with people in the Sandy community, as he is the chaplain at Mount Hood Medical Center.

Skipper, who recalled times in the 'torture chamber,' was one of the church's first missionaries. He and his wife ministered to Spanish-speaking people in Honduras for 14 years and in Spain for 16 years.

In between missionary journeys, Skipper served as interim pastor from 1969 to 1970.

A time of change

Ed Grable followed Skipper and led the church through some major changes between 1970 and 1981.

By 1976 Sandy Baptist Chapel had grown to 190 in attendance, and it was decided that two Sunday morning worship services were needed to accommodate the growing church. Soon the congregation was outgrowing its facilities, so a new building project was started on Jarl Road, the current location of the church.

Just before moving to the new building, the church body changed Sandy Baptist Chapel's name to Sandy Baptist Church. The facility, actually in Boring, kept its original locale in the name. 'They decided they did not want to be Boring Baptists, that's for sure,' Vogel said.

The first service of Sandy Baptist Church in the new building was held on Nov. 12, 1978.

Vogel became pastor in 1982. He said that while much has changed with Sandy Baptist, what has stayed the same is 'a commitment to become followers of Jesus Christ.'

'Back in '46, people were looking for changed lives,' he noted. 'Today we call that 'life transformation' - that's stayed the same.'

What's different, he said, is a greater cooperation with other denominations - 'a belonging to the 'Church of Sandy.''

The average attendance of Sandy Baptist Church is now 235 and starting to grow out of its current facility. Expectations for the future include adding on to the church building to have a larger worship center. Preliminary drawings call for a 400-seat auditorium added to the current facilities.

'By the time we celebrate the 65th anniversary of Sandy Baptist Church, I hope that everything we are doing as a church, whether it's a worship service, Bible class, Community Life Group gathering or Ministry Team, helps us to more fully follow Christ in our everyday lives.' Pastor Vogel said. 'I hope that in the next five years our church will mentor leaders for the next generation of Christ followers. And I expect that the next anniversary celebration will be held in a worship center that was built to accommodate a growing congregation.'

Vogel said he is 'more excited now than ever before in the direction the church is going. We are partnering with God to fulfill the Great Commission through loving God and loving others.'

Sandy Baptist Church contributed some of the content of this article.

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