Outreach oriented Hillsboro church expands to the former Tupper's Furniture space in Forest Grove

It will be no different at Sonrise Church, which will officially christen its newest venue for weekly services in Forest Grove April 8.

Sonrise, whose main campus is in Hillsboro, is known for its outreach to the homeless, the hungry, the beleaguered and the bereaved. By opening a cold weather shelter, stocking a food pantry for families and hosting programs for divorcees and ex-prisoners, the nondenominational church multiplied its members by the hundreds.

Sonrise's faithful now number around 1,500, with even more filling the pews for Sunday services and weekday gatherings for children, teens and adults. The church's success has been so remarkable over the past 30 years that it's led the ministerial staff to spread its wings to Forest Grove, where executive pastor Greg Scandrett hopes to reach even more of 'the least, the last and the lost' in western Washington County.

'We're evangelical, but we're also a very strong outwardly-focused church,' said Scandrett, who came to Sonrise after taking a break from traditional ministry for five years. 'Our desire is to serve the community,' he added, 'whatever way God leads us.'

Sonrise has picked Forest Grove resident Rudy Tinoco, its music director and youth pastor, as the public face of the town's newest church plant. A magician by trade, Tinoco is up for the job, which he'll perform inside the former Tupper's Home Furnishings building, a cavernous space on 19th Avenue.

He's looking forward to the 'fifth campus' making its official debut during Easter services at 9 and 11 a.m.

'My passion is for being about God's business in my community,' said Tinoco, who said he came to Sonrise mostly because of the church's outward focus. His wife, Charlene, is a special ed teacher at Cornelius Elementary School. The couple have four children.

Over the last five years, attendance at Sonrise has nearly doubled, with folks flocking to three English-speaking services on Sunday morning and a Spanish-speaking service on Saturday evening.

Head pastor James Gleason and his staff, who manage an annual budget of $1.5 million, have also nurtured a cornucopia of programs for the homeless (Project Homeless Connect), those in need of food (a food pantry serving 70 families each week) and people out on the streets (a wintertime severe weather shelter).

There are also programs for people who are grieving, women who have been sexually abused and those recently divorced.

For Tinoco, who was aware the poverty rate in Forest Grove hovered around 32 percent in 2010, those features were big draws. 'Somehow, duplicating what we do in Hillsboro here in Forest Grove felt very exciting,' said Tinoco.

When he grabs the microphone inside the 8,000-square-foot former Tupper's Home Furnishings site this Sunday, Tinoco, the former worship director at Wapato Valley Church in Gaston, will lead his band in 'upbeat, celebratory and contemporary' songs fit for the church's biggest day. 'We kinda get down,' he said with a smile.

Easter morning's preaching pastor, Scandrett, will begin a series of messages, which he's calling 'Portraits,' about 'who we are because of what Jesus has done for us,' Tinoco added.

Both men know that just as one person is a Kiwanis member and another prefers to be a Rotarian, Sonrise can't be all things to all people. But they say they hope to connect with other local churches to offer innovative programs that speak to peoples' needs in Forest Grove.

'St. Anthony's (Catholic church) is already hosting a great food pantry,'Scandrett noted, 'but we'd love to help if we can.'

A Hispanic service and outreach to Pacific University students are other possibilities. Tinoco said his main desire is to 'rally together with the purpose of being people who want to serve others.'

Though he calls himself a 'take-action guy,' Tinoco said he was fine with 'waiting to see where God leads' the new congregation, which now numbers around 150.

'We're not coming here with a cape on - we just want to think of creative ways to serve,' Tinoco said. 'To a certain degree, we're figuring it out as we go.'

Mettee finds 'grace' in his work with ex-inmates

Seven years ago, longtime Forest Grove resident Jerry Mettee came face to face with his shadow side.

In February 2005, local police charged Mettee - a former Banks School District teacher and Gaston School District coach - with falsifying a police report after claiming he was attacked and stabbed during an attempted robbery. Mettee, then 45, later admitted he'd made the whole thing up.

'My 'stuff,' my brokenness, was very public,' Mettee said Friday as he spoke about Light My Way, the ministry to ex-prisoners he leads for Sonrise Church as a part-time pastor. 'But God chose to heal and restore me. I want to share that grace with others.'

Through Light My Way, 120 men and women whose parole and probation restrictions prevent them from attending regular church services get together on Sunday afternoons to 'talk about life' and faith, Mettee noted.

Many get passes from the Washington County corrections department's Restitution Center to ride a TriMet bus or the MAX line to Sonrise in Hillsboro for a 'closed campus' session including a message, prayer and information about resources for job searches, housing and life skills development.

'These are incredible people,' said Mettee, a husband and father of three. 'We have doctors, engineers, musicians. They don't have to believe in God, but if they develop that relationship along the way, that's okay with us.'

For Mettee, who also works as a painting contractor, the work has been a gift. 'Out of brokenness comes deep empathy,' he said.

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