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Good to grow

Thu., March 16, 2006

The Rev. Al Hulten, senior pastor of Valley Assembly of God Church, said he loves to see things grow.

“I’ve got a big garden at home and I grow tomatoes from seeds,” he said with a smile.

Over the last 20 years, he’s watched the church he shepherds spring from the same Valley soils as his garden – outgrowing its gymnasium quarters and moving into an impressive and newly expanded sanctuary with seats for 800 worshippers.

On Sunday, Pastor Hulten will lead a dedication ceremony celebrating the church’s development and the recent completion of a more than two-year building expansion.

The most recent addition, paid for entirely by donations, doubles the size of the sanctuary. Visitors now will find an additional 400 seats, a pair of home theater-size video monitors, two podiums, banks of stage lights and a sophisticated sound system.

There’s ample room for the church orchestra – strings, woodwinds and brass instruments – as well as a piano and two drum sets, snares and bongos.

On dedication day, Hulten said, he’ll revisit his inaugural 1980s-era sermon, which draws from the late Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

This time around, larger-than-life video clips of the civil rights pioneer will flicker on the video screens.

Taped testimonials from church members talking about their transformations since finding the church also will be shown.

These changes, Hulten said, exemplify the spiritual growth the church strives to foster.

He said the church’s mission is to guide its members to become “healthier followers of Jesus Christ together.”

Founded in 1948, Valley Assembly’s membership is soaring – spurring numerous building additions over the years.

A 1994 master plan ensured various recent expansions would merge in one visually cohesive and functional building.

A spacious nursery, several child-care areas, a chapel, offices and meeting rooms are spread throughout the building. And separate areas draw youngsters, teens and young adults to worship services designed with them in mind.

“We try to meet them in their culture,” said Ken Lester, associate pastor for family life.

“Revolution Church” pulls the junior high crowd to the Underground – a basement with a rock ‘n’ roll-style stage, sound system, urban-looking concrete walls, a coffee house, high-speed computers and a pool table.

“Power House” engages elementary school kids in a room whose stage brims with a vivid set for skits, puppet shows, presentations, music and has areas for religious lessons, games and worship.

“Promiseland” serves ages 3 through 5 with pint-sized lessons, activities and furnishings.

Valley Assembly staff members say they’re elated with the way construction has turned out.

But they’re quick to remind visitors that as stunning as the structure is, it’s merely a physical shell where people may experience spiritual and personal growth.

“This building is a tool and we’re proud of it and we’re grateful,” said Lester.

“But our real strength is our people. We’re about reaching people and changing our communities. The new facility allows us to do that,” he said.

Valley Assembly serves 1,300 households. As many as 900 people may flock to numerous church services and Bible school sessions on Sundays.

Governed locally, it belongs to the General Council of Assemblies of God churches, with roots in a late-1800s U.S. religious revival.

Today, the organization counts more than 12,000 U.S. churches and 48 million followers overseas.

Hulten added: “I love to see people grow, to see them grow in their understanding of who God is and also to grow in their relationships with one another – be it in marriage, in friendship, in their social life or in their school life.

“We try to help people grow in their ability to relate to others, to help each and to come to know God together. We’re not alone in this. God makes us a team.”


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