March 21, 2009 in Washington Voices

Opportunity Christian marks 100 years

By The Spokesman-Review
 
J. BART RAYNIAK photo

“This has always been a family church,” said longtime Opportunity Christian Church member Letty Van Doren. “People I love are here.” The church is readying to celebrate its 100th anniversary March 28 and 29. Her late husband, Gerry, was a pastor at the church from 1975 to 1985.
(Full-size photo)

The congregation may be far removed from its peak in the 1950s, but Opportunity Christian Church will celebrate its 100th anniversary next weekend with plenty of energy and enthusiasm.

“We started out on Sprague where Peter’s Hardware is,” said longtime member Janet Mantz. Historical records compiled by the church show that seating in the new church was as simple as planks laid down on top of nail kegs. The church stayed at that location until 1917, when it built a new basement at 20 S. Robie Road. The Sprague Avenue church was physically moved down the road and placed on top of the new basement.

The building served as the church’s home until 1960, when the current building at 708 N. Pines Road was dedicated. The old building on Robie Road is still standing. “It’s the Blue Dolphin tavern,” said member Letty Van Doren. The former church/tavern partially burned in 2007 and remains closed.

Van Doren is the widow of the Rev. Gerry Van Doren, who was the church’s pastor from 1975 to 1985. He died in 2002. “I came back here,” Van Doren said. “People I love are here. I did love this church and he did too.”

The church membership peaked at a little over 400 in the 1950s. Now the Sunday service attracts about 50 members, most of them senior citizens. “We’ve reached the point where a lot of our people can’t go out anymore,” said Van Doren.

In addition to dwindling membership, the congregation is also facing its anniversary celebration without a pastor. The Rev. Lauri Clark Strait was let go in February, said Kathleen Huttenmaier. Huttenmaier is heading up the anniversary celebration committee, and her husband is on the church board. “We just financially could not carry on,” she said.

For now the church is using supply pastors to fill the pulpit on Sundays. There are plans to hire a part-time pastor in a few months, Huttenmaier said.

The church’s 100th anniversary celebration will begin with an open house from 2 to 4 p.m. next Saturday. Refreshments will be served and historical pictures and documents will be on display. On March 29, a social hour will begin at 9:30 a.m., followed by a worship service and luncheon beginning at 10:30. A memory book chronicling the church’s last 25 years will be available for purchase for $12.

The featured speaker will be the Rev. Wayne Bryant, who grew up in Spokane Valley and was a member of Opportunity Christian in his youth.

Those planning to attend anniversary events are asked to call the church at (509) 926-3691 for reservations.

Memorial service

The Rev. James Grant, known as Father Jim to the congregation of the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection, recently died unexpectedly while in Scotland to attend the wedding of his daughter.

He had served as the church’s associate pastor for the last eight years, said the Rev. Brian Prior. A funeral service is tentatively scheduled for April 4 at the church, 15319 E. Eighth Ave. The Rt. Rev. James E. Waggoner Jr., Episcopal bishop of Spokane, is expected to attend.

The time of the service has not yet been finalized. Those interested in attending may call the church office at (509) 926-6450 for more information.

Grant, 82, was a longtime pastor in Grangeville, Idaho. He volunteered to move to Spokane Valley after he retired to help out at the Church of the Resurrection. “He was quite a character,” Prior said. “He was a cranky, curmudgeonly character. Most people, especially children, saw right through him.”

Grant had also been a longtime volunteer at McDonald Elementary.

Religion Notebook appears every Saturday in the Valley Voice. If you have news about activities or events at your church, please let us know so we can help spread the word. Write or send a bulletin to Religion Notebook, Valley Voice, 13208 E. Sprague, Spokane Valley, WA 99216. Call Nina Culver at (509) 927-2158. Fax: (509) 927-2175. E-mail: ninac@spokesman.com.

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