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Bainbridge's new Island Church not such a long time coming

The new Island Church facility on Sportsman Club Road. - Courtesy Photo
The new Island Church facility on Sportsman Club Road.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

As large-scale projects go, the construction of the new Island Church facility clipped along at an impressive pace, on budget and on schedule.

Still, not a moment too soon.

“Now we can get back to business,” said Senior Pastor’s Assistant Tammy Lazzara.

For several years, Island Church held Sunday services at Woodward Middle School, having outgrown its old building situated just south of the current hall, which was subsequently razed to make way for construction.

With a 350-member congregation and a wish to expand its programming and outreach efforts, a new building was always in the cards. So, with the church having completed a four-year planning process and an efficient capital campaign, Fairbank Construction broke ground on the new building last August.

A speedy 54 weeks later, Senior Pastor Grant Brewster led the congregation in its first official service last Sunday, followed by a community barbecue in the parking lot.

Lazzara reported a packed house.

A tour of the building, designed by island architect Dana Webber, reveals a building focused as much on function as form.

In the welcome hall hang the flags of 11 nations supported by Island Church. As part of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, a network of roughly 20,000 evangelical churches in 81 countries, Island Church regularly sends volunteers and staff members into the field. Current and past mission destinations, shown on maps that decorate the foyer, include Ghana, Botswana, China, India, Turkey and Mexico.

The 470-seat sanctuary, filled with light and smelling of fresh carpet, features a large stage at the front to showcase the church’s contemporary band, which accompanies the singers at each service.

Other features include an elevator, an audio-visual system on both levels, a parent pager system for those with kids in the nursery, a large play structure, and a Super Loop hearing assistance system that can broadcast the service directly into hearing aids.

It’s a modern house of worship for a modern congregation, whose members contributed $3.4 million to the project – the lion’s share of the full $5 million budget.

“Grant had asked (Webber) to design a place that would be hard to leave,” Lazzara said. “She did good.”

Lazzara’s favorite spot in the 17,000-square-foot facility is the front hall, which in her mind encompasses the church’s vision, “Come as you are, leave changed.”

And that, Brewster said, is the thrust of all of it, the idea that everything about a person flows from his or her relationship to God, not from outward trappings.

“The real stuff is people growing in their relationship with Jesus Christ,” Brewster said. “And don’t water that message down!”

Having gone through a large-scale construction project with a previous congregation – Brewster has ministered in his native New Zealand as well as in Africa –Brewster is no stranger to the physical process of church-building. And he believes that the structure and presence of a church can have an impact on the experience of worship.

Fundamentally, though, what’s more important than the shell is the ministry that exists within it. And with the building completed, he seconded Lazzara’s notion that now the church’s real work can continue, and grow.

“It’s still only a building. But,” Brewster added, “for us, it’s a home.”

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