Island Church builds a sanctuary at home

An artist’s rendition of the Island Church to be built on Sportsman Club Road. - Courtesy of Island Church
An artist’s rendition of the Island Church to be built on Sportsman Club Road.
— image credit: Courtesy of Island Church

The congregation breaks ground Sunday for a new church on Sportsman Club Rd.

What’s left for a congregation to do when it’s already built churches in Africa and Asia?

Build one at home, for itself.

Island Church will break ground for a new sanctuary on Sportsman Club Road during an outdoor service Sunday morning.

It’s the culmination of a four-year planning process and remarkably short capital campaign, for a congregation that for several years has been worshipping at the middle school across the street.

“We wanted it to be designed so that you wouldn’t want to leave,” said the Rev. Grant Brewster, who has led the congregation since coming to the island from New Zealand in 2002. “We think we’ve done that. But it’s what happens inside the building that makes it.”

The 28,000 square-foot building was designed by Bainbridge architect Dana Webber and will be built by Fairbank Construction. The congregation expects to move in by fall 2008.

The building will sit just north of the church’s previous hall, a barn-like structure built in the mid-1980s that was recently razed.

Webber’s design shows rooflines sloping at several angles, much like the “milking shed” of Bainbridge Island’s City Hall. A single spire – which Brewster refers to as a “beacon” – next to the main sanctuary doubles as an elevator and will bear the sign of the cross at its apex.

“We think we have come up with a design that reflects the rural character of this part of the island and is clearly dedicated to the worship of Christ, yet breaks the convention by not being too ‘churchy’,” Brewster said.

Some 370 members strong, Island Church is affiliated with the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination, founded in the late 19th century. The evangelical church places a major emphasis on ministry to the people of other nations.

Over the past few years, the Bainbridge congregation has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars through its tithes and offerings to construct churches in Ghana and China.

While those efforts fulfilled the mission of the church, it left the Bainbridge congregation itself in flux.

After outgrowing its old building, the congregation in 2003 moved across the street and began holding services at Woodward Middle School. The old building was used as the church office and youth center.

Plans for a new hall began to take shape in that same year, with a capital campaign two years later. On a single “Giving Sunday” in March 2005, the congregation pledged $3.4 million toward the projected $4.9 million cost.

“That’s pretty amazing – sensational, really,” Brewster said. “They’re amazing people. I think it’s an indication that the people want to do something positive in the community in the community, and want to take what we’ve got and give it away to somebody else.”

A later phase will see construction of a three-story wing with a fellowship hall, and kitchen, young people’s area and offices.

If a Sunday church service can be described as “hip,” Island Church surely qualifies. Singing is accompanied by a rock-like band on the dais with parishioners sometimes raising their arms heavenward and swaying to the strains.

“Gotta have a bit of life in the place,” Brewster said.

The congregation maintains an ongoing presence in local print media and with roadside signs, through snappy advertising slogans.

Members have distributed an array of promotional items like bottled water at the Grand Old Fourth, emblazoned the Island Church logo.

That outreach will be bolstered with the new building, which the church will open up for community activities.

With a planned seating capacity of about 500, the hall will be “one of the nicest performance spaces on Bainbridge Island,” Brewster said.

Concerts and other public performances are planned once the building is dedicated next fall, and church officials are already meeting with local arts and community organizations who might hold events “when the church family is not using it.”

While the building may not look “churchy” by design, Brewster said the cross atop the beacon will signify the congregation’s purpose.

“We are about Jesus Christ,” Brewster said. “We’re not about philosophy or the latest fad.

“The cross will always remind us it’s about him, knowing him and giving away his love to other people.”



Island Church will hold an outdoor groundbreaking service at 9624 Sportsman Club Road (across the street and a bit north of Sakai Intermediate School, where parking is available) at 9:30 a.m. Sunday morning. The community is welcome.

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