"Family first, last and always for LDS"
June 9, 2008 · Updated 3:10 PM
"The building may be new, but the land has been in the family for years.That's because three decades ago, someone in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had the foresight to see that a building might someday be necessary on Bainbridge Island.There's some wisdom in that, said member Ed Rehder, strolling the halls of the new Mormon church on Madison Avenue, discussing the policy of purchasing land long before it might be needed for a new building.And, Rehder said, look what's happened.To the peal of a brand new organ and the relief of those weary of driving to Poulsbo for services each week, the Bainbridge LDS congregation recently moved into its new 11,000-square-foot building just north of Ordway Elementary School.Having its own church, island resident and ward Bishop Ross Boundy said, has been a goal and an expectation.It's a very exciting, very happy time, Boundy said.The congregation - known in Mormon church parlance as a ward - was organized in 1991. It is one of about 15 congregations that make up the Silverdale stake, the next level up in the church's organizational hierarchy.The new building gives welcome elbow room for a growing congregation that until recently has shared space with three other wards, two from Poulsbo and one from Kingston, in a Poulsbo LDS church.Holding their services individually, Boundy said, the wards moved through the Poulsbo building in three-hour blocks of worship, a logistical challenge that began at 8:30 a.m. each Sunday morning.As each service came to a close, Boundy said, out the door went one congregation and in came another.I'm convinced that there's no more efficient or busy building in all the world than a Mormon church, Boundy said. We made it work.But the Bainbridge ward, which now counts about 165 families comprising some 300 individuals in its membership, had long sought its own church.Rehder said the Madison Avenue property has been owned by the church for 25-30 years, and was almost sold several times. Bainbridge ward members were told by church authorities in Salt Lake City, Utah, that they could have a building if regular attendance hit 135. The ward finally got the OK about 18 months ago, and the building broke ground in June of last year.The church is growing so fast, particularly in South America, Boundy said, it's a matter of 'get in line and wait your turn.'The disadvantage to such a policy is the wait; the advantage is that once a ward gets the green light for its own building, the congregation doesn't have to do any fundraising. In fact, all of the $2.259 million construction cost for the Bainbridge church came from the central coffers in Salt Lake City.Since the building opened its doors, the ward has been averaging 180-190 worshippers each Sunday. A number of those are visitors curious about the church and its doctrines, Boundy said.Designed by Tacoma architect and LDS Church member Gary Hochstasser, the facility is considered somewhat unique among the general palette of Mormon church designs, modified to suit the parcel and including more landscaping.The main chapel is separated with a folding curtain from a small cultural hall, a functional gymnasium for youth activities such as basketball and dances.The room also serves as overflow space if the sanctuary gets too crowded during services. We've never had the curtain shut since we've been there, Boundy said.A series of offices, smaller meeting rooms, a library and a kitchenette flank the chapel in an L-shape on the north and east.Paintings and other church iconography adorn the walls. A display in the foyer includes photographs of the Bainbridge ward's current batch of missionaries, perhaps the best-known symbols of the church's ministry.The west side of the building is recessed, to allow the addition of new worship and meeting space in the future if needed.That may happen sooner than later. We've almost outgrown the building already, Rehder said, with three new Mormon families having moved into the community in the past month.The building is set up for most of the significant church functions, including weddings, but there is no baptismal font.In the pioneer tradition, the church practices baptism by full-immersion. Baptisms will continue to be held in the waters of Puget Sound, or in the pond on the Boundy farm on Fletcher Bay Road.It's the old-fashioned way, Boundy said, with the pond first coming into service with the baptism of his own son some two decades ago.The LDS Church was organized in 1830 by founder Joseph Smith, and is headquartered in Utah.Central to the faith is the divinity of Jesus Christ, with the teachings of the Bible supplemented by the Book of Mormon.Church teachings include the eschewing of alcohol and tobacco, and the leading of moral lives, according to LDS literature.Particular emphasis is placed on community service and good works, and on strengthening the family unit.Organized units of the church have been active since 1917 in Kitsap County, where the church now counts about 7,600 members. It is the second largest church in the state, with 219,000 believers.Worldwide membership is estimated at 10.4 million, about half of them in the United States.It speaks to people's hearts and closest longings, Boundy said of the Mormon faith, among the fastest growing worldwide. We emphasize families, and it strikes a chord with people all across the world looking for spiritual moorings.The church will open its doors for public tours at the end of September. Open houses are slated for 7-9 p.m. Sept. 28-29, and 1-7 p.m. Sept. 30.A formal dedication for church members will be held Sept. 24. "