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Valley Roundup | Granada Hills

Lutheran Church to Dedicate Addition

May 20, 2000|KARIMA A. HAYNES

Bethlehem Lutheran Church congregants will have more room beginning Sunday morning when church members dedicate a new addition at the Balboa Boulevard site.

The new space is needed to accommodate the church's growing congregation and surging school enrollment, church officials said Friday.

The one-story addition, which will be used primarily by preschool and kindergarten students, will house four classrooms, administrative offices, restrooms, a kitchen and a fellowship hall for community activities and overflow seating.

On Sunday, church members will celebrate the project's completion with special music by preschool children, a balloon release and brunch following the 11 a.m. service.

The dedication ceremony will mark the midpoint of a three-year building campaign launched in November 1998 called, "Vision 2000: Building Together in Faith," said Richard Newcomb, the church's building committee chairman.

"Back in 1992 we had a little, broken-down church with orange carpet that had been donated from an L1011 jet, rusty metal pews and potholes in the parking lot," Newcomb said, smiling at the memory.

Since then, he said, church members have restructured the debt, enabling them to remodel the sanctuary, resurface the parking lot and install outdoor lighting. Those changes, coupled with the addition of a contemporary worship service have attracted new families.

"At first, we didn't know if it was just a blip in church growth," said Kevin Kelly, who is president of the congregation. "But we are very optimistic that this growth is real and we are willing to take risks."

Part of that risk, Newcomb said, involved asking church members to pledge $667,000 to pay for the addition.

"Yes, we asked them to give over and above their normal offering and yes, we took on more debt," he said, "but they are seeing the end result of their giving."

Bethlehem Lutheran is bucking a national trend in declining membership within mainstream churches, said the Rev. Rowland Chandler, the church's pastor.

"There are dozens of small, neighborhood Lutheran churches in the Valley and many of them are collapsing and no one is coming in through the front door," Chandler said.

Bethlehem Lutheran has made a deliberate effort to reach out to an urban, multiethnic population through its programs, he said.

As a result, the church school has grown from 55 students in the early 1990s to its current enrollment of 171. Sunday attendance is up from 86 worshipers in 1991 to 153 at present.

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