Community Church of Issaquah seeks to serve new congregation

July 13, 2010

By Chantelle Lusebrink

Woun Kim, a part-time minister with the Japanese Baptist Church in Seattle, is helping the Community Church of Issaquah with its outreach program. Contributed

Nestled near the base of Squak Mountain, the parishioners at Community Church of Issaquah grew with a burgeoning community and has seen drastic changes come to a once sleepy, rural town.

They, in turn, have changed with it, bringing daring ministries, like Tent City 4, to Issaquah.

Now, they enter into uncharted territory again. This time, they are trying to find a new congregation to take up their mantel, said interim Rev. Dick Birdsall.

“There are a lot of things that have changed,” he said. “But nothing would make the church’s members happier than to see something new emerge from this building.”

The group has been together for decades — many even helped construct the building in the 1970s. However, the parish’s members are getting older and the number of members is getting smaller. The congregation is now about 50 members, compared to about 300 in the ’70s, Birdsall said.

In addition, Birdsall, who came out of retirement to lead the small congregation last year, is going to leave the church at the end of August.

To cope with the changes, he and his members reached out to other Baptist churches in their organization, the Evergreen Association of American Baptist Churches, for ideas and help.

They found support from leadership at Japanese Baptist Church in Seattle and its part-time minister, Woun Kim.“There are so many second- and third-generation Asian families now living here, we thought about making the church more multicultural and eventually, transitioning,” Birdsall said. For church members “it is hard to see their numbers dwindling, because so many of them helped build this church.

“Instead of having this old congregation fade away, we wanted to see something new come from it.”

“As a sister church, JBC will help out by starting bible studies on the Eastside and finding a core group of people to lead them, then inviting new people to join us,” Kim said. “We’re looking forward to partnering with Community Church of Issaquah to start something new that will be beautiful.”

Right now, Kim said he is looking for individuals and families in the area who would like to be part of planning a new congregation, ministries and bible studies in the greater Issaquah area.

They will start by meeting at people’s homes, perhaps coordinating musical talents, but most importantly, getting to know each other by sharing their lives and experiences with God to form a new congregation.

It is a big challenge, he said, but one he is ready and willing to take on.

Kim and Birdsall will monitor the response from the community and the progress of the transition through August. At that time, Issaquah Community Church should have a new pastor and members will know whether the transition plan is being met with acceptance.

Eventually, the two congregations would merge together and a slow transition to a new Japanese Baptist Church would occur, they said.

The church’s regular services are still being held and everyone is welcome at the 11 a.m. worship service on Sundays at the church, 205 Mountain Park Blvd. S.W., Birdsall said.

Get involved

E-mail Woun Kim at wounkim@gmail.com.

Chantelle Lusebrink: 392-6434, ext. 241, or clusebrink@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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