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Unity of Whidbey finally has a place to call home
On a bluff high above Crawford Road near Highway 525 in Langley, the new Unity of Whidbey church has risen amid the firs and is open for business.
“We’ve been seeing more people every week,” said church member Gerry Simpson. “It really has been a labor of love and everyone here contributed one way or another.”
Simpson pointed to a candle an anonymous donor left following the Christmas Eve candle light worship a few days earlier.
“Thank you, Unity volunteers,” the simple sign read.
The non-denominational Unity of Whidbey was started 27 years ago and had been meeting on Sunday mornings at Bayview Community Hall for more than 10 years.
Over time, church-goers had been dropping what extra dollars and cents they could afford into a building fund so the congregation could have a home of its own.
Finally, a small miracle came about when carpentry students from South Central Community College — searching for a “real world” project to hone their nascent skills — were contacted by Langley architect Matthew Swett.
The church paid for the materials; the students donated their labor.
The wood panels for the church were assembled at the school’s shop in Seattle, where the students carefully sawed, planed and sweated over each piece under instructor Frank Mestemacher’s watchful gaze.
Each piece was labeled, disassembled and trailered to Langley where it was erected on-site.
The first phase was the 1,250-square foot administration office and social hall, now being used for Sunday services. A real sanctuary is in the works as funding becomes available.
The building’s exterior remains sheathed in insulation wrap, interior doors need to be added and landscaping must wait until spring.
But there’s a new wood floor — the smell of freshly sawn wood permeates the space — and, thanks to the generosity of donor Karl Harris, 80 brand-new chairs in hues of green and pink offer comfort to those attending.
“Karl bought those chairs before we even decided to build the church,” Simpson noted. “He had faith.”
Last Sunday was the third service since the church opened in December, and those present were happy they came.
“Yeah, it’s nice to have a new home,” said Glenn Ahuna. “Clearly, it’s a work in progress, but we’re not homeless anymore.”
The building is sited to capture the tall firs so that, during a service, the morning sun softly filters inside through the high branches. On this day, guest artist Beverly Graham sang and spoke at her final South Whidbey performance.
Graham moved to a 96-acre ranch in New Mexico this week. The well-known recording artist has received several community-based awards and nominations for service, inspiration and as a peacemaker.
Graham combined her music with a compelling message of equality, compassion, responsibility and spirituality.
As she strummed her guitar, Graham asked people to think of the simple pleasures life offers: the smell of coffee, the taste of chocolate as it melts in the mouth, the feel of a kitten on one’s lap, the sight of a family celebrating Christmas, a child’s smile, a good book and a warm fire.
As the service proceeded, streams of light shown through the tall trees that border the property outside.
The folks at Unity were finally home, and at peace.
Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-5300 or jvanderford@soutwhid