Lifestyle

Kingdom Hall rises quickly in Oak Harbor

Volunteer drywall mudder Jean Johnson stands in front of Jehovah’s Witness leaders. From the left are Mark Lee, local building contractor; Henry Schwerdtefer, who heads news services for Jehovah’s Witnesses; and Mike Markel.  - Jim Larsen / Whidbey News-Times
Volunteer drywall mudder Jean Johnson stands in front of Jehovah’s Witness leaders. From the left are Mark Lee, local building contractor; Henry Schwerdtefer, who heads news services for Jehovah’s Witnesses; and Mike Markel.
— image credit: Jim Larsen / Whidbey News-Times

To build a new one, first they tore down the old one. Now the new one is getting done in what might be a record pace in Oak Harbor church history.

The old Kingdom Hall built in the ‘50s on Ronhaar Street was erased and the new one started two weeks ago Wednesday with the pouring of the slab. Volunteers from Oak Harbor and throughout the area descended on the site, with professionals showing amateurs how to do everything from framing a building to spreading drywall mud.

“It’s a little bit like a barn raising; it’s very organized,” said Mark Lee, a local Jehovah’s Witness as he watched the building take shape. He owns Lee Construction and donated all his skills to the task.

The new 3,960-square-foot building is only a few hundred square feet larger than the old one, but it will have all the modern accoutrements and provide a fine church home for decades for its congregation. More than 80 people regularly attend the Sunday morning service while 30 take advantage of the Sunday evening service conducted in Spanish. The church is headed by 10 elders with equal authority, with Lee among them.

Lee said 50 or more people were involved in putting on the new roof, so that formidable job took only 3 1/2 hours. At times, more than 100 volunteers have swarmed the site.

Jean Johnson, who lives in the Sedro-Woolley area, was covered in muck and dust last Wednesday as she helped with “mudding the drywall.” Though hot, sweaty and dirty, she said, “There ain’t no better way to be!”

Although the building is going up fast, the days of completing them in two days are over due to regulations. The new Kingdom Hall is expected to be finished by Sept. 1, but then the parking lot will be covered with a special surface that lets the water seep through rather than run off. The pervious concrete will take a month to dry, then church can begin.

“The quality is A-1,” said Mike Markel, one of the leaders of the building effort. “There are a lot of unskilled people working with people in the trades.” The city’s building inspector, Dave Anderson, was “very impressed,” Markel said.

Other volunteers make sure the workers are well fed, serving 4,000 meals each day. Visitors are asked if they want cookies or water, and are handed a tract called, “Who Are Doing Jehovah’s Will Today?”

Henry Schwerdtfeger, who heads the news service for the fast-growing Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, visited the Oak Harbor job, but the project was nothing new to him.

“We build a new church every four minutes and 17 seconds worldwide,” he said.

Once the concrete cures, a grand opening will be held for the new Oak Harbor Kingdom Hall. Jehovah’s Witnesses also have halls of worship in Coupeville and Langley.

 

Community Events, April 2014

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