Bits 'n' Pieces: 20 years of open arms at church

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photoMargo Dawn

An organization can measure its 20th anniversary in many ways. For Margo Dawn, office manager of the Abundant Life Center, it means 20 years of open arms.

"It's just so loving, if you like hugs, we're more than willing to give you a hug," the 71-year-old said.

Dawn has been with the center for 18 years, working as its office manager since 1995.

"I had lost my job and I knew I needed God. I just moved to Vancouver a year before, started looking for churches. When your life doesn't work, you're not doing the right things," she said.

The Abundant Life Center began in 1993 when Dwile Heggen asked New Thought minister Jenna Wakins to start a new church in Vancouver. The center has had seven ministers. Auda Marie is the center's current guiding minister.

"Our purpose is love and I think we really do honor that," Dawn said.

The church is part of the New Thought spiritual movement, which began in the 19th century, interpreting scripture through metaphysical thought, while incorporating elements of different religions in the pursuit of spirituality.

"There was a big to-do about all religions at the time, and the idea that if you change your thinking, then you change your life," Dawn said.

The Abundant Life Center holds services 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Sunday at the Quality Inn Conference Center, 7001 N.E. Highway 99. Services often include special guests, speakers, artists, prayer and community messages, when time is set aside for the congregation to gather in a circle and share any announcements or wishes.

"We're a little different than the way most churches are run," Dawn said, explaining that the center is congregationally led, with no full-time minister. Instead, they have a board that runs the finances and a spiritual leadership team that directs events. But the congregation has the final say.

"We do honor the fact that we call ourselves a community," Dawn said.

The center is small, with a 40 to 45 person community, though it's growing, Dawn said.

"Most of us like having a smaller group," she said. The ideal community for the Abundant Life Center would be 120 people. "They say that's the number you can still know everyone."

The Abundant Life Center will celebrate its 20th anniversary tonight with a concert at Tiger Lily Restaurant and Bar in downtown Vancouver, 1109 Washington St. Acoustic artist Amitabhan, better known as Ami, will perform. Doors open at 6 p.m. The cost is $8 at the door.

For more information, call 360-695-0211 or visit Abundant Life Center.

— Ashley Swanson

Bits 'n' Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. If you have a story you'd like to share, email bits@columbian.com.