150 years of worship, 150 chances to serve

Congregation plans to celebrate anniversary with gifts of community

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter



Another anniversary

Highland Lutheran Church in La Center will celebrate its 130th anniversary with a picnic potluck, 11 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 22, at the church, 38809 N.E. 41st Ave.

The church was founded by 11 Scandinavian and four German families who took turns using the church because of language differences.

Weddings, funerals and selective church services are still conducted in the original church, but a new chapel and classrooms were built on adjacent land in 1959. Additional classrooms were built in 1968.

The Sept. 22 picnic will follow a 10 a.m. outdoor worship service. The public is welcome.

If you go

What: Brush Prairie Baptist Church 150th anniversary celebration.

How: Two church services, community picnic.

When: 8:30 and 10:30 a.m. Sunday; the picnic will follow the second service.

Where: 11814 N.E. 117th Ave.

Members of Brush Prairie Baptist Church will celebrate its 150th anniversary this weekend with a community picnic, but it will also commemorate the milestone by finding 150 ways to serve the community in the next year, said Pastor Bob Carlson.

"Our anniversary, in fact, is really more than just a celebration of the church's history — it's a celebration of the greater Brush Prairie community," Carlson said.

The church will have two services, at 8:30 and 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, with special guest Andrew Palau, the son of Luis Palau, a Portland-based and world renowned evangelist. The picnic, catered by Hula Boy Charbroil, will follow the second service and feature music from radio personality Georgene Rice and games.

Several pastors from the past 40 years will attend, Carlson said.

He said the founding pastor, John Clark, was also the local schoolmaster and postal carrier, and he traveled the area preaching while he delivered mail and supplies.

That principle remains the same today, Carlson said.

"A church body should be actively engaged and serving the needs of its community in ways that make that community a better place to live, grow and see God in real-life ways," Carlson said.

As an example, Prairie High School was built next to the church, and longtime members have been able to see generation after generation go through the school, said Carlson, who has been with the church for eight years. The church provides after-school activities for Falcons at a student center, and has had a lunch to welcome students in the fall since 1980.

The church founders weren't just building a church, Carlson said. They were building a community, and helping community members "has been part of the church's DNA," he said.

150 years

The church was founded on Aug. 1, 1863, by a group of six pioneers: John and Elizabeth Clark, E.M. and Mary Hall, Phoebe Clark and Lydia Clark. The original name was Salmon Creek Baptist, but the name was changed to Brush Prairie Baptist in 1877, according to church member Nancy Stout.

The articles of incorporation were filed with the state and county in 1894.

Electric lights were installed in the church in 1923, and in 1952 a new church was built to replace the original, Stout said. The current church sanctuary was dedicated in 1972, and the previous sanctuary was turned into Sunday School classrooms and a gymnasium.

Carlson said he has been told that the church has the longest continuing Sunday School program west of the Mississippi River.

"I don't know how a person would ever validate that, but regardless, the fact that we've been a part of the community for that long means a lot to us."

Members of the Brush Prairie church went on to start Felida, Battle Ground and Laurelwood Baptist churches, he said.

Close-knit family

Eileen Qutub, a former legislative candidate who serves on Clark County's planning commission, grew up in the church because her father served as a pastor twice, first from 1959 to '66 and then from 1968 to '73.

"It was a family, like I see it now," Qutub said. "The youth group I was in, we still have some reunions. That's how close-knit we were."

Qutub recently moved, and a dozen church members showed up to help.

"It was so wonderful, I feel so cared for," Qutub said.

Carlson said it won't be difficult to meet the goal of finding 150 ways to serve members of the community.

The men's ministry does a "summer of service," he said. Once a week they'll surprise someone, who had been suggested by a church member as being in need, by doing a home or yard project.

He said they are planning on doing a car-care clinic for single mothers and widows, and members of the women's ministry would like to have free craft nights, where people could come and learn to crochet or sew or do canning.

"It's just reaching out in that way and bringing women together to learn," Carlson said."We don't want to be the church of anonymity. We want to be a church where people can know one another," he said. "It's easy to get lost, and not be known by anyone else."

Stephanie Rice: 360-735-4508 or stephanie.rice@columbian.com