Community church celebrates 50 years

  • Sun Jul 22nd, 2018 1:30am
  • Life

The following was submitted by Orcas Island Community Church.

You’re invited to come celebrate a jubilee weekend with us at Orcas Island Community Church this July.

All members, attendees and friends, both past and present, are invited to join as we celebrate God’s goodness to our community over the past 50 years. We’ll enjoy worship led by Jeff Johnson, hear insights from Dr. Jerry Root, and participate in a gospel choir experience led by Dr. Stephen Newby.

The community church was originally planted in 1894, but the current steepled building on the corner of Rose Street was built from 1963 to 1967 – by a community of islanders.

“It was a large community effort to build it,” remembers John Willis. Much of the lumber was donated by residents after the 1962 Columbus Day windstorm wreaked havoc across the island.

“People from all over the island helped build the church, even if they weren’t part of the church,” explains Harriet (Ballinger) Miller, who moved to Orcas in January 1967 to start Island Hardware, while church construction was going full steam.

“Grandpa did a lot of work on the church,” shared Linda Cameron, who was 11 at the time. “The day of the pour, the foundation, was a big deal – start at dawn and end at dark. That was before cement trucks here on the island.” Many island residents stopped by to cheer the concrete crews on with coffee, rolls, dishes and desserts.

According to island historian Dave Richardson in his book, “This is our story,” Irene O’Neill’s father, Jack Barfoot of Olga, amazed fellow volunteers as he swiftly hammered planks to form the new church’s wooden floor – with only one arm.

Miller remembers that at the dedication, the congregation carried their hymnbooks and sang as they walked together from the old church location, where Brown Bear Bakery stands today, to the new building.

“It was exciting walking over to the new church,” remembers Linda Griffith, who was in high school at the time.

Miller added, “I do remember walking … past the old gas station, walking down the street singing and thinking, people are going to think I’m weird.’ Now, as an adult looking back, I think, “What a cool thing they did, publicly proclaiming, ‘This is what God did for us.’”

Now, just over 50 years later, members of the community church are remembering with gratitude.

“We’ve been celebrating a year of Jubilee,” says Moss. “We will give thanks to God for 50-plus years of worship within this church building, and for Dick Staub’s 10-plus years of pastoral ministry with us. We want to invite people to come back and be a part of it that weekend.”

The celebration will include worship with Jeff Johnson and lectures by Dr. Jerry Root, with a gospel choir rehearsal and concert directed by composer/conductor Dr. Stephen Newby. For more information, go to

To join the gospel choir, email For the potluck, email to let us know what dish you’re bringing.