Dodge church builds community after wildfires
In the aftermath of the Riverside Fire, one thought that stands out in Tony Skoien's mind is that a church is defined by its people, rather than the building they occupy.
Skoien is a deacon at Dodge Community Church — one of the buildings that was lost in the 138,000 acre fire near Estacada last month.
"We lost our building, but it's just a building. We can't cling to monuments. People are what's important," said Skoien, who's been a member of Dodge Community Church since 1978.
The church at 27272 S. Hillockburn Road was built in 1947, and between 15-20 people are parishioners.
Each member of the congregation plays a variety of roles at Dodge Community Church and assists with everything from worship to keeping the space warm. In the past, the church has held parties to chop firewood to be used in the furnace.
Skoien also wears multiple hats.
"A few years after we joined, I was approached about being a deacon. There was no reason to keep me from doing it," he said, adding that he also assists with music at the church. "There's something special about people getting together and singing the great hymns."
Skoien and other members of the Dodge Community Church are viewing the Riverside Fire as an opportunity to connect with their fellow community members.
"We're reaching out to our neighbors, finding out what their needs are and seeing if we can help," he said. "The building can come later. Helping people is our priority."
Skoien noted that when they begin preparing to rebuild the building, they may take additional steps to ensure that it's a welcoming space for all community members.
The church has received support from their neighbors, as well. Rebecca Kaihani, owner of the nearby Hillockburn Farm, offered to let the congregation use space on the farm to gather during this time.
"It's wonderful of them to open up their facility. God is moving in the hearts of people," Skoien said. "When all is said and done, we want to be a part of that."
This sort of hospitality is nothing new for the Dodge area. When Skoien and his wife, Wanda, first moved to the neighborhood, a group of women from the church brought them a welcome basket and invited their sons to Sunday school.
Skoien believes the wildfire reinvigorated the possibilities for neighbors supporting one another.
"It was neat to see the community helping with the fire, and defending the area," he said.
"We will rebuild, but right now the most important thing is reaching out to the community."
Skoien is appreciative of the opportunity to connect with other people.
"It's a tragedy, but it's almost a breath of fresh air because it's bringing people together. That's the most encouraging part," he said. "So many people have called, who had ties to the church years ago. They really want to give their support. It's quite a ripple effect."
Skoien looks forward to finding additional community benefits during this difficult time.
"Through this, I believe positives will come out. We're going to be stronger together," he said. "The people are our church. The building is just a place where we gather."
Support Dodge Community Church
Donations for Dodge Community Church can be mailed to 27272 S. Hillockburn Road, Estacada, 97023.
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