Two churches, one steeple
Two churches are coming together under one roof in East Multnomah County.
River of Life Lutheran Church is ditching a spot inside Cherry Park Market Center — 2477 S.W. Cherry Park Road in Troutdale — in favor of new digs just down the road.
The faithful will now co-locate within Cherry Park Presbyterian Church, located at 348 S.W. Cherry Park Road, also in Troutdale.
"We're really thrilled to be here and have more facilities for our programming at significantly less cost," explained the Rev. Dr. Norman Metzler, a retired professor of theology at Concordia University who began shepherding the Lutheran congregation in May.
"Rather than always complaining and fighting the cultural realities, instead we want to reach out and emphasize the commonality we have in the Gospel," he continued. "It's not a merger. It's a partnership."
Starting Sunday, Jan. 7, the Lutherans will meet for services at 9 a.m., while the Presbyterians will get to sleep in until 11 a.m. A regular coffee hour is planned between services, so the new combined flock of about 100 can get to know one another.
Attendance at houses of worship peaked nationwide in the mid-1950s, but the number of empty pews has grown at an especially rapid clip over the past two decades, according to reports by Pew Research Center.
For River of Life Lutheran, that meant a greying congregation that could no longer pay the rent at the Troutdale shopping center anchored by Safeway. Cherry Park Presbyterian hasn't been immune to the trend either, noted Rev. Thomas Young.
"This was one of the first churches in this community," Young said. "(To have) it shut down, and somebody will buy it and it'll be apartments — what a shame that would be for the tradition this church has been and how many lives it has touched in this community."
Cherry Park Presbyterian will continue to host an exercise class from 10:30-11:30 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Rev. Metzler's bible study class that features a free brown-bag lunch will occur on Thursdays immediately following the exercise class.
Little Fishes Pre-School, a Lutheran project founded in 2004, will meet at the new center on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon. Cherry Park also hosts a hispanic ministry — El Señor es mi Pastor Iglesia Cristiana — which meets on Saturdays from 7-10 p.m.
"Our church should be used 24/7 ... and this will give us new energy," praised Pastor Young, who has served the church since 2000. "We have a lot in common and we worship the same Lord. That's been a pleasant surprise for me."
River of Life was founded by members of the Lutheran community in 2000, while Cherry Park Presbyterian's roots trace back 93 years to a meeting spot in downtown Troutdale. The congregation has gathered under its current steeple since the 1950s.