When the wife of the pastor at the church on the northern border of Multnomah Village was 10 years old and living in Southern California, she knew with the conviction that comes to some through prayer that eventually she would live in Portland.
Audra Mahoney will begin her third year here this December with her husband, Riversgate Church Pastor Andy Mahoney, her 12-year-old son Samuel and 10-year-old twins, Emaline and Elliott.
"We had been wanting to live in a bigger town," said the pastor, whose last Foursquare church was on Whidbey Island northwest of Seattle, where he was born and raised. Mahoney never doubted his wife's premonition.
"Even as a young girl, my wife felt that she would someday live in Portland. So Portland was always in our hearts. We'll be here a while. Quite a while," he said.
Riversgate Church has only been located in the century-old building at 7634 S.W. Capitol Highway for five years. The building, once home to a warehouse, has been completely restored and besides being a church, is used for meetings of local nonprofits like Meals on Wheels People. Office space is leased to the foreman of the Multnomah Station apartment construction project across the street.
"One of the things we love about this building and why we're excited to have it is that we knew we would leverage this resource for the good of the community," Mahoney said.
Before the northern part of the building on the corner of Southwest Troy and Southwest Capitol Highway was converted to the church it is today, members of Riversgate Church, who had come over from Beaverton Foursquare Church, met on Sundays in the Multnomah Arts Center across the street. One of them was Carl Cadonau III of the Alpenrose dairy operation. He is no longer a member of Riversgate,
Pastor Mahoney says there are currently 175 "working, active" members of Riversgate Church and at least 150 of them show up for services every Sunday. Those services include songs, readings from Scripture, a sermon and Sunday school classes for the children. He's expecting up to 300 worshippers on the Sunday before Christmas and at Christmas Eve services.
Riversgate Church is no mega-church even though it is affiliated with the Foursquare Church, which was founded in the 1920s in Los Angeles and counts many mega-churches among its 90,000 churches in 146 nations. Angelus Temple, where it all started with a woman named Aimee Semple McPherson, is considered one of America's first mega-churches. There are currently 100 Foursquare churches in Oregon, with 30 in the Portland area.
Foursquare founder, McPherson, achieved unheard-of celebrity status as an Evangelical preacher and radio station owner when that medium was very young. Mahoney said, "She did a lot of good and she had a bit of controversy surrounding her life. She had such a huge footprint in those days. It is said you could walk down the street in Los Angeles and hear her preaching on the radio through open windows.
"She was quite a character," said Mahoney, who has listened to recordings of McPherson's sermons. "Larger than life. There's some reverence for her but there's also a sense of, 'That's kind of like our crazy grandma,' you know?"
Mahoney's not looking to be the next pastor of a mega-church but says new people moving to the neighborhood would be "wonderful." He's aware, though, that not everyone welcomes what the apartment development across the street represents: higher density.
"I understand and recognize the pain of people who have been here a long time who have watched the city encroach on the neighborhood," he said. "At the same time, as someone who moved into the neighborhood three years ago and been welcomed, we welcome the presence of more people and would love some of the people moving into the apartments to land over here."
The large Jewish population in Southwest Portland is something he was aware of before accepting his assignment.
"That's one of the things that excited me," Mahoney said. "I've always been passionate about interfaith dialog. Just last week, I attended the Building Bridges event at the Muslim Educational Trust Center. It was led by Christians, Muslims and Jewish people working together for the common good to confront hate."
For him, Mahoney said, interfaith dialog is all about, "Discovering common ground through conversation without compromising convictions."
Coexistence, in other words.
"One of the things I love about Foursquare is what's engraved on the cornerstone of that first church in Los Angeles: 'Dedicated to worldwide interdenominational evangelism,'" he said. "Foursquare has always traditionally played well with others. It has not been the sort of denomination that says, 'We are the ones that have the monopoly on the truth.'"
Asked what millennials are looking for in a church experience these days, Mahoney said, "I would say you should ask a millennial. I'm 39 and in no-man's land. Am I Generation X or Y or what? I was raised by baby boomers but I'm older than millennials. I think what I desire is reflected in millennial's desires. Authenticity, honesty, community, transparency and the ability to ask any questions, to know that nothing's off limits.
"More than anything," the pastor added, "millennials desire relationships. This is the first generation with the internet. Millennials are finding that being connected to everyone at the same time is not a true connection."
Services at Riversgate Church, 7634 S.W. Capitol Highway are held every Sunday at 10 a.m. and last until about 11:15 a.m. Visit www.riversgate.net for more information.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.