On a beautiful August Sunday, a group of Key Peninsula residents celebrated the 90th birthday of Lakebay Community Church with cake and ice cream and a hearty chorus of “Happy Birthday to Us.”
The church began as a Sunday school class in the old Lakebay schoolhouse in 1913, according to Pastor Dan Whitmarsh.
In 1924, members bought the property and officially chartered as a church on Aug. 16, 1924.
For this year’s birthday celebration, the church’s fellowship hall was festooned with birthday decorations and displays of photos and documents from bygone days.
A couple of visitors even showed up with armloads of fresh flowers that had been used at a local wedding the day before.
“They just wanted to say congratulations and that anybody who wanted some flowers was welcome to take some home with them,” said Whitmarsh. “It was a fun way of seeing how the church and the larger community intersect.”
Long-time church members reminisced and extended the hand of fellowship to newcomers.
“We have some people who’ve been with us for 30, 40, 50 years,” Whitmarsh said.
Rebecca Hatch Robert is one of the “old-timers.” She first attended the church in 1952.
“This community has changed so much in 90 years, but Lakebay Community Church is still at its center,” Robert said.
“LCC has been a constant welcoming place in my life where I have made friends, raised my daughter, accompanied my mother through her final years, learned leadership and humility, all because Jesus and the people of this church loved me first,” she said.
Many of the picnickers enjoyed reminiscing about the old-time items that were on display.
“It was interesting to look at all the old photos; it brought back memories to long-time members and filled out the story for the newer people,” parishioner Jo Hamilton said.
For church member Ron James, 90 years is “a demonstration of God’s faithfulness.”
James recalled that there have been ups and downs in the church’s history, “but every step along the way God has met this church and led us along,” he said.
Pastor Whitmarsh agreed. “There were periods of time when the church couldn’t afford a pastor and they actually shut down for a while,” he said. “And then they saw growth as the Peninsula saw growth.”
He added that the church is even more community-minded today than it was in the past.
“We’re much more concerned about being involved in the larger community and being here to help out and being servants in the community,” he said.
“We’ll go clean up peoples’ yards and we’ve adopted part of the road to clean up trash.”
Church members recently spent a day at Blue Willow Lavender Farm weeding and mowing lawns “and doing what we could to help them out with all the stuff they’ve been through. We try to stay aware of needs,” Whitmarsh said.
Monday evenings, a youth group gets together at the church. On Wednesdays the church hosts a food bank and every Thursday there’s a meet and mingle gathering.
“We’re proud to have been a part of this community for 90 years and we cherish the role that we’ve been able to play. We’re excited to look back in the history and see the names like when Dr. Penrose used to come here.” Whitmarsh said.
“But at the same time we’re trying to move ahead and be a healthy, vibrant community of people who are still proud to call this place home and want to make a difference for the good in this place. We’re not just resting on the past. We’re seeking ways to be a blessing to this community in the future.”
For information visit lakebaycovenant.net or call (253) 884-3899.
UNDERWRITTEN BY NEWSMATCH/MIAMI FOUNDATION, THE ANGEL GUILD, ROTARY CLUB OF GIG HARBOR, ADVERTISERS, DONORS AND PEOPLE WHO SUPPORT LOCAL, INDEPENDENT NONPROFIT NEWS