Pastor Mark Klingler opened the new doors of WayPoint South for worship September 4 at the former location of Grace Evangelical Presbyterian Church on McEwan Road NW and Key Peninsula Highway NW. Technically it’s Lakebay, but in local hearts it’s Home.
Neighbors noticed the sudden burst of activity at the church throughout August and watched the steady progression of work parties expand and groom the gravel parking lot, freshen landscaping with new plantings and rejuvenate the building’s exterior with a transformational paint job that made the church look sharp. Followed by new signage, it seemed WayPoint South found the home the congregation had prayed for.
“It’s hard to get a building on the peninsula that’s on the highway,” Klingler said. “So, when this came up, we said, ‘We’ll take it.’ ”
The decision to disband the congregation of Grace EPC, while sad, was a practical one. Pastor Ed Longabaugh was set to retire August 31. Several members had moved out of state while others were planning to do the same.
The building, owned by the Assemblies of God, sat dormant for over a year before Grace EPC arrived in 2016. But the goal shared between Longabaugh and Klingler to make a seamless transition without missing a single Sunday church service was a mission accomplished.
“Closing a congregation is hard.” Longabaugh said. “But we’re very pleased that WayPoint South finally has a permanent home. Mark and WayPoint South people were wonderful and respectful to us. I’m pleased that they’ve already gone to two services.”
About five years ago the leadership of WayPoint Church faced a dilemma that other churches may find enviable: more people and families attending services than they could reasonably accommodate without building an addition or constructing a new church altogether.
Klingler said, “One church with two locations offered a way to impact more people with less money by starting something new.”
With its heart for younger families, WayPoint South began its contemporary style music-filled Sunday worship housed at the old Evergreen Elementary School about four years ago. Attendance grew as anticipated until the novel coronavirus struck in March 2020.
Gov. Jay Inslee closed public schools, followed by statewide stay-at-home mandates lasting many weeks. Those actions unleashed a fury from some, who cited the closures as an example of government overreach instead of a legitimate response to the public health crisis that COVID-19 was in those days — well before effective vaccinations became available to those most vulnerable.
“Those six weeks turned into a year and a half,” Klingler said. “Between the pandemic, the school construction and all the regulations, we never went back to Evergreen.”
Without a building, WayPoint South worshipped in an open field for Sunday services. Later that fall, they rented space at the Longbranch Improvement Club until mandatory indoor mask compliance proved too contentious.
When it came to masking, Klinger said he recognized a responsibility to protect people.
“There were times during the pandemic I thought, if there was anything else I could be doing right now, I’d do that,” Klingler said. “I didn’t feel like I was the person to decide that for people. It’s not good for my soul to engage in a fight.”
He said he eventually came to believe that his job as a pastor was to offer them the space to make that decision whether to worship in person, take part online, or attend a fully-masked service at WayPoint North.
“We found we have about 70 people who will follow us anywhere,” Klingler said. “We met in barns, in homes, and for nearly six months in the chapel at Camp Woodworth.”
After moving into their new building, Klingler said he avoids the use of the word permanent and prefers to say they have a stable home.
“Covid really drove home the lesson that nothing is permanent,” he said. “In the book of James it says, ‘What is your life? You are just a mist, here for a little while and then you vanish.’ That was my life during the Covid times, it’s just a mist. It will come and go. I’ve got to be OK with that.
“Even the names, WayPoint and WayPoint South, and all these different groups we create are only temporary,” he said. “Grace EPC came, and it went. …We should be OK with that. Like, it’s not about that name — it’s about the heart of the matter.”
“A waypoint is just a point along the way, on your journey to heaven,” he said.
Editor's note: This article has been ammended to reflect the correct spelling of Pastor Mark Klingler's name. We regret the error and a correction will be published in the December 2022 edition.
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