|Volume 12, Issue 2||
|Groundbreaking at the original site in 1953|
Sunset Presbyterian Church was founded in 1952. The original location was on Wilshire Street, east of what would become the Cedar Hills Shopping Center. At that time, the Cedar Hills neighborhood/subdivision was in the midst of developing. Cedar Hills was the largest single housing tract development in the western United States at the time of its completion in 1961. It was constructed starting in 1946 to satisfy the demand for housing for post-war baby-boom families.
The Portland Presbytery determined the need for a new church in the area, and called Reverend John Ediger to be the pastor. He had recently graduated from a seminary in San Francisco. A 1954 newspaper article says, “In the fall of 1952, four acres at the head of SE Wilshire St., with not only a fine view of the valley, but also a wooded area and a stream, were purchased from Mr. and Mrs. Eastman for $7000.
|A "history wall" depicts important events from the church's earliest days|
The church was organized in December 1952, with 47 charter members, and meetings were held until October of the following year in the Barnes School. In the spring of 1953, with the realization that it would be years before a church such as they envisioned could become a reality, the group planned a smaller chapel in which to worship. Funds necessary to start the project were furnished by pledges from members and aid from the Board of the Oregon Presbytery. Labor was done almost entirely by the members themselves. The first services could be held in the Sunday School of the new structure on the first Sunday in October, 1953. By Christmas, worship services were held in the chapel itself.”
The congregation later received funds in the form of a loan and grant from the National Presbytery board, and construction resumed on the main building. That building is now occupied by a Chinese church.
Pastor of Administration Mike Matousek says, “In August of 1981, Ron Kincaid came to be the new pastor. In 1980 and early 1981, the church had averaged 25 people in attendance. They considered selling the property and disbanding as a church. Pastor Ron felt the church needed a public relations push. He printed a brochure and distributed it to the neighborhood. On Pastor Ron’s very first Sunday, 120 people filled the pews. Since then, the church has been growing steadily, meeting in multiple services on Sunday to accommodate the growing congregation.”
By the mid-90s, the congregation had grown so large that they began to look for a site that could accommodate a bigger campus. They purchased land at the intersection of Cornell Road and the Sunset Highway and began to draw up plans for the church.
Sunset Presbyterian hired Ankrom Moisan architects in 1997 to craft a master plan for the campus and design an interim sanctuary that would house worship services until a larger, permanent sanctuary could be built. The design called for a phased development. The campus is situated on just 15.5 acres, with its buildings surrounded by wetlands, so the permanent structure had to fit within a tight space.
The east wing held the original sanctuary. It is now the gym/multi-purpose area and also includes the childcare area. The offices were built at the same time and weren’t connected to the east wing.
|The Sanctuary seats 1500, and an unfinished balcony can seat an additional 1000 people when it becomes necessary to expand|
In 2005, the current large Sanctuary was completed. A 2004 article in Northwest Construction notes, “Along with a larger worship space, the inclusion of a state-of-the-art production system within the sanctuary is yet another design element that signals a growing trend among churches. ‘There's a huge focus on the theatrical component—the lighting and acoustical systems in contemporary worship spaces—that wasn't there even a decade ago,’ [architect Jim] Smith said.”
Many organizations rent the church’s facilities throughout the year—some on a regular basis, and some for large yearly events. The Beaverton School District takes advantage of the high-end audio-visual setup to hold the “Signal to Noise” celebration of student-produced video each spring, for example. Nearby Columbia Sportswear holds major sales meetings and other events there. Columbia also uses a section of the parking lot on weekdays for a park-and-ride for its employees. The Red Cross has a blood drive in the gym every Monday. A Spanish language church, La Iglesia de Cristo "Llamados a conquistar," also meets in the church.
“We would love to see more musical and theatrical productions here,” Matousek says. “Our rates are affordable and we have good availability for groups who schedule in advance.” He invites anyone looking for space for events to contact them.
“We incorporate music into both of our services,” Matousek says. “We have our own small orchestra, and a choir of 40-50 members. The first service at 9 am is a little more traditional, with upbeat music and hymns. The 11 am service has more contemporary music and attracts a younger crowd in general.” Both services include a sermon, sacraments (baptisms, confirmations), scripture readings, and sharing of stories.
|In addition to making people feel closer to speakers on the stage, the video screens are helpful for the hearing-impaired who can lip-read|
“We started using video to help people share their stories,” he explains. “It is pretty scary for most people to get up in front of a roomful of people and talk. But by videotaping people in a conversation with the pastor or another member, we’re able to make them more comfortable and they can share their experience with the congregation.”
They also use the video system during the sermons. In addition to making people feel closer to speakers on the stage, it is helpful for the hearing-impaired who can lip-read. And during the second service, several profoundly deaf members have their own signers to help them. Matousek says, “I understand that we are the only Westside church to have special worship for friends with developmental disabilities and signing for the hearing impaired.”
Matousek notes, “Our new pastor, Dr. Jason Curtis, who came from Edinburg, Scotland, has introduced a new worship time during the week especially for shop owners and business folks who are unable to worship on Sundays. We call it Last Wednesday since it meets on the very last Wednesday of each month. It offers an informal light lunch at 11:45 am. Worship begins promptly at 12:15 pm and is completed by 12:45, respecting the business lunch time. Again everyone is welcome, even if Sunset isn’t their church home.
|A volunteer prepares food in the main kitchen|
In addition to the Sanctuary, facilities include a good-size commercial kitchen located just off the gym area. Trained and certified volunteers are responsible for food service for non-catered events. Currently it is used mostly for catered events such as weddings and funerals. They don’t rent the kitchen for commercial food production because of liability issues, however.
There’s a lot more to Sunset Presbyterian than the actual church services. Matousek says, “Sunset cares for the community we have been called to serve. That’s why we open our doors to invite everyone to attend classes such as DivorceCare, ESL, Cancer Support Group, Alpha, Finance Education (Good Sen$e), GPS Singles, High School, Middle School, Supper Groups, 55+ Seniors, and Bible Studies on Tuesday and Thursday mornings and Wednesday evenings. We are simply a church where everyone is welcome.” Information about these groups and programs is available on the church’s website at sunsetpres.org.
They also focus the attention of their congregation on helping the community. Matousek notes, “For the past eleven years we have served the community at Christmas with our Food & Toy program. We adopted over 600 families this year to make their Christmas something special. The blessing of the program works for the receiver and giver.
“Each spring, we share one of our Sundays in service to our community. Last spring we partnered with two schools, Cedar Park and William Walker. Over 800 of our congregation descended on these schools and accomplished several projects during the day. We were inspired by the connection of the teachers and parents who came to help. We call this day of service Engage.” A few years ago, the group completed several projects at Sunset High, including renovating the quad. It had become an unattractive and neglected space, and is now a welcoming spot for students to gather outside. They have decided to focus on the two elementary schools for the next several years.
Matousek continues, “Helping Hands is our community pantry and clothing outlet. It’s staffed by volunteers from our congregation who help those in need. The ministry grew from a small storeroom outlet to a stand alone 80’ by 40’ facility, distributing hundreds of pounds of donated food each week.”
The church sponsors occasional “Family Movie Nights” —dinner and a movie for families, serving pizza and showing family-friendly movies in the gym, which is equipped with a large projection screen.
|The sunny childcare wing has toys and spaces for children of all ages|
One wing of the building holds the child care area. Parents check their kids in with a high-tech ID system to ensure their security. The rooms are set up to provide activities and space for kids from infants to young teens. The programs are available on Sundays during worship services, and also on Tuesdays and Thursdays for Bible study groups. Matousek says that there are occasions when middle-school-age children attend the main service, and most high-school-age youth choose to join their parents in the sanctuary services. The church doesn’t currently offer regular daycare or preschool during the week but they are considering that for the future.
Such a large church with such a broad array of programs necessitates a large staff. Matousek explains, “We have over 100 ministries that are lead mostly by lay leaders. There are over 30 paid staff supporting the various ministries. Our church is unique in that we have two lead pastors. Dr. Jason Curtis, Lead Pastor of Spiritual Formation, and me, Lead Pastor of Administration. All the staff report to me, and Pastor Curtis and I share the role of leading our congregation. I deliver the sermon about once every six weeks, while Pastor Curtis does it the rest of the time. We work together to develop a thrust for each season in terms of messages and bible stories.”
Pastor Matousek came to Sunset Presbyterian in 2008 from the small town of Antigo, in northern Wisconsin, where he was the mayor and also ran a large Christian camp. He grew up in Chicago, and studied at Wheaton College, Northern Illinois University, and received a Master of Divinity degree from Bethel University. Rick Anderson, Communications Coordinator for the church, says, “Mike is loved by staff and congregation. He's perfectly matched for his position here.” He lives in nearby Oak Hills with his wife Christina and their three young children.
Other staff in the main office include Jay McKenney, Worship & Creative Arts Minister, Dr. Barbara Feil, Minister to Adults, Rev. Ken Mulder, Local Outreach Minister, and Ake Lundberg, Minister to Seniors and Pastoral Care. More information about the staff and programs is on the website: sunsetpres.org.
Sunset Presbyterian is located at 14986 NW Cornell, on the south side of Cornell just before it crosses the Sunset Highway. The main phone number is 503-292-9293.
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PO Box 91061
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