Seven years and $800,000 in donations later, Weed Berean Church moves into new building
When Pastor Bill Hofer prepares his weekly sermon at the Berean Church in Weed, he often tries to find something relevant to connect religion with current affairs. He could also preach about fire sprinkler systems, carpet squares and conduit.
That is because after seven years and $800,000 – all of its raised through individual donations – the church held an open house on Aug. 22 in its sparkling new 11,000 square-foot building on Highway 97. While many of the finishing touches are still in progress, such as air conditioning and landscaping, Hofer said the sense of accomplishment is felt throughout the 180-member congregation.
“The good news is it took us a long time and we are debt free,” he said. “The bad news is, as it took time, the price rose incrementally at first and then exponentially after that.”
Hofer, who grew up in McCloud and is also where he met his wife, Julie, said the past seven years have not been easy. There was the Boles fire where 33 families who were members of the church lost their homes. Then there was COVID-19, which shut things down for almost a year.
And while Hofer calls the shots from the pulpit, that authority pretty much ends at the doors to the new kitchen where it is a little bit like Noah’s Ark inside: there are two stoves, two dishwashers, two water heaters and an island with two sinks. He said the ladies who run the kitchen are “tickled pink” but there are some immediate ground rules.
“They won’t let us in here,” he laughs. “It would probably get all messed up if they did.”
'Blessed are the peacemakers'
A brand-new church and a growing congregation are somewhat of an anomaly in modern times. Several houses of worship have closed in southern Siskiyou County in recent years as their membership declined to unsustainable levels. Even the Berean Church is not immune. They lost their organist to old age.
“We are preaching the same message that we have done for 50 or 60 years and I think it attracted some people,” he said. “But there have been a number of scandals (at other churches nationwide) and millennials are reluctant to commit to an entity like a church or an institution. So, it’s an uphill battle to reach the next generation. But we are trying.”
One way to do that is to show how religion can play an important role in a world when there is so much that divides people, Hofer said. Politics and other issues are left at the door when the congregation enters.
“Jesus said blessed are the peacemakers and I think his spirit is living inside of us,” he said. “We not only have an obligation but we have empowerment to accept people regardless of their views on things.”
'We do a heck of a lot of singing'
While the Berean Church teaches a somewhat traditional interpretation of the Bible there are some untraditional components to the front of the main congregation hall. There are no religious symbols on the walls yet as construction is still in progress but there is a drum set. A piano, too.
Modern audio visual equipment mounted from the ceiling projects images onto reflective paint on the wall specially designed for pixels. A nursery comes complete with rocking chairs. There is a flat screen but no Harry Potter videos.
“We do a heck of a lot of singing,” he said. “We have some gifted musicians and we use them as much as we can.”
In the future, Hofer said he is looking forward to the new church’s first baptism. He is also grateful to all the local contractors who donated their time at cost. And while the building still has that new carpet smell, Hofer said a special effort was made to preserve items from the old church. Two of the original pews adorn the front entrance. The cross will eventually be brought over as well.
Other parts of his job remain unchanged though. Perhaps the most challenging is consoling parishioners in times of grief, which was the case at a recent memorial service. The burden is not always easy to bear.
“I found myself tearing up and getting over emotional,” he said. “I just try to remind myself about God and his purpose.”