Despite ups and downs, Spirit of Life survives

The Spirit of Life Lutheran Church was built in 1993 and has served the Olalla and South Kitsap communities for 20 years. - Dannie Oliveaux/Staff Photo
The Spirit of Life Lutheran Church was built in 1993 and has served the Olalla and South Kitsap communities for 20 years.
— image credit: Dannie Oliveaux/Staff Photo

The Spirit of Life Lutheran Church has been a staple in the Olalla community since 1993. But like many churches, it has had its “ups and downs,” but the church members remain faithful and supportive.

On Sunday, Aug. 11, the church’s congregation will celebrate their 20-year anniversary with a special celebration worship service at 11 a.m., followed by a barbecue dinner at 12:30 p.m.

The church, located at the corner of Mullenix and Phillips Road, began under George Larson, the former pastor.

Larson, who pastored the church from 1991 until he retired in April 2006, said he named of the church after he asked his congregation to submit name ideas for the new church.

“Spirit of Life just came to the top,” he said.

Marvin Lutz, 67, a charter member, attended the church’s first service at Mullenix Elementary School after moving to South Kitsap from California.

He went to work at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and bought property in South Kitsap.

“I heard they were starting a new church here and we gave it a try,” Lutz said. “It fit like a glove.”

Lutz also was chairman of the church’s first Building Committee that helped to raise money for a church building. The building was completed in October 1993 with help from a church member who was a contractor.

Lutz said the church paid him $1 and the church borrowed money from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America Synod.

The bottom level of the church was constructed in 1996. The sanctuary also serves as part of the daycare.

“The church was designed to be multi-purpose,” said Pastor Sarah Roemer, who has been ministering at the church since December 2010.

Roemer, who said her congregation is between 60 and 65 people, is a mixture of people of different ages.

“We’re a congregation in the process of redeveloping,” Roemer said. “We are trying to renew ourselves. We are a congregation that is engaging in transformation and renewal.”

Viola Baskett, 87, said she started attending the church after she and her husband saw a newspaper ad about a new church starting and that the church needed a bulldozer.

“My husband had big toys and a bulldozer,” Baskett said. “I told him we have to check out the church because they need a bulldozer. That’s how we started coming. We never left.”

Baskett said when she started attending Spirit of Life it was like a new beginning.

She attended larger church in Parkland and was “burned out” before coming to Spirit of Life.

“I’ve always been a church-goer and I had to go to church,” said Baskett, who has live in South Kitsap for 23 years.”

Joann Smith, who worked for the U.S. Navy in San Diego and Guam, and her husband returned home to South Kitsap and met a man selling Christmas trees at the church. He invited them to come inside and see the church.

“The next Sunday we came here,” Smith said. “And all my old friends were here.”

Janet Hane, 74, said the daycare was started before the building.

Hane, a life-long Lutheran, started attending Spirit of Life in 1996 after she transfered from First Lutheran Church.

Greg Coste, 58, one of the churches newest members, said he was a lost soul before coming to the church in 2010.

“I found my way here to give something back,” said Coste, a former Catholic who also works at the church’s food bank, which is open on Saturdays.

Baskett and Smith said they feel the word “family” describes the church, while Lutz said it is a “giving” church.

Hane said the church is a beacon of light showing Jesus Christ’s love to the community.

“After 20 years, we’re still here and it’s been a struggle,” Hane said.

Roemer feels that “praxis” best describes the church today.

“It’s that place here you faith becomes your action,” Roemer said. “This church has a practice of praxis. It’s unlike any church I’ve ever encountered. It is always going and always doing. It’s always trusting in the midst of all those actions because of faith and not about themselves or ourselves, but about the world around them.”

Lutz said the church means a lot to the community, including giving away food baskets during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

“With the size of our congregation, more than every household gave a basket during the holidays,” Roemer said.

The church also has a full-time daycare for ages up to 12 years old.

Lutz said the idea of the daycare and food bank was not to attract members, but the serve people in the community.

“That’s the main purpose of Spirt of Life is to serve the community,” he added.

Roemer said it has not been an easy road for the church’s congregation.

“We’re always working hard and sometimes it hard to maintain a budget at time,” Roemer said. “There has been some really big dreams here that have died, but the people continue to be faithful because God will provide.”


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