In 2016 Lummi Island Congregational Church, built by Islanders in 1909, experienced significant septic drainage issues, necessitating major kitchen repairs to our hundred-year-old building. A special “Kitchen Task Force” was commissioned to study needs and solutions, visiting other churches and facilities in the region. The Task Force then worked with design engineers to determine what was possible. At the same time this research was in progress, the Whatcom County Fire Marshal visited the island and inspected various public buildings. The church’s occupancy rating was determined to be a maximum of 49 people on each level, and use of the church kitchen was severely limited.
This historic building was and is used for events sponsored by the church, such as Elderberries, Yoga, and monthly Parish Dinners; while other organizations, such as Civic Club and AA, also gathered in the facility. Having adequate space and a kitchen that meets health codes, is important – not just to the church but to this community. Options that were considered to remediate the issues included a ramp (which would have to wrap completely around the building); lowering the sanctuary/second floor, lifts and elevators, and expanding the rear addition. Everything we explored seemed to impact the structural integrity and historical nature of the building and not meet increasingly stringent health and building codes. The congregation ultimately concluded that the best solution was to build a new gathering hall, using existing church land and seed money (the “Conrad Fund”) which had been raised several years earlier to fund capital improvements.
We decided to take the project to the community and launched a campaign to raise funds for the new building, officially now titled “The Gathering Place”. In 2017 a public capital campaign was unveiled to raise $1.3 million, which at the time was the best estimate of costs to build. By June of 2018, Lummi Islanders, friends, and neighbors had pulled together and the funds were raised! We then began the official process; finalizing building plans, applying for permits, securing a General Contractor. Because this project marks the first commercial building construction on Lummi Island under county building codes, the permitting process was far more arduous and drawn out than anything Lummi Island had previously experienced. But finally, on March 23, 2020, all permits had been issued and construction could begin! Mark Sexton has been chosen as the General Contractor for the project, and as of May 1, 2020, sub-contractors and various contracts are in process of being solicited and secured. Watch this site for future updates on completion estimates and project progress.
The Gathering Place
The new building will have capacity for 200 people and will have a fully commercial kitchen – the only one on Lummi Island! It will be situated to the west of the church building, at the south end of the current church parking lot. This space will be available to all in the community, for secular as well as church-sponsored events. The design includes a separate office space which could be used for other community purposes – perhaps as a health or medical facility. To meet fire suppression sprinkler requirements, a water reservoir and pump house will also be built.
A fund will be created for future maintenance of the new facility to ensure The Gathering Place serves the Island community long into the future.
The Gathering Place will be administered by an Advisory Board consisting of a minimum of seven members and a maximum of nine members; with a simple majority of its membership to be comprised of non-LICC affiliated Islanders. The Board is responsible for developing guidelines and evaluating effective plans for ongoing scheduling, maintenance, and operations management for The Gathering Place. Members of the board will be selected with assistance from other community organizations as the building nears completion.