OCEAN PARK — When Don Mower took over as lead pastor of Family Worship Center in July, he and wife, Brenda, were welcomed with open arms by the congregation. He didn’t expect the transition to be so smooth, but it was and the Mower family has fit right in.
And with them, Don and Brenda brought energy, ideas and their strong philosophy about what a church should be. From his FWC office recently, Don explained, “The way my wife and I approach the ministry is community-oriented. When you think about the old churches back in the day, the church was the community and the community was the church. As a nation, we’ve kind of gotten away from that.”
He feels that around the 1950s, focus was turned more towards a mega church model. “They got away from the community aspect of what the church was supposed to be.”
At Family Worship Center, the Mowers want to bring back the old way and involve the community.
For 30 years, the church has been right there off the beaten path on Ridge Ave. at 264th Pl., but isn’t well known on the Peninsula — yet. There is no sign out on Bay Avenue directing people north to FWC. But one of the Mowers’ first projects shortly after arrival, was a huge multi-day rummage sale in August, where yard-salers came by the droves to shop. Some had never known the church was there.
A line on the top of Don’s business cards reads, “Building Faith, Building Hope and Serving with Love.” Add to that the plans to involve and serve the community and that becomes the whole package.
Don said, “We just started a thing called Men’s Mondays, where we get together as men and watch the Monday Night Football game. That’s once a month. We have food and watch the game.”
His eyes widened when he explained what happened “the last time.” While the food was being prepared, the outside cookers “got too hot” and started sending out smoke. And who showed up to check it out? “The Fire Department,” Don said.
“We’re going to do a family movie night,” Don said. “We’re talking about doing this once a month or once a quarter.” This will be open to the community, and entire families can come.
When asked who will pick the movies, Don and Brenda looked at each other and laughed. Apparently, they’ve discussed some options. Don said that first, they will consider what will be appropriate in a family setting. Brenda added, “Then, we ask our kids.”
The oldest is Rachel, 11, who attends middle school in Ilwaco. Her younger brother, Ezra, is four and seems to enjoy dressing in Spiderman-themed duds.
As a safe alternative to neighborhood trick or treating, the Mowers are opening the church from 6 to 8 pm, Monday, Oct. 31, for their Fall Fest celebration. Open to all community families, Don said, “There will be cake walks, games and candy.”
Right up the street from the fire station, where there will also be Halloween activities, this gives area kids two places to go and stay safe. And regardless of weather situations, it’s all indoors and can’t be called because of rain.
Plans are in the works for a candlelight service on Christmas Eve and it’s a sure bet there will also be lots of music. Brenda said, “We’re going to have some friends down — friends that have been working with me on music for a while.”
Brenda is also a credentialed minister. “I received my masters in counseling and interned with Highline Public Schools but my background has always been in music. I was then offered a position at Christian Faith School as their Director of Fine Arts and taught Music and Spanish. I also filled in with counseling when it was needed.”
She is a skilled vocalist who grew up surrounded by her musical family in Albuquerque, NM. They are all from Guatemala. She was the only one born in Albuquerque. “Music is something that I’ve done with them forever,” she said. “It kind of runs in my family.”
Don added, “Brenda’s brother is a world class classical guitarist.”
Genetics are at work with Don and Brenda’s daughter, Rachel, who not only plays piano at some of their services, but also plays guitar. She started piano at age five and later, branched out. “She can pick up instruments pretty quickly,” Brenda said.
Don said of their community involvement plans, “We have a bunch of other things in mind. It’s just a matter of implementing them.”
Brenda was quick to speak of one project that is near and dear to her heart – gifts for teachers. Before they moved down here from Sumner, Wash., she taught music at a private school in Federal Way. “I came from a background of working in schools. I know what it’s like sometimes, to be a teacher and feel under-appreciated. So one of the things I have in mind to start right away, is to get some of the women in the church to help out and maybe do little gifts and things for teachers in the area – nothing huge and drastic, but just something that says thank you for what you do in our community. A lot of time, teachers are overlooked.”
Before the 11 a.m. services on Sundays, many from the congregation gather at 10:30 a.m. for what Don calls, “The Coffee Connection.” It’s a chance for casual fellowship.
The service itself typically lasts until noon, “sometimes a little bit over, sometimes a little under,” Don explained.
At a recent service, he started by telling the congregation to greet and “high five” one another. Instantly, people began mulling around the sanctuary with big smiles and hands outstretched. Even if new, nobody feels like a stranger there. It’s an extremely welcoming experience for all.
Remodeling is underway. For its 30 years, the sanctuary has had wooden pews. Brenda said some are starting to crack. Don added that the pews are extremely heavy and hard to move. He said they’d like to also use the sanctuary as a multipurpose room for events such a vacation Bible school and “things for the kids. There really isn’t a place here (in Ocean Park) for kids to go have fun.”
So, old pews are being removed and replaced with chairs that will be easy to clear out when needed.
There is also painting going on inside the church. It’s getting quite a facelift.
Before coming here, the Mowers were in the small town of Sumner, near Tacoma, pastoring Sumner Family Church, also part of the Assemblies of God. Sumner is in northern Pierce County.
As soon as they relocated to Ocean Park, Don noticed something that really appealed to him. “One things I love about this area, that some people might see as a handicap, is that there’s not a lot of infrastructure. In my hometown there was no infrastructure and we were self-sufficient.”
While the Peninsula isn’t as remote as where he was born and raised in North Central Wyoming, where they “hunted for meat, grew food, and if you had to go to the store, you had to drive three hours,” he still likes the fairly rural feel of this area.
Don left Wyoming to attend Bible college in Albuquerque. Brenda was going to the same college and it is there that they met. Two pastors with lots of energy and enthusiasm for church and community. And here they are now, gracing Ocean Park.