A Brief History Of Water's Edge Church
In the fall, Faith Reformed Church in Lynden felt the Lord’s call and committed to planting a church in Birch Bay. Pastor John Haas was commissioned to start the church even as he continued his work as youth pastor at Faith. A team was formed to meet monthly with him and form a vision. The initial team was made up of Gary Haveman, Jerry Roosma, Nancy Nyland, Ron Starkenburg, and Mary Vanderwerff. God put it on the hearts of a half-dozen people to begin meeting first at Joe and Jill Nymeyer’s house in Blaine and then Gary and Carol Haveman’s condo in Birch Bay. The church’s love of service started by being involved with the Angel Tree Christmas giving project and providing a PA system for the Polar Bear Plunge on New Year’s Day.
The small group began to grow as it gathered to pray and share on Sunday nights. In the spring these expanded into worship gatherings with about 15 people meeting at the Birch Bay Waterslides offices. The congregations of First Reformed Church in Lynden and Nooksack Valley Reformed in Everson joined Faith in supporting the new plant with the pastors and leaders from all three churches making up a steering team to oversee the young church. Joining Pastor John as administrative assistant was Rachel (Assink) King, the worship coordinator at Faith. A group of believers called Agape Feast joined for several months, but eventually left when they disagreed with the Water’s Edge vision leaving the church with only nine regulars. That split turned out to be a turning point in the church’s commitment to reaching out to the community. In the fall, the church began meeting in a new location on Harborview Road fondly called Meg’s Place because it was the large living room in the home of Meg Grable. Pastor John’s connections led to a street ministry, serving hot chocolate at a local gas station, men’s small group meetings, cleaning up the waterslides, raking leaves in the community and a work day with supporters from Faith. Two special events were a prayer service with the three supporting churches that drew 55 people, and a Christmas service at the Beachwood Resort.
The year started with ministries expanding. A group from the church began meeting for prayer on Tuesday nights, the tradition of monthly potlucks began before the Sunday evening worship times, and outreach projects included handing out Hershey kisses for the “You’ve Been Kissed” Valentine’s Day ministry. Another milestone happened on Easter Sunday when the church began Sunday morning services that would look much as the services do now. Weekly attendance eventually rose to more than 20 people. Other special events included regular singing and sharing at the Thousand Trails park, a family movie night and barbecue, a Family Fun Day for community children, a free barbecue at the state park, and a special dance performance by the “A Gift of Dance” studio at the Nov. 21 service. Holiday activities included Christmas caroling, collecting warm clothing for the Blaine Food Bank and collecting shoes for Haiti, and participating in the Angel Tree project.
A year of transitions began with the church being blessed by visiting preachers as Pastor John focused on his pastoral and leadership duties. A “Love And Respect” marriage workshop for the community was led by guest Pastor Jim and Nadine Carberry, helping them get to know many in the congregation. This led to Jim being named interim when Pastor John resigned in March (and eventually being called to be the church’s full-time pastor). At the time, the core team of Rachel, Steve King, Dave and Melanie Fallis, and the Nymeyers committed to continuing the church and its vision of reaching out to the community, which would eventually be summed up in our motto — “At Water’s Edge we FISH” (make Friends, Invite people, Serve the community, and Huddle together). A new tradition was started: the Wednesday “fun nights” hosted by the Fallises, which have continued each summer at different families’ homes. New milestones soon followed, including celebrating our first communion together (May 22 and every fourth Sunday since), our first baptisms (Diane Partlow and Lorrie Sterk on July 24 in the warm waters of Birch Bay), and our first profession of faith (Gene Sterk on Sept. 25). The church family also was forced to move with the selling of Meg’s Place, and God’s timing led us to the activity center (gym) at Bay Horizon Park. Our first service in the gym was on Sept. 11, when we honored local firefighters with a potluck on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Among our monthly service projects that we’ve continued each year were serving lunch for the special needs adults at Camp Horizon, and buying and distributing Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas presents for local families. We also had an addictions workshop led by our own Ross Banister that has since been repeated at other local churches. Celebrations included showers for our first baby (Asher Veto), our first engaged couple (the Kings, who were married on Oct. 22), and for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
A “swimsuit” sermon on Jan. 1 called us to “take the plunge” into what would be a year full of God’s blessings. Growth could be seen as our one small Bible study became two (men’s and women’s), our core team became a larger leadership team with coordinators for each of our FISH ministries, young families joined the church bringing a dozen children, and two more adults were baptized (Eman Fallis and Tim Archer on Aug. 5). Special events included our Super Bowl party (which led to our Seahawks tailgate parties at people’s homes in the fall and winter), our missions weekend with a local youth group (a food drive, cleanup at the state park and a community kids games day), and a five-day summer vacation Bible school with a youth group from Minnesota. Our Sunday attendance grew to 30-plus with 66 at the outdoor baptism service, and 71 at our children’s Christmas service and party. Some of the most memorable services were the 10 Sundays leading up to Advent when we shared “God Stories” from the Old Testament (with the help of the children) and when members of the church family shared their personal stories. Our focus on the community was seen in the 15 service projects, the prayer service for Blaine schools and our commitment to “tithe” for both missions and benevolence. And when our praise team and other leadership positions were suddenly vacated in the summer, God answered our prayers by bringing us Keith McKenzie (worship coordinator), and Doug (praise team) and Tami (bookkeeper) Anderson.
To God be the glory for all He has done these past five years.