Partnership between Poway Churches Builds Interfaith Friendship

Contributed By By Heather Wrigley, Church News and Events

  • 10 January 2012

Article Highlights

  • A donation by a local ward helped the Community Church of Poway to restore its historic chapel.
  • Bishop J. Tim Konold and Reverend Glen D. Larsen, both of Poway, work together to better their community through interfaith activities.
  • The Green Valley Ward and the Community Church of Poway are planning to participate in an upcoming community conference on families, where they will share traditions they practice that strengthen families.

“My hope and prayer is, we’ll be a living testimony of how people from different faiths can walk together for the betterment of the community and the world.” —Reverend Glen D. Larsen, Community Church of Poway

A $13,000 donation from the Green Valley Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is helping California’s Community Church of Poway restore its 125-year-old chapel.

J. Tim Konold, bishop of the Green Valley Ward, and Reverend Glen D. Larsen Jr. of the Community Church of Poway have worked together for the past two years as members of the Poway Interfaith Team, a coalition of religious leaders that work together by focusing more on what they have in common than what separates them.

“We were delighted to be able to work with the Mormons,” Reverend Larsen said. “They are our partners in this venture. The Christ-centeredness is what binds us.”

Reverend Larsen and Bishop Konold often organize joint service projects between their congregations. They occasionally attend each other’s services and regularly meet for breakfast.

At one such breakfast meeting, Bishop Konold learned that the Community Church planned to renovate the historic chapel—which is no longer used for regular meetings—and asked how the ward could help.

Constructed in 1887 out of California redwood, the old chapel is the longest continuously used house of worship in San Diego County. Time and wear necessitated that the century-old lead-based paint that covered the building be removed using special processes. In addition, extensive renovation would be required to remove an infestation of bees in the building’s roof.

At breakfast that morning, Reverend Larsen’s finance director had outlined the church’s budget. Bishop Konold told Reverend Larsen that he hoped to raise $10,000 from the Green Valley Ward. That meant that the Community Church would only be $2,000 short of what they needed for the present repairs.

Bishop Konold then contacted ward members and asked if they would like to help. Their donations yielded $12,000—the exact amount needed to cover the budgeted costs. Another $1,000 was donated a week later.

“As I was thanking [Bishop Konold] for his contribution, he thanked me for the opportunity for them to be able to give,” Reverend Larsen explained. “This was an opportunity for our Mormon friends to play the role of gift-givers. It wasn’t done with fanfare.”

Bishop Konold explained that the ward’s motivation for serving is simply to make friends.

“We need to learn to take off our blinders,” Bishop Konold said. “We should always be aware of what we can do and forget what faith people belong to. Once you get the message out, everybody starts doing it.”

Both congregations are already planning to participate in an upcoming community conference on families, where each member of the Poway Interfaith Team will share traditions they practice that strengthen families.

Both Bishop Konold and Reverend Larsen emphasized the importance of different religions working together.

“Following Christ is the bottom line,” Reverend Larsen said. “When that is in [my] heart, I look at Bishop Konold and I see my brother, my co-worker in the vineyard. And my sense is that’s what he sees with me. There is a bond there that is spiritual that supersedes all the religions.”

In an April 1998 general conference address, “We Bear Witness of Him,” President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) urged members to respect other religions: “We must teach our children to be tolerant and friendly toward those not of our faith,” he said. “We can and do work with those of other religions in the defense of those values which have made our civilization great and our society distinctive. … These people are not of our faith, but they are our friends, neighbors, and co-workers in a variety of causes.”

Reverend Larsen echoed that message. “It has been a joyful participation—one filled with many blessings,” he said. “My hope and prayer is, we’ll be a living testimony of how people from different faiths can walk together for the betterment of the community and the world.”