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Rendering courtesy of the LL Historical Society

This drawing of Liberty Lake Community Church, which dates back to the 1960s, was used in its annual community calendar published for many years. The artist is unknown.

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History: Faith, vision of settlers led to services, LL Church
7/31/2013 2:49:17 PM


Photo courtesy of the Liberty Lake Historical Society
This picture of the sanctuary of Liberty Lake Community Church dates back to the early 1970s. The photo shows traditional Christmas decor that was annually displayed by Rex and Donna Lindell. 

By Ray Ruef 
Liberty Lake Historical Society

This article on the history of the Liberty Lake Community Church (now Liberty Lake Church) is a compilation of articles and memories of Amanda Madson (a member of a pioneer family at Liberty Lake who donated the present site of the church), Bessie Gilliland (an early resident of Liberty Lake), along with Mildred Brereton, Art and Linnie Rice and Ruth Root. They were all a special part of the church life and have all passed away. The birth of the church was long and challenging. Many attempts were made by early residents to establish a witness of Christ's love and grace.

Efforts to start a Sunday School and worship services faced challenges of wars, the Depression and the arrival and departure of many summer residents. This article will touch on some of the highlights of the community church.

Amanda Madson reported a Reverend William Cable preaching at the Steve Liberty log cabin near the spring on the Madson home property about 300 yards west of the present Liberty Lake Church. There is a barn located on that site now. Later, he preached at Pleasant View Baptist Church near the Idaho state line. That church is still there today.

Amanda also reported that in 1900, a William Landes led worship services at the new little white schoolhouse located at the corner of Molter and 2nd Avenue. She remembers him "as a fine old gentleman who loved his Bible and his God. I loved to hear him read and pray."

In 1912, three grocers from Spokane organized a summer Sunday School with classes for adults, youth and children. Mrs. Flossie Arends taught the children's class. Amanda, a recent graduate, assisted with that class. This effort was under the direction of the Presbyterian Board. Services were often held outside. A Reverend George Hagerman led these services.

In the fall of 1912, the Sunday School moved to a new schoolhouse. Bill and Amanda Madson and Mrs. Dan Neyland led this effort. Seven children accepted Christ as their Savior and were baptized. War came in 1914, and the Sunday School closed.

In 1925, new efforts to begin worship services were led by Mrs. Lena Thomas Scott from Pilgrim Holiness Church, who formed a Sunday School. But Mrs. Scott began teaching in the public school system, and the Sunday School was closed. Later, the Albert Arend family was spending the summer at the lake and observed the large number of children in the area. They contacted Jess Baker of the American Sunday School Union. Five community members met with him for a time of prayer in the schoolhouse about the Sunday School need.

July 2, 1933, the Sunday School was started and was called the Liberty Lake Community Sunday School. That first summer, Vacation Bible School was held with an attendance of 17. A fundraiser was held to help raise car funds for Mr. Baker. They raised $60 toward the cost.

In 1937, Eddy Madson, Amanda's brother who had been helping with the Sunday School program, was called to serve as pastor at the Eden Church in Otis Orchards (now the Otis Orchards Community Church). The Liberty Lake Community Sunday School reorganized and continued through 1940. In 1941, the public school closed, the war came, times were hard, and the Sunday School closed once again.

Anna Carrie Madson, Amanda's and Eddy's mother, dreamed of a church on the corner of 8th and Garry Road, so she donated the original half-acre site. In the following years, additional land was purchased, including the parsonage on the other side of 8th Street. After a community survey in which it was found there were 23 denominations represented in the community, it was decided that they were in favor of a non-denominational Protestant community church.

Victor Sherling became the American Sunday School Union area director, followed in that same year by Reverend McLean, who worked with the church for a few years. He obtained the services of Reverend Hugh Collins, a student in the theology department at Whitworth College in Spokane. When he became a long-term missionary in France, he was replaced by Reverend Maurey Peterson, a former missionary in Africa. Maurey was a strong leader in the construction of the present sanctuary.

October 1965 brought the arrival of Pastor Ray Ruef and his wife, Karen, plus a 6-month-old daughter, Marilyn. They served the community for the next 24 years as their family grew with a son, Steve, and a daughter, Janice. The church grew to about 200 and completed the present office area and the Christian Ed building. After a few years, a children's daycare and kindergarten grew into a thriving program. This is now located in the Stepping Stone facility on Mission Avenue.

The church became the center of community activities with the facility hosting Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Brownies, the sewer district, Liberty Lake Property Owners Association, AA, a year of CVSD kindergarten when space ran out in the district's facilities, and a voting poll for two precincts for many years. The church family initiated the community Easter egg hunt, which was held in Alpine Shores before all of the homes, then moved to the Liberty Lake County Park. With the departure of Pastor Ruef, the egg hunt rested until it was resurrected by former Mayor Wendy Van Orman.

In recent years, the church has been pastored by Lonnie Castillo, Jim Mikos and most recently by Dave Butler. The church is presently being served by an interim pastor, Reverend Ron Miller.

Ray Ruef, a resident of Liberty Lake for nearly 50 years, is a member of the board of the Liberty Lake Historical Society. He served as pastor of Liberty Lake Community Church for 24 years.

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