Central Point church starts $3 million effort to build its new home

CENTRAL POINT — While members reflect fondly on their meager beginnings, with a few dozen people worshipping out of a converted fruit stand across from Beebe Farms, Shepherd of the Valley Catholic Church is bursting at the seams.

Church officials will unveil design plans and launch a $3 million capital campaign this weekend to replace the converted fruit stand where they've worshipped for three decades.

Presentations are planned after each of this weekend's five services; today at 5 and 7 p.m. and Sunday at 8:30 a.m., 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Founded in 1978, the tiny Beebe Road church has upgraded over the years. Members expanded the building that once had a bay-style garage door on one wall and built a hall next door. Two years ago, they began using the fruit stand as a hall and holding services next door, in the larger building.

With membership now up to between 1,100 and 1,200 families, Rev. Mike Walker said the church offers five services each weekend to accommodate the entire congregation, including two services on Saturday evening and three on Sunday morning.

"Our old fruit stand could seat up to 240, so there had been talk of building a bigger church since the early 2000s," Walker said, adding that he hopes to break ground on the project by spring 2012.

Walker said the church would strive to spend as much of its project money in the local economy as possible.

Plans call for a new church on the fruit-stand site, expanded parking and other improvements.

"I really do think it's going to be a huge blessing for a lot of people," said Walker. "We want to use local labor and local materials as much as possible to build our new church."

Father Theo Lange said it is almost sad to think of replacing the church's original, longtime home.

"It was seriously a fruit stand with a metal sliding garage door. The church has expanded it a few times and reinforced it, but it was very much a bona fide fruit stand when they started meeting there. I think that's kind of a sweet story," Lange said.

"We're excited we're growing and working toward a new church, but it's also bittersweet because the fruit stand is awesome. It's just really unique."

For information about the project, call Walker at 541-664-1050 or see http://shepherdcatholic.com.

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at buffyp76@yahoo.com.

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