Walla Walla University Church of Seventh-day Adventists
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3:26-29 (TNIV)
We are God’s children.
More than any other identifying factor—ethnicity, nationality, occupation, vocation, gender, generation, history, ideology—we are, together, God’s daughters and sons.
We are siblings.
The people of Walla Walla University Church are siblings to all who live in our community: College Place, Walla Walla, and the surrounding region. The place of our church informs our purpose: to bless all of God’s children in this valley. Who are we? We hope to be good brothers and sisters to our geographic family.
The people of Walla Walla University Church are also family to Walla Walla University—and especially to the students who study, work, play, and pray in this sacred space. Who are we? We hope to be good older siblings to the young men and women who seek knowledge and God at this institution of higher education.
The people of Walla Walla University Church are also part of a larger family of Seventh-day Adventist Christians around the world. Seventh-day Adventists? Who are we? It’s all in the name. The seventh-day is a weekly birthday party, since creation, of our arrival. God’s first children were created on the sixth day. And on the seventh God created the first holiday: Sabbath. A memorial every seven days trumpeting the truth that he is the loving parent of human beings—of every man and woman. Adventist? We hope for the second advent (coming) of Jesus. We look forward to being with Jesus. We long to see him … and soon. We believe he is coming back to this earth: ending what is bad, inaugurating what is good. Forever.
Who are we?
The people of Walla Walla University Church are … people. We are broken and bruised, fallen and flawed. But we are also, by no merit of our own, well-loved by God and hopeful that we will love him well. And we are determined to love people well.
For we are all children of God.
The Walla Walla University Church has been a conference-recognized congregation of college students, faculty, staff, and community members for over sixty years. This diverse blend of believers is what makes the University Church unique.
The small group of Adventists who met in T.L. Ragsdale's living room for worship in 1891 could never have imagined the growth of such a church and community. This turn-of-the-twentieth-century group also met in a tool shed until moving to a chapel on the second floor of the Walla Walla College administration building where they worshipped for 20 years. Congregational singing was accompanied by a water-powered organ and an outdoor baptismal tank stood behind the present Peterson Memorial Library.
In 1912 the campus family and community began construction of a church with a seating capacity of 700. Elder H.W. Decker laid the cornerstone for this church which, tragically, burned to the ground three weeks after its dedication in December 1918. However, this catastrophe did not deter the congregation from rebuilding a church on the same site. The church opened in 1920 with a seating capacity of 1,100. The sturdy brick building, now called Village Hall, still stands serenely on the university campus, ivy-covered and weathered, but with stained glass windows still intact and reminiscent of the worshipful hours spent there by a former church family.
In 1939, the Village Hall church outgrew its sanctuary and the community church members remained there while the growing student body and faculty began meeting in the Columbia Auditorium gymnasium. Eight years later, the Upper Columbia Conference of Seventh-day Adventists officially recognized the new congregation of over 1,000 members as a separate church, in fact, the largest in the conference. Vernon D. Hendershot, Dean of the School of Theology, was its pastor.
Columbia Auditorium, however, did not offer the reverent atmosphere that this growing church desired. They wanted a proper sanctuary. Thus, in 1961 with Paul Heubach as pastor, the congregation broke ground and construction began of the present University Church. It was a huge undertaking. The church had more square footage than any other Seventh-day Adventist church in the world at that time. The congregation intended the large building to be symbolic of the vision of a vast community seeking God's leading and His coming again. Music figured prominently in the collegiate church, exemplified by the installation of the Casavant pipe organ—one of the largest and finest organs in the Northwest.
On October 20, 1962, the Columbia Auditorium congregation filed in procession led by trumpets into their new church sanctuary.