Imbler Christian Church’s new sanctuary building was dedicated late Sunday morning at its grand opening.
The star of the ceremony, though, was not the church’s new sturdy two-story structure that boasts top-of-the-line acoustics and a high-tech sound and lighting booth. No, the star was the late Leroy Stolle, who served as minister of Imbler Christian Church for close to a decade until failing health forced him to step down about six years ago.
Stolle is credited with injecting the fundraising drive for the church building with the momentum it needed.
“We have a lot to be thankful to Leroy for,” said Lynn Combe of Imbler Christian Church.
Stolle was well-known in Imbler for the yard sales he conducted annually with his wife, Dodie, to raise money for the construction of the church building. His yard sales raised tens of thousands of dollars over a span of half a dozen years. No items had price tags, which meant the many customers paid as much or as little as they wanted. It turned out, according to a 2008 Observer article, that many customers proved uncommonly generous, paying much more than what items were worth.
Talk of building the new, much larger church building began about 25 years ago when a building fund was started, said Dwain Spooner of Imbler Christian Church. However, fundraising was flat until Stolle became minister.
“It didn’t start to gain traction until he made this his mission. He was passionate about expanding our membership,” said Brittany Hargrove of Imbler Christian Church.
Rick Wagner noted that Stolle saw the building as a tool for spreading the word of Jesus, not a trophy to be admired.
Carrie Hargrove said Stolle was a remarkably likable person.
“Everyone loved Leroy. He was your friend right away,” she said.
Stolle, who died about two years ago, liked to send encouraging text messages to many people. Hargrove said the messages she received meant so much she never erased them.
Spooner noted that Stolle spoke of how Jesus was the cornerstone of Christianity.
“Leroy was a cornerstone of this body. Now he is the cornerstone of this building,” he said.
The sanctuary of the new building has a capacity of 240, far more than the old Imbler Christian Church building, which was purchased in 1985. The old church building will continue to be used for activity programs but not Sunday services.
Groundbreaking for the new building took place Sept. 17, 2010, but progress was slow because church leaders wanted to avoid borrowing money.
“It was pay as you go,” Wagner said, noting that the church did not take on any debt to construct the building.
Wagner said the new building is made of thick concrete and will likely require little maintenance.
“It is built to last, not to be a burden on future generations,” he said.
The concrete is part of the reason the new church building has excellent acoustics.
“Its acoustics are in the top 5% of anything in this valley,” Wagner said.
So solid is the building’s construction that nothing inside can be heard outside, Wagner noted.
Ironically, even though the people inside cannot be heard beyond the interior, the intent of the building is to allow congregants to more effectively reach out.
“Hopefully it will bring new people to know the good news Jesus has for us,” Combe said.