Presbyterian Church of the Big Wood in Ketchum is finally finished with the overhaul once imagined by its patrons and pastor. A building permit was granted by the city of Ketchum in 2001. As with St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Ketchum and Emmanuel Episcopal in Hailey, the growth of congregations has necessitated additions and remodels.
Today the once modest, though widely attended church, on the banks of the Big Wood River, is a 39,000 square-foot community center and church.
"It's now one of the biggest public buildings in Ketchum," said architect Janet Jarvis, whose company Jarvis Group Architects is the architect of record. Her colleague, Mark Deagle, is the project architect.
Along with the sanctuary, which was completed in 2002, there are new administration offices and rooms, a new gymnasium known as the Family Center, the River Room, the Big Wood School and classrooms, a resource library, a commercial-sized kitchen and two breakout rooms for games and relaxing. Jarvis called these spaces teen hangout rooms. Connected, one overlooks the River Room while the other overlooks the Family Center gym. The latter is a full-sized basketball court that also will accommodate gatherings and meals. Deagle said the space can seat 200 at tables.
Essentially, there were three stages of building, Jarvis explained. "First, the school section was done. That was the most important part."
Previously, the school for ages 2 to 5 and kindergarten supplement program, didn't have a proper entry, but now it does. The summer camp is currently in session and kids are milling around while construction cleanup is being completed.
The sanctuary, a lofty open space with clean lines and large windows onto the river, has been a boon to the community since it opened. The Sun Valley Center for the Arts and the Sun Valley Opera both stage performances there as do the Church of the Big Wood Choir productions, including the annual holiday shows, "The Messiah" and "The Promise." And Caritas Chorale recently premiered an original vocal production, "Immence Ranges of High Mountains" in the sanctuary.
The narthex, also known as the Gathering Room, doubles as a gallery courtyard with an display of art. Currently, works by valley artists are on exhibition. The owner and chef of the Ketchum Grill, Scott Mason, helped design the shiny new commercial quality kitchen.
The River Room is one of the highlights of the new design. A gently sloping amphitheater helps make this river view room an alternative to the santcuary for smaller events and staged productions. The large picture windows are mirrors of the ones in the sanctuary, opening onto the space to the rushing river just steps away.
The landscaping is just now beginning. Jarvis said there will be two access points to the swim hole rock.
The building committee consists of parishioners Don Castle, George Kirk, Lynn Bockemohle, Dave Bjerke, and of course Pastor Bob Henley. Because the new church building was built entirely from donations, there were plenty of interested parties, including the administration, teachers at the Big Wood School and the congregation. Each of these groups gave a wish list to the building committee, who processed them for the architects and the Idaho Falls-based contractors Lynden Kunde. Construction project supervisor was Dennis Cummings.
"The facility as it stands today is the result of a visioning process that our former pastor Al Oliver, and Dave Bjerke led the congregation through prior to my coming in 2001," Henley said. "The plan was finished and in place. The accolades go to the church family, along with Janet and her wonderful group. Everybody's response is just 'wow'. We held a worship summit here last week and one of the attendees was an architect from Phoenix, who designs sacred spaces for churches. He was absolutely effusive with his compliments in the design. I told him about Janet and Mark and he had nothing but compliments."
Currently, the Big Wood congregation numbers 250 active members, with more than 100 affiliate families from all over the country, Henley said.
The church was incorporated in the mid-1950s and spent nearly 20 years jumping from location to location before the current site on Saddle Road was donated for the building of the former sanctuary.
"It was all built with sweat equity," Henley said.