OSO — Gary Ray’s territory has gone from 1 million to 1,000 residents.
But the new Oso Chapel pastor wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s a good fit — there’s a lot of opportunity here,” said Ray, who took the position as chapel pastor two months ago after spending the last 10 years in the Bay area in California. “It’s the only church in a 29-mile stretch.”
Since then, Ray and his family have been getting acquainted to their new roles in Oso. Ray, his wife Tina, and grown children Ryan and Randi all serve together in the ministry, and have been kick-starting a number of new community programs since taking over in February.
“The goal is to see Oso Chapel as more than just a Sunday event,” Gary Ray said. “The people are excited and there is a lot of optimism here.”
So far the Ray family has been busy.
During his short stint as pastor, Ray has implemented weekly teen and adult learning programs in addition to making a number of repairs to the 110-year-old church building and its surrounding facilities.
Ray has purchased new sound equipment for the chapel, and has named his son as the church’s worship leader. Ryan Ray will also soon be offering guitar lessons to the community, saving them a trip to Arlington or Marysville.
Other community events, such as knitting and craft lessons and a homework assistance program, are planned to take place in the old Oso school building, Gary Ray said.
“Right now we’re building momentum and putting together the infrastructure,” Ray said. “I’m kind of an idea person. With a bigger church, there’s more paid staff. In this setting, it’s a little different, but we have had a lot of great volunteers helping so far.”
Ray said one of the chapel’s attendees was recently having a difficult time getting into the church due to his wheelchair. Shortly after and without advanced notice, volunteers were outside pouring a concrete slab to ease that problem.
Other residents have helped Ray spruce up the old grange building, which sits in front of chapel just off State Route 530.
“We decided to use it as a billboard, and the next day somebody was here with a spray gun,” Ray said. “We have a lot of doers here.”
Penny Alskog, who has attended Oso Chapel for the past 35 years, said that Ray has brought an enthusiastic approach to the church.
“He has a lot of energy and ideas, and he wants to incorporate those ideas as outreach into the community,” she said.
Alskog was part of a group seeking out a new pastor to replace interim pastors who had been running services at the church for the past two years since Pastor Greg Glasgow passed away in 2008.
Glasgow had been with the church for approximately seven years before his death, Alskog said.
There was some trepidation when Ray was brought on in Oso due to his being from a large, urban area.
“We’re a pretty sleepy burg out here,” Alskog said. “We were unsure if he would be interested in pastoring a small community church. But we’ve been really pleased.”
So far, service at the church so far has been well-attended.
“We’ve been happy with the attendance — we’re getting new people here each week,” Ray said.
For more information, visit www.osochapel.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. The church’s phone number is 360-435-8027.