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Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
From left, Kerry Jones, Pastor Paul Robie and Andrew Buehner move a box of bricks into the new South Mountain Community Church in Draper on Friday, March 16, 2012.
This isn't a Sunday-only facility. We're going to be open all the time, with stuff going on every night of the week. For example, our youth groups meet on Wednesdays, and other groups meet on other nights. —Pastor Paul Robie

List: 11 large churches in Utah

DRAPER — A gleaming new house of worship will open its doors in the Draper foothills for the first time Sunday morning as a testament in concrete, glass and steel to the faith and perseverance of its occupants.

The South Mountain Community Church, a non-denominational evangelical Christian church, will welcome worshippers to its new facility at 14216 S. Bangerter Parkway for Sunday services at 9:30 and 11:15 a.m. According to Pastor Paul Robie, the building should be about 95 percent complete.

"We'll hold our first services here on Sunday — somehow," he said Friday morning as professional craftsmen and volunteers from the church community bustled around the building, putting the finishing touches on a $6.2 million, 40,000-square-foot structure that has been built on 11 acres located about three-quarters of a mile east of I-15.

"We've been legally cleared for occupancy, at least," he said, perspiration gleaming on his forehead. "We'll still have a few things to get done during the next couple of weeks, but all of the essentials should be in place for our worship services on Sunday."

Those "essentials" include a huge Worship Room that can accommodate 800 to 1,000 worshippers at a time. The Worship Room includes high-tech video and audio capability, with three large high-definition screens and sufficient onstage space for choir, organ, guitar and drum musical accompaniment.

There is also a special wing for a variety of classes and facilities for children from newborn to sixth grade (the children's area features both indoor and outdoor playgrounds and rooms done in a delightful campground motif), and another big area for the church's ministerial outreach to junior high and high school-age teenagers.

The facility also includes a suite of offices for the church's seven full-time and eight part-time employees and a large lobby, with lots of windows that provide a spectacular view of the Salt Lake Valley as well as a small café.

"We want people to feel like they can come here and hang out," Rev. Robie said. "We'll have TV monitors out here, so if people want to sit in these comfortable chairs and look at the view and listen to our worship service out here while they enjoy some espresso, they can do that."

All of which is consistent with what Rev. Robie called "the core values of the church."

"We wanted a lot of windows because transparency is a high value to us," he said. "And I love the notion of the light emanating from the inside and going out into the valley through these windows. Jesus said that we should be 'the light of the world.' We're going to start letting our light shine from this building on Sunday."

And that light will continue shining seven days a week.

"This isn't a Sunday-only facility," Rev. Robie said. "We're going to be open all the time, with stuff going on every night of the week. For example, our youth groups meet on Wednesdays, and other groups meet on other nights.

"We have designed this to be a high use, high energy building, where people can come to participate in activities or to just hang out," Rev. Robie said.

The Draper facility will be the largest of three "campus" locations for branches of the South Mountain Community Church. The other campuses are located in South Jordan and St. George. Rev. Robie is the lead pastor over the three congregations, which together average a combined attendance of about 1,800 worshippers each Sunday.

"We're not a 'mega church,'" he said, indicating that "mega churches" are usually defined as those who have more than 2,000 Sunday worshippers. "But we are a very large church."

Just 14 years ago it wasn't a church at all, but a group of six adults meeting together for Bible study. Rev. Robie and his wife, Jini, had moved to Draper from California with their sons Ben and Evan. At the time there were no evangelical Christian churches in Draper, so they started holding Bible study in their home. Within a few months they had found enough people to form a church. On Oct. 4, 1998, they held the first worship service of the South Mountain Community Church, with 40 people present. The church's mission then was the same as it is now: "To help as many people as possible take their next step in becoming fully devoted and fully delighted followers of Jesus Christ."

In those earliest days they met in a 2,000-square-foot office space. Before long the church outgrew that facility and moved to a 9,000-square-foot warehouse off of 12300 South and 265 West in Draper. Soon they had to expand into an adjoining warehouse, and then into another. The satellite campuses were added in the Daybreak community in South Jordan and in the Springs community in St. George.

"As big businesses like Adobe and E-Bay come to the Salt Lake area, they bring with them a lot of new people looking for a place to worship," Rev. Robie said in explaining the church's stunning growth during the past 14 years. "We also have a lot of people who, for one reason or another, became disenfranchised from the Mormon church in their youth. They are now young parents, and their kids are saying, 'What are we?' That's an important question to answer here in Utah, where we have a heightened religious culture. So these young families are looking for a spiritual home, and many of them are finding that home here with us."

It is clear Pastor Robie doesn't expect that growth to stop. The Draper building has been built with an eye toward future expansion, with sufficient space to accommodate congregations twice as large as the one that will likely be in attendance on Sunday. And he is already talking about opening a satellite campus in Utah County.

"Responding to all of this growth is stretching our church family to the max," Rev. Robie said. "We don't have any really big donors who are funding all of this, and that's a rare thing. Most big churches also have big donors. We just have a lot of little guys who give all that they can to make this happen."

He glanced around the spacious lobby, where several young mothers were trying to feed lunch to their small children while they worked to help prepare the new building for its Sunday opening.

"That's what you see here," he continued. "There isn't one person making the big donation or doing all the work. Everyone is helping. Everyone is working. Everyone is doing what they can. So this is like Everyman's church, and all for the glory of God."

The public is invited to tour the new church during a community open house on Saturday, March 31, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.

Email: jwalker@desnews.com