LONGMONT — The regional Mormon church, in response to rapid growth in membership, has recently reorganized the boundaries of its congregations.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints works much like a public school district: where you live determines which chapel you attend and of which congregation you are a member. Families belong to congregations called wards. Several wards share a single chapel, and groups of wards make up a larger territory called a stake.
Longmont Stake president Roy Kamigaki said the LDS church follows this policy to better serve members, to prevent overcrowding at churches and to bolster smaller congregations.
Kamigaki said the local Mormon body saw a 9 percent growth in membership during the past three years.
Much of that increase came from the Tri-Towns area, he said.
“We found that the growth of the church was from the area east of I-25, and we wanted to accommodate for the changes in that area,” he said.
The stakes in Fort Collins and Loveland are following this trend as well. “People can see that from the number of homes out there,” Kamigaki said.
He said the Longmont stake has realigned congregation boundaries about every four years, according changing demographics.
Previously, the Longmont Stake was made up of nine congregations, called wards, and three chapels serving the St. Vrain Valley, Kamigaki said.
“Two wards were as low as 210 members, and some wards were bursting at the seams with 700 members,” he said.
Since the boundary changes took effect on Feb. 26, eight wards and four chapels now constitute the Longmont stake, with about 3,300 members.
Longmont has two chapels serving five congregations; the Frederick building, which opened last April, houses two wards. The Lyons chapel serves one ward.
Kamigaki said each ward now has an average of 400 people, and some members have had to switch wards because of the boundary changes.
“They feel that if that’s where the Lord wants them to go, that’s where they’re going,” he said.
Arline Hansen of Longmont used to attend service at the 11th Avenue chapel. Now she and her husband head to Lyons, adding a few minutes and miles to their Sunday drive.
“Now, it’s quite a pleasant drive through the country,” she said. Hansen said the smaller congregation had welcomed its newest members.
“Change is always a real positive thing. It revitalizes you,” she said.
Lisa Walker of Mead used to be in the Fifth Ward and attended the Stake Center in Longmont. She and her family now are members of the Highland Lake Ward and attend services in Frederick.
Before the boundary change, Walker said her family would have to arrive early at the chapel to find a seat. Now they leave home early because of the longer drive, especially for her teenagers who drive the country roads to avoid the interstate.
Walker said her family was excited about the opportunity to meet new people.
“For us, change is growth and growth is good,” she said.
Melanie M. Sidwell can be reached at 303-684-5274, or by e-mail at email@example.com.