June 24, 2012 4:00 pm
They gather at the construction site each workday for prayer and a reading from Scripture, and that 15 minutes of reflection serves to set a tone.
After that, it's time to work, share meals with their fellow members and assist in some way the building of their newest house of worship, a Kingdom Hall on Calle Girasol that will eventually host seven different Jehovah's Witnesses congregations.
Three of the congregations, groups of around 200 people that are generally centered around specific neighborhoods or a locations, will be made up of Spanish speakers.
Scott Zaida, a regional building committee representative, said the church decided to build a new facility, a double auditorium with two separate worship areas, because of the tremendous population boom in Southwest County and the corresponding increase in the church's numbers.
"We grow with the growth of a community," he said.
For people unfamiliar with the faith, a Kingdom Hall is known for its modest appearance inside and out, a clean and simple design that doesn't make use of statues or other religious accouterments.
Zaida said the goal is a friendly, cozy environment that is comfortable for the relatively small congregations.
Decades ago, witnesses would get together and put up a new hall in a couple of days.
It was the equivalent of a barn raising that brought members together for some hearty meals and a burst of building activity.
Today, the members still enjoy meals together and the church still uses volunteers ---- more than 1,200 alone in the construction of the Temecula facility ---- but the workers are trained and supervised by skilled professionals.
The construction process also falls under the normal rules for a building project, which means inspections by the city and following all the state-mandated safety regulations.
During an interview at the under-construction hall, slated for an open house in mid-August, project manager Joseph van Haaster of Temecula said he and his fellow witnesses have developed a tightly coordinated construction system in recent years.
The members of the regional committee work on about four projects each year, either building new halls or remodeling existing ones.
"Basically, I say good morning to them, make sure they're fed and off they go," van Haaster said.
Those who are volunteering for the first time or learning a new skill are trained by a fellow witness, a tradition that has given a good percentage of the 7.6 million church members construction skills that are employed during disasters, such as the tsunami in Japan or Hurricane Katrina.
These days, van Haaster said, all it takes is a couple of phone calls to mobilize teams across the world.
The plans for the 8,200-square-foot Kingdom Hall on Calle Girasol, in the mostly rural Nicolas Valley, were approved by the city in 2010.
That action sparked some calls and letters of opposition from neighboring landowners concerned about traffic. Those residents, however, never filed a formal protest and construction proceeded as planned.
Zaida and van Haaster said that the church strives to be a good neighbor and that its members have consciously worked to avoid causing any hassles for residents. That has included using a dirt parking lot near the site instead of available street parking and shuttering the construction site on Sundays.
When up and running, the hall will hold around 14 services a week, which works out to about two services per week for each congregation. One of the services is during the week and another is on the weekend.
In recent years, the various congregations that will use the new hall have been meeting in Temecula near the Pauba Road library and at a facility in Murrieta. Both of those halls will continue to be used after the new hall is opened.