Members of a growing group of Jehovah's Witnesses in the Temecula Valley have known this day would come since 2006, when the church bought a piece of property in the city's northeast with plans to unite numerous groups meeting throughout the region.
On Saturday afternoon, church leaders will unveil the new "Kingdom Hall" ---- an 8,200-square-foot facility consisting of two identical buildings ---- for a neighborhood open house, spokesman Scott Zeida said this week.
The event is scheduled from 2-6 p.m. at 31640 Calle Girasol, with tours of the new facility and a hearty "thank you" to city officials and neighbors who put up with nine months of construction, said Zeida.
"We had roughly 2,000 local volunteers who helped over that period of months," he explained, adding that a variety of church members around Southern California skilled in "all of the different trades" showed up to help.
"There's Jehovah's Witnesses who do concrete and plumbing and grading ---- that's how we built our hall," Zeida added. "People came ... to help us build, and it kept our costs down."
It took five years to finish the design and permitting process with the city, followed by seven months of site work, trenching for underground utilities and street improvements.
Zeida said the church did have to hire a handful of specialists, to complete permit studies and operate the crane, for example.
But the bulk of what visitors will see on Saturday was done by Jehovah's Witnesses: "I can't say, 'All,' but it was a very large percentage."
Zeida said the church started holding services in the new facility on Sunday, Aug. 19.
"It was a happy occasion ---- many of the groups were meeting in Murrieta before, and we were all maxed out," he explained. "So here we're able to have a little bit more space. One of the big perks is that it's closer to where many of the friends live."
In an age when almost every church has plans to build a larger single sanctuary, Zeida acknowledged that the dual-building design was a little unusual.
"They're identical in size and shape, and we have the services staggered," he said.
On Sunday, the busiest day of the week, services begin at 9 and 9:30 a.m., for example, followed by noon and 12:30 p.m.; 2 and 2:30 p.m.; and 5 p.m.
"We've built what we call double-auditorium facilities throughout the United States," Zeida said of the worldwide church, which encompasses some 7.6 million members. "Basically, it all comes down to growth ---- as a city grows, typically, your religions also grow to a certain degree. So the double auditorium will help us with our growth."
He said they also accommodate the structure of Jehovah's Witness services, which focus on smaller groups of families, rather than large gatherings.
"Smaller makes it easier to know everybody," said Zeida.
This month, groups of Witnesses that previously met across the valley get to show off their handiwork: "We are very appreciative to the city of Temecula, the planners and inspectors, and this is an opportunity for us to say thank you. And this is a way for the local neighborhood to see what we've been building.
"The people who live in this neighborhood saw a lot of activity, so the open house is our opportunity to say thank you to the neighborhood, too, for their patience," said Zeida.