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Elim Lutheran Church was named after the place in the desert “where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees; and they camped there by the water.” Exodus 15:27. When the immigrants from European lands came to this area and had recalled this verse about Elim in the Bible, they felt their place with the good water and beautiful trees in this Waterman area of Port Orchard were as close as the biblical description of Elim in the desert. Therefore, they named the church “Elim”.
At the turn of the century, a group of devout men and women pledged their hearts and hands to become the Elim Evangelical Lutheran Congregation. Most of them were immigrants from Scandinavian countries. They brought to this country many admirable traits of industry, thrift and good citizenship, but of foremost importance was their deep devotion to God’s Word and to the Church with a firm resolve to bring up their children in God’s way.
Soon the desire of the people to organize a congregation was strongly evident. During the year 1907, a number of Swedish immigrants were asked to sign a paper which would declare their intention to becoming members of a Lutheran church once it was organized. However, when the actual day of organization took place, many of the people declined membership. There was still a remnant of people very much in earnest about having a congregation in this place. On the evening of September 30, 1908 a service of worship was conducted after which a meeting was held for the purpose of organizing. Thirty-four persons committed their desire to become a part of an Evangelical Lutheran Church.
Among the many factors in the next decade that contributed to the slow growth of the congregation was having no resident pastor called to the congregation. Various pastors contributed their time and effort to minister faithfully to the congregation, but the lack of a resident pastor made efforts towards growth difficult. Tough financial struggles characterized these years as well. The acquisition of property and the building of the first sanctuary covers a long span of years. The question concerning the buying of property was first brought up in 1909. However, not until 1931 was a committee of four convened as the building committee. The first structure was erected in 1932. Dedication services on the old church were held on September 11, 1932. Yet, the life of the congregation was in decline until in 1934 there were only 15 members.
The five years after 1939 showed a great upsurge of interest and activity at Elim. The Board of Home Missions took responsibility and, with the Regional Director of Home Missions supervising, field-work students generated a slow steady growth. By the end of the year there were sixty students enrolled in the Sunday School and thirty adult communicant members.
Finally, at the annual meeting in January, 1943 the decision was made to call a pastor. Pastor Albert Hendrickson was a graduate of Augustana Lutheran Seminary and arrived during the summer to serve the congregation of Elim. The congregation really began to grow and prosper. During Pastor Hendrickson’s ministry at Elim, he also conducted services at the Orchard Heights church where there was a Navy installation.
In 1905 the people of the Waterman community started a fund to buy a bell that was to be placed in the belfry of the first church to be built in Waterman. For lack of church edifice, the bell was first placed on two poles in the schoolyard until 1912 when it was placed in the school’s belfry. When the schoolhouse was sold in 1948, the bell was removed and placed in the belfry of Elim celebrating the 43 year desire for the bell. The bell is housed in the current church building erected in 1968.
The merger of four large Lutheran church bodies – the Augustana Evangelical, American Evangelical, Finnish Evangelical, and the United Lutheran Churches merged to become the Lutheran Church in America. In 1988, the Lutheran Church again changed its shape by uniting the American Lutheran Church, the Lutheran Church in America and the Association of Evangelical Lutheran church bodies into the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. As part of the Peninsula Conference of the Southwestern Washington Synod of the ELCA, Elim continues its mission and ministry of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ.