Houses of Worship Scramble to Make Room for the Masses

November 13, 2006

Author: Rebecca Rosen Lum

Source: Contra Costa Times

They prayed for the flocks, they got them, and now they're grappling with the reality: Houses of worship in Central and East Contra Costa are flexing with a demographic explosion that's forcing some to construct buildings, expand existing ones or add services.

Rapidly growing congregations are spurring some churches to hold as many as nine services on Sunday -- in one case, simultaneous conducting Masses in the sanctuary and the basement.

"We have up to 3,500 families," said the Rev. Ken Salas of Immaculate Heart of Mary in Brentwood. "Two years ago, we had 1,500. That's 2,000 in two years! Our new church is now two years old. It exploded. There's just been an unstoppable increase in people.".

New arrivals to America are bringing their faith with them: Mosques and Sikh temples are also growing.

Partly, the growth stems from a spike in population: From 2001 to 2006, the county grew by more than 57,000 people -- more than 20,000 in Brentwood alone, according to the Contra Costa Office of Community Development.