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The gates of kindness

Driving on Central Valley Road earlier this week, a few locals got a sneak peek at one of two 600-pound steal gates constructed as artwork.

Thursday mid-morning, Tracyton resident Tom Carmichael installed the second of the two gates he created in his steel fabrication shop. Carmichael has been attending Central Valley Christian Fellowship on Central Valley Road for three years and about a year ago he and his wife, Carolin, decided to make a gift to the congregation.

“At first we were just going to make standard gates with a medallion in the center,” Carmichael said.

But then, he pondered the opportunity that creating a church gate offered — displaying a message to the community.

“I wanted to say, ‘The Bible is the foundation of our faith, Jesus is our savior, come one and all and worship with us,’” Carmichael said.

With that message in mind, which will soon be carved in bronze plaques mounted on two brick columns, Carmichael set out to sketch the design and cut out a metal silhouette. Doing the steelwork was easy, he said, but he also had to coordinate his efforts with two other artists who painted the street-side of the gates. Gig Harbor landscape artist Ezra Suko painted the olive tree, three crosses perched on top of a hillside, the Bible leafed open on the ground, and a profile of Jesus with a lamb at his feet.

Port Townsend mural painter James Mayo completed the left gate, which remained veiled with a waterproof blue tarp after it was installed Wednesday.

The entire project took about four months to complete, said Pastor Mark Williams. Very few people have seen the full effect of the two gates displayed together and they will remain wrapped until tomorrow’s formal dedication at 2 p.m.

While Carmichael and Renny Mason, of Chico, a friend for 20 years, labored over installing and balancing the second gate Thursday, passing by drivers honked and Williams waved back with a smile.

“We intend these gates to be a gift to the street as well as a gift to the church,” Carmichael said.

He did not mind that passersby spotted the olive tree and Jesus figure, the full effect of gazing upon both gates was not sacrificed.

“These are something you can’t just look at, you have to stand and stare at them for a while,” Carmichael said.

Excited and enthusiastic, the gatemaker said a woman stopped by Wednesday when he and Mason were putting up the first piece. She asked if they are installing the gates to keep people from entering the church.

“’We’re building them to bring people to the church,’” Carmichael told her.

“When they’re open Jesus points to the church and all the people on the gates are going to the church,” he explained.

Williams agreed that was the primary challenge when he first considered installing a gate at the church’s parking lot entrance.

A necessity emerged to protect the parking lot because it is pricey to re-gravel it frequently, the pastor said. Before it was topped with gravel the lot was either dusty or muddy, depending on the season.

Worn by traffic, the gravel layer is thinning and pavement isn’t an option because of the expense and impact on nearby Mosher Creek. Controlling traffic with a gate emerged as the practical answer but not without its drawbacks.

“The thing with a gate is it closes you off and you don’t want that because you want to be inviting,” Williams said.

Thus, Carmichael’s suggestion of an artistically unique gate was an appealing option for the church.

“For us, it’s a unique way to worship, it’s a tremendous testimony to the community,” Williams said.

Reducing traffic pressure from the parking lot is simply the gate’s function, not its purpose, he added.

Eventually the gates will become the center piece for a series of 15 other panels, 16-feet-long each, displaying life-sized scenes from the Bible. Carmichael has volunteered his labor for the longer-term project, Mason has already installed the brick columns to accommodate the panels and church members are sponsoring the materials.

“In the long run it will really span the whole front of the property and really tell a story,” Williams said.

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