For the first service of Woodinville's new Roman Catholic parish last month, worshippers bundled up and headed to the barn of a local riding arena. Candles burned from a carpet...

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For the first service of Woodinville’s new Roman Catholic parish last month, worshippers bundled up and headed to the barn of a local riding arena.

Candles burned from a carpet spread over the dirt floor of the barn, the site of the parish’s future church, as the pastor, the Rev. K. Scott Connolly, gave the liturgy to almost 800 people.

“It was a poignant reminder of how this all got started with Christ,” said Connolly, evoking images of the birth of Jesus in a manger.

The new parish of the Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta is one of three parishes created within the Seattle Archdiocese this year to serve a growing population. The two others, Holy Innocents in Duvall and Holy Cross in Lake Stevens, formerly were missions.

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Growth has occurred elsewhere in Western Washington, too, with the Catholic population in the Seattle Archdiocese doubling in the past 25 years to about 1 million.

In that time, demand has grown among ethnic communities, said Greg Magnoni, archdiocese spokesman.

Until the Blessed Mother Teresa parish was established, many Catholics in Woodinville attended church in Redmond and Bothell.

Kathy Gilbert, a new parish member, said church has been central to her life, from attending Catholic schools in her small Minnesota hometown to watching her parents help serve Holy Communion during Mass.

The arrival of a Woodinville parish has made Gilbert feel like she has a “hometown church” again.

“We’ve been involved in other parishes, but not as much as now, when [the church] is right down the street,” she said.

The new parish now is holding services in a local Lutheran church rather than in the barn.

Gilbert’s husband, Scott Gilbert, said Saturday night Mass has been standing-room only.

The other new parishes have proved popular as well.

In Lake Stevens, about 400 people are attending services of Holy Cross Catholic Church, which held its first Mass in September.

And in Duvall, more than 500 families are members of the new parish of Holy Innocents.

“Many see it as a new beginning. We have a mixture of people, some who are just now checking out the Catholic faith,” said the Rev. Joseph DeFolco, pastor of Holy Cross.

That the new churches are a sort of tabula rasa for their members has excited many who want a chance to voice their opinion on everything from music to parish outreach.

Some people want traditional hymns, for instance, while others envision more contemporary music, even rock ‘n’ roll. Others wonder whether there will be kneelers in the pews.

Jeff Lair, music director for Blessed Teresa, said the parish plans to focus on cultural diversity and will hold bilingual church services.

Volunteers have been meeting for months, divided into committees charged with tackling church finances, public relations and fund raising.

Raising money is a challenge for the new parishes.

In Woodinville, Connolly estimated that the parish needs to raise about $3 million to build its church and a K-8 school on the grounds of the Woodinville Riding Club.

In addition to building a church, the Lake Stevens parish plans to move a 101-year-old chapel from the Holy Cross Mission to its new site, 31 acres on the Pilchuck River.

And construction on Holy Innocents in Duvall started last spring and will finish in the spring or summer.

In the meantime, Connolly said he’s enjoying the sense of community the parishes have fostered — even without a place to call their own.

“The church is the people of God gathered, regardless of whether we have a building,” he said.

“Starting from that premise we already have a church.”

Kelly Kearsley: 206-464-2112 or