The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has seen steady growth at its Sandy Springs church recently, so officials have decided to split the membership into two congregations.
Divided into congregations by geography, the Sandy Springs and Dunwoody wards will continue to share the existing Glenridge Road church on Sundays. The Sandy Springs ward will start services at 9 a.m., followed by the Dunwoody ward at 11 a.m.
“With the recent rededication of the Atlanta Georgia Temple, we knew there would be an influx of members nearby,” said Mike Fisher, bishop of the Sandy Springs ward. “With the smaller church building design, there was no way to handle that many members at once, so we divided and created a new congregation.”
Before the decision to hold services in two shifts, church officials said as many as 600 people were crowding the church building on Sunday mornings.
Mormons hold services on Sunday mornings in chapels, but go to a Temple, considered a sacred building, for religious ceremonies such as weddings and baptisms. Earlier this year, the Temple on Barfield Road was open to the public for the first time in 30 years following renovations. The Atlanta Temple is the only Mormon Temple in the state of Georgia and was the first temple in the Southeast. It was rededicated May 1.
Paul Abamonte, bishop of the Dunwoody ward, said touring the Temple inspired several people to want to know more about the faith.
“It certainly opened a lot of minds,” Abamonte said. “I think a lot of people, when they take time to listen and come to an open house, they come away more knowledgeable and less apprehensive.”
But Abamonte said growth has been steady in the church over the past few years and can be attributed to several factors, including Mormons moving to the Atlanta area and new converts through the church’s missionary efforts.
“What we’re seeing is a lot more families,” Abamonte said. “Mom and Dad and the kids are showing an interest in coming into the church as opposed to the individual.”
He believes the church is appealing to people in uncertain times.
“The sort of world we live in is changing all the time and we don’t seem to have much say in how it affects us,” Abamonte said. “If you get a message from a group like Mormons that is sure and certain and stable, you want to come to church. What they’re getting from the church is constancy against change.”
He said having two congregations will allow more people to participate actively in services.
‘In an organization such as the church, where there’s no paid clergy, it’s all run on volunteerism,” Abamonte said. “When you have as many as that, you don’t have enough positions to call people to. By splitting them into two units where attendance is at the 200 to 250 mark, we’re able to provide more opportunities for people to serve in a variety of capacities, from kids all the way up to adults.”