Building completed four years after congregation founded
by Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
Faith Lutheran’s congregation gathered for the first worship service in a new church building in Little Falls Sunday, Feb. 23. From a first service for 75 people Oct. 18, 2009, the congregation has grown to include 324 members and a brand new church building.
The congregation worshipped in the St. Francis Room in the basement of St. Gabriel’s Hospital twice before moving to Francis Hall at St. Francis Convent. An office was rented in Hurrle Hall at the convent for Pastor Nate Bjorge. Hurrle Hall’s library was used for Church Council and Ministry Team meetings.
Faith is affiliated with Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC).
Members have compared the congregation to the Israelites who wandered in the desert for 40 years, described in the book of Exodus. Worship moved to Lindbergh Elementary in January 2010. During the summer of 2010, services took place at the Charles Martin Auditorium at the high school. Worship moved across the parking lot from Lindbergh to the middle school commons in September 2010.
“We wouldn’t be where we are today without the support of a lot of people. Our two most recent Church Council presidents — Howard Larsen and John Albaugh — provided the leadership that helped bring together ‘like-thinking’ Christian families who were interested in forming a new congregation. We were also extremely fortunate to have pastoral leadership as well. Pastor Nate Bjorge has been with us since the beginning and has kept us on the right course spiritually as we have navigated obstacles,” said Council President Pat Rioux.
After an anonymous matching pledge of $20,000 for a building fund had been matched, a building fund pledge drive was launched in April 2010 . The goal of the pledge drive was $225,000. The three-year drive for the first phase of construction was closed out three months early with a balance of $295,003.
In October 2010, near the first anniversary of the congregation’s founding, a 32-acre parcel of land was purchased behind Tractor Supply (the old Walmart building.) Ground was broken for the building in April of 2013.
“Construction efforts began with Jim Kalisch, who started the planning,” Rioux said. “When Jim experienced some health problems, Pete Larsen stepped up and oversaw the building process, essentially serving as our general contractor. Darren Colombe put in a lot of time overseeing everything from hanging sheetrock to mounting our LCD projector. In addition, Mark Whittington was instrumental in coordinating all the volunteer effort. We have been blessed with many, many individual members who have donated their time.”
Phase one is done and the congregation is worshipping in the fellowship hall until the sanctuary is built.
A number of members joined a caravan of vehicles transporting worship and fellowship supplies from the middle school to the new building at 303 18th St. S.E., in Little Falls following the last worship at the middle school, Feb. 16.
“Everyone is welcome to worship with us,” said Rioux. “We are a very inclusive congregation.”
“When we first visited everyone was very cordial and welcomed us with open arms,” said Rich Collins. “We’ve been here ever since.”
Soon after the congregation was formed, the council voted to contribute 10 percent of all giving to missions, both local and around the world. Support has been given to the Boys and Girls Club, Habitat for Humanity of Morrison County, Share-A-Meal, Hands of Hope, the Paint-A-Thon, Morrison County Food Shelf, Morrison County Chaplain, Angel Tree, Lutheran Disaster Assistance Fund, LCMC, Nicaragua mission, a new Trail Life troop, missionaries Paul and Lea Eldred in Turkey and the Zarns family in Sweden.
The first wedding scheduled in the new building will be June 7, for Ali Ottman and Joe Kieffer.
“It was really neat to watch the progress and how every member stepped up to help make that church,” Ottman said. “When you walk in, you can really feel all the hard work and love that went into it. It’s not too often that the ‘younger generations’ get to see their church being built and it was really neat to be a part of that process.”
“We know that Christ’s church doesn’t need a building because we are the shelter for the Spirit of God that dwells in us,” said Becky Olson. “That being said, having a roof and walls to protect us from the elements as well as provide a place to gather together is a gift! The freshness of a new building symbolizes a renewal of boldness, courage, hope, faith and love.”
“Our new church building is a place to assemble for all of God’s people,” said Shawn Larsen. “To be able to have a church to worship in is like having a place to call home. Thanks be to God!”
“The new building is a place to worship and to further God’s work among us,” said John Albaugh. “God built the building using our hands.”
“I truly believe God has a plan for our church. I’m not sure what all he has in store for Faith Lutheran, but I heartily believe he wants us to do good work in this community in order to bring more people to Christ,” Rioux said. “I hope we can live up to the ministry before us.”
An open house will be held at Faith Lutheran Sunday, March 23, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. with a recognition program and dedication at noon.