January 31, 2013

A Minnesota congregation builds both a new building and its mission

In the northwestern Minnesota town of Pelican Rapids, Faith Lutheran Church is a landmark building, with a historic clock tower dating back to 1886. But for the past 15-plus years, the congregation’s fellowship hall— which was built in the 1960s—has been in need of major repairs. It wasn’t handicapped accessible. Mold problems plagued the building’s basement Sunday school classrooms. The basement rooms also lacked windows and a separate entrance. After much deliberation, the members of Faith Lutheran decided to remove the old fellowship hall, rather than renovate it. Then, with the help of one of the Mission Investment Fund’s church building consultants, Anne Gerrietts, they began developing construction plans. 

The challenge? Ensuring that the new building met all their needs while maintaining the beauty and integrity of their existing historic sanctuary. That meant an architectural design that kept Faith Lutheran’s beautiful aesthetics intact. The design the congregation ultimately chose matched new roofing with existing roofing, patterned the new building’s brickwork after the church’s original brickwork, and incorporated stained glass into the new space that had been removed from the sanctuary to provide overflow space.

MIF helped Faith Lutheran review its finances and create a realistic budget for the project. “When you get the bids, it can be overwhelming,” says Faith Lutheran’s pastor, the Rev. Roger Rotvold. Representatives from MIF and Stewardship Key Leader—an ELCA ministry that helps congregations raise funds for new building projects—led Faith Lutheran through its pledge drive. Despite the economic downturn, “we chose to set our sights high and we almost got there,” Pastor Rotvold says. “We actually exceeded what Stewardship Key Leader thought was a realistic fundraising goal for us.”

When it came to choosing a lender for the project, the decision was simple. “Our endowment fund was already with the Mission Investment Fund,” Pastor Rotvold explains. “And MIF did an excellent job helping us plan our project, which only solidified our belief that MIF’s commitment to helping congregations build their ministry really fit with our own mission.”

Today, Faith Lutheran is putting its new building to good use. On most any day of the week, you’ll find community groups gathering there, including music ensembles, scouts, AA, and Students Against Drunk Driving (or SADD). And Faith Lutheran’s members are benefiting, too. “People who couldn’t access our old fellowship hall are now able to stay for coffee and fellowship after the service,” Pastor Rotvold says.