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Getting out in the community

Traditional Minot churches reach out

The Bethany Lutheran Church youth group posed for a photo with the supplies they used to donate to Backpack Buddies.

Churches in Minot are taking steps to get out into the community and share its faith in some nontraditional ways.

Father Justin Waltz of St. Leo the Great Roman Catholic Church, who was appointed to his current position in 2012, has been sharing his faith by inviting the congregation and others in Minot to block parties. He also shares the experience of brewing and tasting homemade beer, for people of legal age.

Fr. Waltz started brewing his own beer when he was in seminary school.

“I really enjoy the craft of making beer,” he said.

When he started brewing beer, only two or three members of the parish joined him. As of March 12, he said the brew team consists of 50 to 75 members. In all, he has made anywhere from 3,500 to 5,000 gallons in the last seven or eight years.

People stand in line at the 2016 block party at St. Leo the Great Roman Catholic Church.

On one end of the ministry, they get together and have mass, then they make 60 to 120 gallons of beer.

“They’re good Catholic men,” Fr. Waltz said, “that like hanging out doing this.”

Religion isn’t one of the main focuses while the brew team meets. He described it as a good holy place where good guys can can get together and they do the work that supports the second end of their ministry.

The second part of it is that meeting to brew gives the members a place to share the gospel and ask others if they have met Fr. Waltz. Not a lot of people know that he brews, so when they hear about it, it piques their interest and some go to check it out. Fr. Waltz likened brewing with his members to Jesus bringing people together.

The summer months are reserved for block parties around the church. He has about 20 different fire pits that he brings for bonfires. The streets around the church are blocked off and Fr. Waltz said the police are really good about it. An estimated 400 to 500 people show up for pizza, hot dogs, chips, pop and beer on tap. A band is usually present to add some uplifting music to the occasion. The 2016 block party also had inflatable bounce houses to keep the youngsters busy. Father made sure to mention that the block parties are open to anyone who wants to attend. It’s not strictly for St. Leo’s church members. At the end, he talks about angels, demons and other subjects to give it a different element.

“From a contemporary standpoint,” the Father said, “you can’t just hit people strong up front with the Bible or faith. You’ve got to connect with them on a human level, you know, and then they’re interested in sharing the gospel, maybe, and then you kind of get in the unique dynamics through the brewing of beer.”

Like Fr. Waltz, the pastors of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church have also done a sort of block party of its own. Pastor Mark Frueh and Pastor Steve Oster get staff, members and volunteers together to feed the community in its parking lot. Food is cooked hot and fresh out of the food truck while adults talk, children play and enjoy some worship music until they switch to a playlist filled with music of all kinds.

On March 11, Oster said they were working on getting a working waterfall put together to add some character to the party, along with props and other materials.

“We have to change how we present the gospel,” Oster said. “Things change, and Paul said, ‘Be all things to all people.'”

With the changing times, Frueh and Oster hold contemporary services on Sunday mornings for the younger members of their parish. They involve guitars, drums and keyboards. Traditional services are still done with the organ for the more traditional members of the church. They believe in music of all kinds, the pastors added.

During the summer, both pastors of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church, other staff and parishioners from many churches gather in Oak Park for Worship in the Park. Trucks make food for those attending and everyone can listen to music and unwind.

To reach out to the teen members, they held a youth group that turned into a community supper for everyone on Wednesday nights. Frueh estimated that about 115 people attend.

“It’s (the adults’) social hour,” Oster explained. “They get to have supper after work when they get off work around 5 p.m. I look forward to it.”

During those Wednesday night gatherings, both pastors are down talking to everyone, not standing up at the pulpit.

In the spring months, the youth group picks up trash that had spent the winter frozen in a snow bank or had just been transported by the wind in the neighborhood near Roosevelt Elementary School. They pick up several pounds of garbage trying to keep the area clean.

Teens usually find movies appealing, so Frueh and Oster started doing what they call “movie outreaches.” They put on a movie that has a Christian message, have a chili feed and popcorn, and it’s open to the public.

Instead of watching a movie to pass along a message, Pastor Janet Mathistad of Bethany Lutheran Church in Minot organizes what she called “a reader’s theater.” Church members are cast and they present a play. It isn’t like a traditional play where the cast would have to memorize their lines. It’s a little more laid back where they can read from the script.

“It’s more of a conversation than a sermon,” Mathistad said.

They only do the reader’s theater during Lent, all the way up until Easter.

Their youth group also meets on Wednesday nights, with some contemporary instruments like Cornerstone Presbyterian Church. Young musicians play the guitar, flute and others. The members of the Bethany Lutheran youth group sometimes help put bags together to donate to Backpack Buddies, purchase and donate food to Minot State University’s food pantry and serve turkey dinners to the congregation for some special occasions.

A unique technological feature that Bethany Lutheran put in place is an online church directory that only members can access. It is password protected. Mathistad said that it’s a lot easier than using the printed directories, to update photos for members, and to add new members.

Technology is making new advances every day and has been deeply integrated into society. With these changes, all three of these churches do livestreams of its services and upload them to its social media accounts for people to view later. They understand some members of its respective churches do not have access to transportation or other factors which may prevent them from attending the service in person.

St. Leo’s, Cornerstone Presbyterian and Bethany Lutheran all have Facebook pages for its own church. St. Leo’s and Cornerstone Presbyterian also have Instagram to give updates on what’s happening.

Each church has its own individual websites, giving names of staff members, mass times, contact information, recorded services and much more.

Some of the oldest churches in Minot are making the changes necessary to “stay with the times” and making services more readily available to others. Getting out into the community is important, making connections, building relationships with others and having fun. By staying connected with the people of Minot, it has the potential to become an even better place.

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