CROSSLAKE -- Ten years of faith and patience are bearing fruit for about a half dozen people of Presbyterian heritage who began meeting roughly a decade ago for Bible study and fellowship.
"They were hoping for the possibility of the formation of a church," said the Rev. Roger Grussing, who led the groundbreaking ceremony Feb. 15 for a Presbyterian church about to be built in Crosslake, which the half dozen have seen to fruition.
Other church representatives and affiliates participating in the ceremony included church clerk and historian Doris Nelson, chairman of the building committee Morris Mikelson, project manager Craig Feierabend, partners of Hy-Tec Construction, and the Revs. Thomas Gard of Fergus Falls and Robert Hagel of Crosby representing the presbytery of Minnesota Valleys.
Grussing credits the area Presbytery with helping the church's "emerging congregation" conduct research on population statistics and the potential for a church in Crosslake. Eventually, the Presbytery "made possible a lay pastor in residence to coach them along and to observe the possibility of community growth. And then last year, the first of December, the Presbytery brought me in as organizing pastor," he said.
He came from a 15-year pastorate at Macalester College in St. Paul.
"I left there at the 15-year mark, and was building a home on Hardy Lake near Baxter. I intended to do short-term interim ministry out of state, but before that plan could take flight, the local Presbytery asked me to stay put," Grussing said.
The Presbytery bought about 11 acres near the Crosslake Community Center on Daggett Pine Road. They had established that an independent congregation could be well supported in the community.
Also, Grussing said, "regional and national rotating loan funds were sought and are now being made available. ... The area Presbytery is responsible for securing the loan, although the local people, the emerging congregation, are funding it, are able to amortize it."
The dream is materializing quickly now "... both in terms of growth of the local population, the emerging congregation and their willingness to make this happen," Grussing said.
The Vanman Architectural firm of Plymouth, church design specialists, were commissioned to design the structure.
"The result," Grussing said, "is a sanctuary with a raised inner portion of the roof to create a vertical, uplifting sense inside the worship space.
"The appearance of the building is described by some as northwoods, and by others as old/new. The lower portion of the exterior walls will be lined with real fieldstone, and then (finished with) cedar-appearing fabricated siding."
Topping it off will be "a roof shingled in dark colors with accentuated overhangs. ... It will seat approximately 200 persons," said Grussing.
The church building will also house kitchen facilities, offices, classrooms, space for a future multi-purpose room and additional classrooms, and an expanded narthex area that will serve as a social gathering space.
"A quite unique asset is the heating," Grussing said. "We're going with geothermal heating. To our knowledge, it's the only church north of the Twin Cities area, and only a few in the state of Minnesota (with this type of heating)."
The geotherm will reduce fuel consumption, and estimates predict it will cost only one-third to one-half of what standard heating systems would cost for the life of the building.
Five hundred Norway pines and 500 white pines have already been planted on the forming parish's acreage "to bring the forest on the property back into original balance," Grussing said. "It had been logged approximately at the time of World War II, and was never intentionally replanted.
"We've carved a hiking trail on the parameters of the property, which will be used by the city of Crosslake Parks and Recreation. And we have cleared an area where we'll construct this spring an outdoor amphitheater along the trail. And the amphitheater will also be available to the community."
Picture it ... chamber music in the woods. Lovely.
"Three Crosslake clergy -- myself, the Catholic and the ELCA Lutheran pastors -- along with the director of the city Park and Recreation and the Crosslake staff of the Brainerd/Crosslake Chamber of Commerce, have formed a board for utilizing the amphitheater," Grussing said. "We're calling the program series 'Crosslake Chautauqua' after the Chautauqua (New York) tradition of the East (Coast) where people would camp and share artistic and educational, cultural and scientific material with one another. We expect to have speakers, musical events and arts and crafts weekly on Thursday evenings. This summer it will begin July 5, giving us enough time to construct the amphitheater before the series starts. ... And as soon as the church building is complete, it will be available in inclement weather."
The contracted builder for the church, Hy-Tec Construction of Brainerd, "hopes to get cracking about the 27th or 28th (of this month)," Grussing said. "Last year they asked permission to put a mat (about three feet) of straw over the building site to keep the frost from going too deep. ... By the end of the summer (the new church) should be complete.
"We have the accent of wanting to carry out faith in terms of ecological implications," Grussing said. "A lot of folk have moved north to live in a beautiful outdoor environment. So for people with a faith perspective, that becomes a matter of a sense of responsibility for caretaking. That feeling is certainly strong in the emerging congregation. The geothermal heating won't put hydrocarbons in the air. The only energy is electric, which powers condensers. We're trying to do a little demo of responsible living in a fragile environment."
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