PILLAGER -- Surrounded by farmland in a remote area 10 miles north of Pillager is the oldest Assembly of God church in Minnesota, Casino Assembly of God.
The church got its name from a village called Casino that existed in the early 1900s. People started gathering for tent services in 1922, and the church has been growing ever since.
Today the population is sparse in the Casino area, but the congregation is thriving.
Since Pastor Michael Broberg came to the church five years ago, the congregation has more than doubled. With an average of 120 people at the Sunday morning service, Broberg said most of his congregation comes from rural areas.
"We are a very country-styled church," Broberg said. "It seems to fit the people around here."
The constant increase in Sunday morning attendees has affected the church in a big way. Construction started in December of 2000 on a 6,000-square-foot addition, more than doubling the size of the church.
The addition includes a new kitchen and sanctuary that can hold 280 people.
In celebration of the new addition and the 80th anniversary of the church, Casino Assembly of God is having a parade, Fun Rodeo and picnic. Events begin at 11:30 a.m. Saturday.
A dedication service in honor of the addition will be held at 10 a.m. Sunday.
"We are dedicating the church to the Lord," Broberg said.
Broberg said many members of the congregation helped with the almost completed $220,000 construction project.
One church member made a pine cross that hangs in front of the sanctuary from a tree that was in what is now the church parking lot. Broberg said stained glass windows soon will be put in behind the cross.
"It cut our cost tremendously to have donated labor," Broberg said.
Broberg admits the construction has been a messy, long process, but he is happy with the results.
"When this (construction) is done, I'm going to take a break from building anything for a while," Broberg said jokingly.
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