Nearly 200 people attended the first service in Peace Lutheran Church’s new building on Dec. 23, an impressive number for a new church that previously had averaged around 80 attendees during services at the Watertown Community Center.
According to Pastor Shannon Bauer though, as exciting as that first service was, it was perhaps even more encouraging to see more than 100 people turn out again for the church’s second Sunday service, on Dec. 30.
“That Sunday after Christmas is typically the lowest attended Sunday of the church year, so it was pretty neat seeing people coming back and being part of that,” Bauer said.
Members of Peace Lutheran Church are understandably excited about their new building, their first true home since the church held its first service in Aug. 2010. Since that time, the church joined the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ, and has been turning the Community Center into a temporary church each week, setting up each Sunday morning and taking down immediately following the service.
In August, however, only two years after the church was formed, construction was able to begin on the new building on the northeast side of town, along Highway 20 near the Elementary School. The goal was to have the building ready for Christmas services, a goal that was accomplished when the church held its regularly scheduled Sunday service there two days before Christmas.
“It was amazing,” Congregation President Kristi Mittelstaedt said of that first service. “It got emotional as we saw the church fill. It was what we had been dreaming about.”
The new sanctuary, the focus of the new building, features about 200 padded chairs, and can accommodate as many as 300 people with additional chairs. The building also offers fellowship and classroom space, as well as a permanent office for Bauer. Bauer used to have his office in the Snap Fitness building, and while he said he will miss many of the frequent visitors he had there, it was nice to move into a more comfortable home at the church.
“There’s that sense of ownership, which is really powerful,” Bauer said of the new building. “We loved the Community Center, but there seems to be a sense of home when you’re here.”
Mittelstaedt said the new building, which took less than five months to complete, turned out perfectly.
“It’s better than expected,” she said. “You always have that visual when you’re looking at plans, but when you see it all put together, all the work, and the people’s time that they’ve given, it’s amazing. They’ve done just a wonderful job.”
Mittelstaedt added that the members of the church always hoped they could have a permanent building in place this quickly, but were never sure if it would be possible to pull it off in just a matter of years.
“In the back of our mind, we wondered if it was really possible to do it that fast, but it’s a reality now,” she said.
Bauer, who became the church’s first permanent, full-time pastor on Jan. 1, 2012, said the group effort and commitment from the members of the church is what allowed everything to come together so quickly.
“The way it has all come together is just phenomenal, and various people have used their talents to make that happen,” he said. “I don’t think there was any one true leader in our church. There were a lot of participants. It just seemed like everyone discovered their role in making this happen. That was kind of neat to watch.”
Bauer said the goal now was to begin to expand the church’s ministries, something the new building will allow them to do more efficiently than the community center.
“God has really graced us with something, and we feel honored and blessed by it,” he said. “Hopefully we can be a blessing to others through it. … Just looking forward to what’s next, I don’t think you ever really feel like you’re done growing. That’s a neat feeling here, is that hopefully, as God graces us with people, if we need to grow, we have the space to do so.”
Peace Lutheran will hold a dedication ceremony for the building on Sunday, Jan. 13, at 2 p.m. The following Sunday, Jan. 20, the church will host an open house from 2-4 p.m. Anyone is welcome to come see the new building and enjoy coffee and snacks.
Contact Matt Bunke at [email protected]