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Peace Lutheran congregation eyes building for church

Peace Lutheran Church members are hoping to resurrect the Velvet Antler and Whitetail Tavern buildings damaged by fire in December. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

Nevis School's band room, filled to capacity, heard "a joyous noise unto the Lord" Sunday morning.

Before the clock struck 12, the newly formed Lutheran parish, welcoming 99 at the first service, determined it will go forth as Peace Lutheran Church and will "proceed to put a bid" on the Velvet Antler and Whitetail Tavern property that was severely damaged by fire in December.

The nearly unanimous vote on the possible purchase of the property earned a hearty round of applause.

The Peace Lutheran congregation is "beginning a new journey" following the vote at Bethany Lutheran Church that failed to attain a two-thirds majority to leave the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Members objected to recent ELCA doctrinal changes that include opening the ministry to partnered gay and lesbian Lutherans and other amendments to traditional policy.

The congregation, making an offering of $883 at the premier service, agreed to begin the process of incorporation through the Secretary of State's office

Members of the building committee were expected to move forward this week on possible acquisition of the former Velvet Antler property, which sits 4.19 acres. John Laumb reported an asking price of $69,000 for the property.

"This is a great opportunity," Ed Becker told the congregation, noting the in-floor heating system in the Whitetail Tavern was not damaged and the well and septic system remain intact. A forced air furnace system is also in working order.

"It's very doable," agreed Denny Skjonsby. "But it will take lots of work."

Laumb reported the original Velvet Antler building is usable, with a power wash.

A member of the congregation expressed concern regarding the lawsuit between the former restaurant business partners. Building committee members agreed they would pursue a clear title.

"It's the realtors' mantra - location, location, location," said Russ Price, who had delivered the service message. He estimated a cost of $50,000 to $60,000 for materials to build on the former Whitetail location.

Price suggested the congregation institute a building pledge in addition to traditional giving. He said several have come forward to commit funds for a down payment on a new church.

A woman in Bemidji has offered to donate an organ for the church.

The congregation agreed to begin contacting Lutheran organizations for possible affiliation, including Lutheran Congregations for Missions in Christ and North American Lutheran Church.

Bethany Lutheran secretary Carla Michels, who resigned her position after the vote, has indicated she's available to assume duties with the new church.

Sara Becker expressed concern with students enrolled in confirmation. Bethany's pastor, Al Hendrickson, has indicated a willingness to work with the six students affected but the location remains in question.

Former school superintendent Dick Magaard suggested city churches would likely provide classrooms for Wednesday church school.

Officers elected include Kelly Harrington, president; Skjonsby, president elect; Price, treasurer; and Doreen Seal, secretary.

The group also agreed to designating charter members. The charter members, who will be entered in a church historical document, will be those who pledge to join within seven days of the incorporation date and officially register their names as members with the secretary of the congregation prior to Dec. 31.

"God is wonderful and showing us in so many ways that we are going in the right direction," Seal said after the meeting. "We welcome all inquiries about our new church and look forward to building a history within the Park Rapids, Nevis and Akeley communities."

The next worship service will be at 9:30 a.m. Sunday at Nevis School. Don Marg will lead the service.

Those wishing to be included in the church's updates via e-mail may contact peacelutherannevis@

The prelude/call to worship eloquently spoke to the new congregation's vision Sunday.

Something inside, so strong, pulls us together, beckons us;

Some presence in the still of the night;

A sense of peace on a frantic day;

A fragment of a dream that bears much promise;

Something inside, so strong, steadies us, calms us;

A quiet confidence that we will make it through;

A growing faith that we are not alone;

A sense of wonder that opens new vistas;

Something inside, so strong, causes us to sing...