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First Presbyterian Church in Osakis has new mission

Community members joined with Presbyterian church members for an evening of fellowship, fun and food on August 26 when the church hosted a community picnic. The congregation is hosting a community spaghetti supper this Wednesday, September 23 at the church. (Contributed photo.)

First Presbyterian Church in Osakis will serve a free spaghetti supper on Wednesday, September 23 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at their church at 101 West Oak Street.

It’s the second event at the church this fall centered around food, and the start of New Beginnings for the congregation.

Pastor Tim Sutton, and Shari Maloney, who is chair of the Our Community Committee, discussed the exciting mission that is evolving at First Presbyterian this year.

“New Beginnings,” said Pastor Sutton, “is a national mission study program for churches and congregations, a do-it-themselves movement.”

Last February, Maloney, along with Craig Cody and Chad Schwanke, traveled to Redwood Falls for training in the New Beginnings program, a journey of self-assessment.

Following a visit from an evaluator to the local church, which resulted in an objective analysis of the congregation, a series of small group meetings was held, which involved dozens of church members. The result was a recommendation on the direction that the small congregation should be moving.

As with any small congregation, one of the questions asked was, “Should we close?”

Pastor Sutton said the average Sunday attendance at First Presbyterian Church is 30 to 35 members, with 80 on the rolls, and 65 active participants. A lot of members live away from the area, or in nursing homes, he said of the smaller membership congregation.

The findings of the months-long study showed that First Presbyterian Church should not close, but instead, change, to get to know the surrounding community better, to increase visibility in the community, and to better utilize the church’s facilities.

“Our greatest opportunity for ministry seems to be seeking and building partnerships with others in order to extend our ministry beyond the comfort of our inward focus,” the recommendations outlined.

Maloney said the congregation is excited about the evolution.

“One of the things that we really enjoy and we do well, is food,” Maloney said. “Like Thanksgiving dinner, the Ice Cream Social, and Christmas Brunch.”

The church also sponsors Vacation Bible School and hosts funeral dinners and wedding receptions.

“What if we take that a little bit further, and reach out more to get to know our neighbors?” Maloney said. “As with a lot of churches, you use the facility on Sunday mornings and it doesn’t go much further than that.”

“Thanksgiving dinner addresses a need,” Pastor Sutton said of the community event that has gone on for decades. “A lot of people don’t have any family or any place to go on Thanksgiving. There is no charge. We put out a basket, and we have raised hundreds of dollars at the dinner, which is split between the Douglas County and Todd County food shelves.”

Sutton added, “Food is mentioned a lot in the Bible. Everybody eats. It’s universal.”

And so the focus on food is developing into the First Presbyterian Church’s new mission.

A series of free food-based events is being planned, including “Trunk or Treat,” on Wednesday, October 28, when church members will decorate their car trunks for Halloween, with treats for the kids. Kids will be welcome to dress up in their costumes if they want and families can have a light supper and everyone can have treats. Parents can feel confident their children are safe at this event, Maloney said.

Plans call for a monthly event, using the church’s big, handicapped-accessible meeting room and beautiful kitchen.

The committee is hoping to involve the Osakis community in the events.

“There’s a role for everybody,” Maloney said. “We want to get the word out on how we want to do more community outreach. If groups are looking for a place to meet, we have the facilities to share. We want to work with other organizations, work with other churches on community and mission projects. A lot of organizations don’t have a lot of numbers, but if we work together we can really address the needs of our community.”

The pastor noted, “The people of the congregation are really invested in this. It’s their thing, not something some pastor wrote.”

Those interested in New Beginnings and the First Presbyterian Church’s new direction, may contact Maloney, Pastor Sutton, or members of the committee, including Craig Cody, Jan Krmpotich, Rod Mitchell, Ilene Olson and Chad Schwanke.

Event information can be obtained by calling (320) 859-4550 or going to http://www.osakispresbyterian.org, or check out “Osakis Presbyterian Church” on Facebook.

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