Photos and content by Dave Stucke, Dakotas Conference.
From one charge came two independent churches. The Salem-Montrose charge underwent a breakthrough transformation when Montrose decided to take on their pastor full-time, and the Salem United church closed and reopened with a new name, new people, and a new vision. Both transformations were dependent on each other, and growth is clear in each of the "new" congregations.
Photo: Montrose UMC worship service on a Wednesday evening.
About taking on their pastor in a full-time status, Montrose member Connie Smith said the process was not without concern. "You have to be realistic... I don't think you can just jump headlong into it," Smith said, "but with some thought and conversation, and planning, I think some things are do-able, that you never thought maybe would come to pass."
Montrose trustee Paul Hentges is excited about the future of the Montrose UMC. He said, "[We have] more attendance, more involvement. We stepped up to the challenge of what needed to be done."
Photo: More families are attending at Montrose UMC.
In Salem, the church had seen a steady decline, and was headed for a closure. That was when District Superintendent Roger Spahr stepped in with a bold plan to move upward intsead of downward. The Salem United Church—a multi-demonominational congregation in Salem, was actually closed, but then re-opened as a United Methodist church, aptly named Unite Church.
Photo: Unite church UMC averages about 100 in worship each week.
Pastor Jason Martens of Unite Church began his charge there in 2016 together with his worship-leading wife, Jessica, and in collaboration with Embrace Church of Sioux Falls, renovated the sanctuary extensively, preparing for sermons to be streamed-in via video feed. The rest of the service is all local, so the congregation is able to hold worship in a contemporary format that speaks to them and invite new people to join them.
Photo: Rev. Roger Spahr, district superintendent, talks about the changes in the Montrose and Salem churches.
Martens said, "They were down to about 20-25 people a week, and they were kind of bleeding financially, and so we made these changes, and we've been averaging right around 100."
Spahr said, "The vision was, that we would have two very healthy churches that are alive, and I believe that's what's happening."
"We're excited to see what God has in store for these two congregations, and the new people they are both reaching out to."
Photo: The children's message being delivered at Unite Church by Pastor Jason Martens.