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The Journey at Spirit Lake

By: Doreen Gosmire, director of communications, Dakotas UMC

Baptism at The Journey at Spirit Lake.

Pastor Mike Flowers (left) invites family members to participate in the baptism during worship. Photos courtesy of The Journey at Spirit Lake.

“I have a joy to share,” says one woman during the time of worship when people share joys and concerns, at The Journey, a new worshiping community at Spirit Lake. “I am happy that I can come to a church where I can be Indian and Christian too.”

The Journey, at Sheyenne, North Dakota is reaching out to Native American families across the Spirit Lake Nation. Worship is held Sunday evenings at 5 p.m., with an average attendance of 45.

“What happened was that we were connecting with people all around Spirit Lake Nation through our work with Volunteers in Mission (VIM) teams,” says Pastor Mike Flowers, who serves as the pastor to The Journey. “People started asking, ‘Do you have worship?’”

One small group of people grew to several small groups. Mike and Libby Flowers, who serve as co-directors of Spirit Lake Ministry Center, began having a monthly meal and conversations of faith. Mike says, “We would ask questions like—What is happening in your life? How is faith affecting you and the people around you?”

It all morphed with the remodel of Arthur Hall, a Quonset, that was rebuilt to provide a kitchen, showers, and meeting space for VIM teams. Everyone quickly realized that the remodeled Arthur Hall was not just a place for VIM teams, but a space to start a new worshiping community.

Worship is a casual, comfortable setting. People sit at round tables, in family groups.

Sunday School is conducted in the back of the room, during the sermon. Libby Flowers leads the children in an activity while Pastor Mike Flowers delivers the sermon.

“The children are really engaged,” says Libby. “They are involved in the activity, but we have found that they are also listening to the sermon.”
 

Children's Christmas program at The Journey at Spirit Lake.

In fact, one Sunday, a child, was so eager for the message he started leading the prayer. Pastor Mike usually starts the sermon with a prayer that begins with the words, “Creator God.” The child headed to the back of the room, and started praying out loud, “Creator God.” Giggles flowed from the back of the room. The child told Libby, “I want to start my picture to color Peter.” Peter was a key part of the message that day.

 The first service was held in 2017 on Easter Sunday. There have been seven baptisms. A youth group has sprung up on Wednesday evenings. Last summer, the youth headed to Wesley Acres Camp for a week.

The congregation also hosts Summer Jam, a Vacation Bible School program, held in the afternoon for children ages 6-12. Summer Jam also takes place in the evenings for youth age 13  and older.

The Journey at Spirit Lake is a congregation in service to their community. Each month there is a service project or mission focus. Outreach efforts include: baking cookies for elders and delivering them, making blankets, going Christmas caroling, and winterizing 12-14 homes.

This new church start has been supported by Rev. Ben Ingebretson, Dakotas-Minnesota director of new church development, and conference programs like the Children and Youth Ministry cohort.

“Ben has been there to guide us. He has provided resources and support in our efforts,” says Pastor Mike. “Five members of the congregation attended REACH in Sioux Falls last fall. One young couple, who attended, got excited from what they learned and took over the food pantry.”   

The congregation recently decided on the name, The Journey at Spirit Lake. The name is based on the Dakota name “Wanagi Can Ku,” which means Spirit Road.

“Twelve years ago, we were called to serve the people of Spirit Lake,” says Pastor Mike Flowers. “We had no idea what God had in store for us. There is no way we would have ever imagined a new church.”

UMC

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