Church merger

Holy Cross Lutheran Church and Family of Christ Church will be merging. (Matt Stolle/mstolle@postbulletin.com)

One Rochester Lutheran Church didn't have a pastor, and the other didn't have a building.

Now, to address those deficiencies and blend their strengths, Holy Cross Lutheran Church and Family of Christ plan to formally merge later this month. 

The churches, which belong to the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, began working together two years ago on activities including youth ministries, confirmation and vacation Bible school. In 2018, the two churches began exploring deeper relations after two Holy Cross pastors left to accept new positions within months of each other. 

Holy Cross reached out to Family of Christ Pastor Jeff Niederstadt about filling the temporary vacancy while he continued to lead Family of Christ. 

"The Family of Christ congregation saw it as an opportunity to serve the body of Christ and help their sister congregation," said Niederstadt in an email.

Once the relationship began, church members began talking of a merger. 

Holy Cross began in 1962 and has an estimated 200 church members. Family of Christ started in 2005 and at one time was holding worship services at Gibbs Elementary School. With more of an outreach orientation, Family of Christ peaked at an estimated 80 to 100 members but has settled in at about 45 members. 

Tim Block, a member of Family of Christ's church council, said the merger represents "dramatic changes" for both churches, both a blending of strengths as well as an accommodation of visions.

"It changes a bit Holy Cross's vision of where they want to go as a congregation, and it certainly changes Family of Christ's perspective on things ... where wanting to establish a new congregation on the far northwest was the intent," Block said. Holy Cross is located at 2703 Ninth Ave. NW, off Elton Hills Drive. 

Block said Family of Christ has sought to grow as a church, but didn't always have the resources to pursue that vision. The merger gives the combined church the opportunity and resources to focus on those outreach activities. 

On Sunday morning, Holy Cross will host a service meant to be both a celebration of Family of Christ's history and the merger of the two congregations. The formal merger will take place Oct. 31 on Reformation Day. 

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