In the summer of 2013, Pastor Tom Braun was called to Our Savior, Mankato to plant a new church, River of Life Lutheran, in St. Peter, a town of 11,000 on the Minnesota River and home to Gustavus Adolphus College. An experienced church planter, Braun was eager to begin working in this community.
River of Life held their first worship service in the fall of 2013. Originally, they worshipped in the apartment complex that Braun and his wife lived in at the time. They also held worship for three Sundays at the Linneaus Auditorium on the Gustavus Adolphus campus before being asked to find another location. This led the church to worship at the Nicollet County Historical Society’s Treaty Center museum for just under a year. After not being to stay that space due to a conflict of the organizations’ missions, a Christian business owner offered up space for the church to use for worship beginning in October of 2014. However, the growing number of River of Life members and attendees quickly filled that space.
Throughout this process, Braun and the leadership of River of Life prayed for a permanent location for River of Life to call home. In the fall of 2014, Good Samaritan Society, a provider of eldercare services, offered to sell a former nursing home building in St. Peter to the church, offering it at two different prices. However, the Spirit led River of Life to decline both offers. However, in November 2014, Braun received a call from Good Samaritan: they were now offering to donate the building to River of Life.
After consulting with district leadership and legal counsel to ensure everything was done properly, the gift was finally closed and the property transferred in late February.
Establishing a permanent location for River of Life to proclaim the Gospel and to do ministry they couldn’t do in other locations is essential. As Braun puts it, the Gospel message “is not actively proclaimed in St. Peter” by many of the churches in town.
Because of the building’s size and available space, Braun foresees many possible uses for the building outside of Sunday morning worship. River of Life is hosting a Financial Peace University course that began in March, and is exploring other possibilities, including renting out space to a school or adult day program or offering programming for Gustavus students. The main thrust behind any use of the building, Braun says, is to build relationships that point to Jesus. “That’s who we are and what we’re about.”
River of Life will hold its first worship service in the new building on Sunday, May 3 at 10AM.