by Dennis Dalman – firstname.lastname@example.org
It was a long time coming, but members of First United Methodist Church of St. Cloud are ready and eager, at long last, to move into their new “home” in Sartell – a brand-new building on Pinecone Road S.
“We’re thrilled to see the quality of the building and what it will provide for our ministry,” said Rev. William Meier after paying a visit to the new facility last week. “It will be fun to see our ministry thrive in that space and that location.”
For more than 100 years, First United Methodist Church was located in St. Cloud in four successive buildings, the first in a house. The current church, built more than 50 years ago, stands at 302 5th Ave. S. in St. Cloud, just south of the downtown area. In the past 10 years or so, the building had become woefully too small for the needs of the congregation.
As early as 2007, the congregation at that site was faced with two choices: try to expand and renovate at the current site and fix an ailing infrastructure or build a new facility somewhere else. A task force was formed. Eventually, the congregation voted to move, despite many misgivings, including a certain sadness in giving up that site, which had long been the place of so much fellowship and worship. There was also concern about the precious artworks in the building. Would they have to be left behind. However, the congregation agreed wholeheartedly a new church would somehow accommodate the artworks. Those works include a magnificent large stained-glass panel from the west face of the church; an exterior sculpture of Mary and young Jesus sculpted in the 1950s by St. Cloud artist Otto Dallmann; and an interior abstract sculpture called “The Tree of Life” by artist Joseph O’Connell. All three will have prominent places in the new church.
The pipe organ will also be moved, cleaned, re-wired and totally upgraded.
A new baptismal font has been commissioned from Collegeville potter Richard Bresnahan.
Fundraising for the new church began in 2010. The structure on a 20-acre site is 20,450 square feet, with a bell tower and a large education wing, which is unfinished but will be completed as funds become available. The church worship area can seat up to 400 people. There are 167 parking spots and enough room for future expansion.
The site, Meier said, was chosen for “demographic potential, accessibility, visibility, size and sustainability.” The land was secured with help from the Minnesota Conference of the United Methodist Church. Murray Mack of Hagemeister and Mack Architects of St. Cloud developed the site and the building plan. Donlar Construction of Waite Park is managing the $4.3-million project.
The last service at the St. Cloud location will be May 12. A week later, on May 19, the congregation will gather at the Sartell site for the first service there. In warmer weather, the church will hold many activities outdoors as there is plenty of room now.
Meier has been with the St. Cloud First United Methodist Church for almost six years. Before that he served in Detroit Lakes for 12 years. He started in the ministry in Hendricks for five years, then served six years in a Methodist church in Rochester.
Meier was born, literally, on the way to Ely. His father, who was also a minister, was bringing the family from its parsonage in Faribault to his new assignment in Ely. During the ride to Ely, Bill’s mother, a registered nurse, began feeling labor pains. They stopped at the nearest place, and Bill was born.
Meier and his wife, Linda, who was a nurse and then a legal secretary, have three grown children. Their oldest is Nicole Zitow of St. Cloud, who is a speech-language pathologist. She and husband, Tyson, have a 4-month-old baby, Cameron. The other children are Aaron, an engineer at a Fargo TV station; and Sarah, who is single and lives in New Haven, Conn.
The vision statement of First United Methodist Church is the following:
“First United Methodist Church celebrates God’s transforming love as seen in Jesus Christ as we worship, learn, build spirit-filled community and reach out to our world. We seek to be a people of hope, promise, healing, justice and joy. We seek to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with those who don’t belong to a faith community. We celebrate diversity and welcome persons from all walks of life. We also strive to nurture, name and call out the giftedness of each person for the redemptive love in all God’s action.”
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.