By James R. Cope
During late June it was my pleasure to be with the few but faithful brethren meeting at 2309 Gates Drive, S. W., in Rochester, Minnesota. Presently consisting of ten men and twelve women, this congregation had its beginning three years ago with two women worshiping in a rented hotel groom in downtown Rochester. About two years ago Gary and Carolyn Hargis of Tampa, Florida, moved to this area to work with these two disciples and Brother Hargis to serve as the evangelist. Membership was thus doubled, and counting all children of the three families there were eleven in regular attendance. Since the beginning of this work, one of the women moved away and the other ceased to attend.
To date Brother Hargis has baptized seven. One of these, a woman residing at Spring Valley, 26 miles south of Rochester, was contacted as a result of teaching advertisements in the Rochester Post-Bulletin. Because of this contact, five members, one 70-year-old man and four women, now constitute the body of Christ in Spring Valley. Weather permitting, for several months Brother and Sister Hargis drove to Spring Valley for one service each Lord’s day and two or three days a week making contacts and teaching. Bill Imrisek, a young man who has worked with Brother Hargis for the last year, has been preaching regularly for the Spring Valley church each Sunday since May 1 this year. He and Hargis did all the preaching prior to then. Brother Hargis secured a vacated church building for this group to meet in, and he holds the deed to it.
Leaving the hotel room, the small band at Rochester rented a business house where meetings were held Sunday afternoons for sixteen months. In December, 1974, these disciples moved to their present building, a remodeled residence with seating capacity for 50 and adequate classrooms for the present. They have Sunday classes and two assemblies plus another meeting Wednesday evening.
The church was established in Rochester, home of the renowned Mayo Clinic, about 1946. As the innovations of the next two decades swept the churches, this one was engulfed.
When Brother Hargis arrived, he began a series of teaching articles in the Post-Bulletin which caught the attention of the innovators. Among these were three persons’ who had renounced Christian Church departures under the teaching of Wayne Mickey in 1947. Every contact was cultivated and last January W. C. Hinton visited Gates Drive for the specific purpose of dealing with innovations. This effort has now resulted in ten souls renouncing these departures and taking their stand on the authority of Christ.
As indicated above, Bill Imrisek came to Rochester about a year ago. Soon he will move to work with the small group in Duluth, largely held together by the Melvin Krumrei family which I have known for 30 years.
Based on recent developments, Spring Valley affords what apparently is a quite fruitful field. Fred McKinney, a man with many years of experience in Minnesota, will probably move there: Billy Farris is beginning work with the Summit and Grotto church in St. Paul where Leslie Diestelkamp worked before going to Australia and with which Ed Harrell worshiped and worked during his recent studies in that area. Fred McKinney has been with the Downtown Minneapolis church for the past two years, having renounced the departures of the Central congregation, having preached there a while. Albert Wanous (converted by Leslie Diestelkamp) has been at Pine City for about 20 years.
At this time of year (summer) the weather in Minnesota is warm but comfortable and the landscape is breathtaking. The multitude of relatively small farms, each with its red and white barn, silver-topped silo and white farmhouse, spot the rolling hills and shallow vales, making an imposing picture as far as the eye can span, Woodlands scattered over this vast expanse are nature’s embroidery to emphasize the splendor of this great outdoors. Any person who loves to commune with Nature will find a fitting temple for his meditations in this ornate garden which the Creator formed in the great Midwestern portion of our beloved land.
Minnesota is twelfth in size of the 50 states and 19th in population with almost eight million. Though usually identified as the “Gopher State,” it is also called the “Bread and Butter State” because of its enormous wheat crops, great flour mills, abundant dairy products, and hog and cattle production. Even so manufacturing stimulates the economy more than agriculture, much of it involving the processing of the fruitage of the soil. It is a vacation wonderland for those who love the outdoors.
Lutherans and Catholics dominate the religious scene though Baptists, Congregationalists, Episcopalians, Methodists, and Presbyterians are prominent and, in some areas, powerful.
In all of this great and beautiful state there are only six sound churches of Christ with more than two members, and all of these lie along the eastern border. Probably 100 would constitute the total membership of the six. A man and wife worship in their own residence just south of the Canadian border. No other pure New Testament churches are to be found anywhere. The Dakotas to the west and Iowa to the south present much the same depressing picture though a tremendous challenge. Wisconsin to the east has a few more and larger churches but not many. The whole area cries, “Come over into Macedonia and help us!”
To brethren who read these lines I have a suggestion. Its wisdom and practicality may be questioned, yet its potential cannot be negated because it has never been tried. I have discussed the idea with some of the brethren in the area who feel it has realistic merit. Here it is.
Truth Magazine XIX: 45, pp. 710-711
September 25, 1975