Dec. 11 , 2006

Saving Grace hopes to reach out to those without a church home

By Ryan Gueningsman
Managing Editor

With hopes of reaching out to those without a church home, Saving Grace Lutheran Church in Delano recently installed its pastor, and is beginning to establish itself in the Delano community.

Rev. Bill Hillyer officially became pastor of Saving Grace, which is a Missouri Synod Lutheran church, Dec. 3. He said meetings have been taking place since 2004 regarding the foundation for a new church in Delano.

Hillyer said several families in the Delano area began meeting and praying about starting the church. The nearest Missouri Synod Lutheran churches are in Watertown and Howard Lake, he added.

A core group met monthly for about a year-and-a-half. Hillyer and his wife, Sue, attended a week-long mission planter’s conference in Irvin, Calif. about starting a church.

The session focused on creating a vision and mission statement, along with a two-year initiation plan. He brought back information to the core group, and continued planning, and praying.

“Word of mouth is the best way to grow a new church,” Hillyer said. “We hope to focus on people who don’t have a church home.”

The first official service for Saving Grace took place Oct. 15, and now the church averages about 50 attendees per week at Delano High School.

The group started meeting as a church in July. Earlier this year, the core planning group had a target date of Oct. 29, so the launch date was ahead of schedule.

Like most churches, he said the financial aspect is one of the hardest things to overcome – especially for a new one. He said purchasing sound equipment is a big expense, and the process of starting a church, itself, takes funding.

He said possibly three years down the road the congregation may be able to purchase land and build its own building, but for now, Hillyer is content with the school.

“The school has been very open about working with us,” he said. “The auditorium works great.”

Hillyer said that starting a new church used to be more rare, but now is taking place more often. He noted new churches are planned in Monticello and Becker, as well as to the south in Carver County along the Highway 212 corridor, where four new churches are being planned. He said he hopes to also expand into Montrose.

“New churches grow faster and faster,” Hillyer said. “They attract younger families.”

Saving Grace also has a Sunday school program, Bible studies throughout the week, children’s choir, and summer day camp.

“One of our highlights is the summer day camp we had,” Hillyer said. “We had about 50 children for it. We were really impressed, being we just came to town.”

He added that about a dozen high school youth have been very active in the church, and are currently raising funds to attend a national youth conference in Florida.

Hillyer and his family moved to Delano about a month ago. He is originally from Nebraska, and considers himself a “diehard Cornhuskers fan.”

He spent time in the United States Marine Corps, and moved around a lot. He was also an Assembly of God pastor before joining the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod.

He and Sue have two daughters; Stephanie, who is a Lutheran school teacher in Houston, Texas, and Krista, who is a senior at Watertown-Mayer High School.

Hillyer is currently working on a doctorate in Christian outreach and evangelism through Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind.

He said leaders are continuing to meet monthly to review goals and see how things are going. Eventually, a congregation president will be elected, along with a board.

“A lot of people are excited and faithful in helping the church grow,” he said.

For a Lutheran church, the worship style is fairly blended, he said, noting he hopes to take the best of tradition and combine it with what’s relevant in today’s world.

“The Lutheran church traditionally has been a liturgical church,” he said. He added that there are good hymn writers and ideas out there in today’s world that can help families connect to God.

“We also hope to get additional musicians as we grow,” he said. Right now, his wife, and several of the youth lead the musical selections for the services.

Saving Grace’s name is derived from the church being formed with the premise of sharing the life- changing message of God’s “saving grace.”

The new church has services at the Delano High School Auditorium every Sunday at 10:30 a.m., and Sunday School and Bible study every Sunday at 9:30 a.m.

For more information, visit www.savinggracedelano.org.

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