By Starrla Cray
HOWARD LAKE, MN Two Howard Lake churches are joining together an effort that pastors Russ Doebler and Steve Basney hope will be a blessing for both congregations.
“It’s more like a marriage of two churches, or an expansion of a vision a partnership,” said Doebler, the pastor of Blessed Hope Church in Howard Lake.
“Our churches are very similar in many ways,” added Basney, pastor of Open Arms Community Church, also in Howard Lake.
The congregations had their first joint service Easter Sunday, and the arrangement was very well received.
“There was just a real sense of excitement,” Basney said. He and his congregation of about 20 regular members had been hoping for this type of change for a while.
“We’ve always been a small church, and it’s challenging to have a children’s ministry and a youth ministry,” Basney explained.
Blessed Hope is also a small church, consisting of about 45 members, Doebler said.
“We think this puts us in a greater position of strength to grow,” Basney said.
“There’s a multiplication of results when people come together,” Doebler added.
The partnership also puts the new church in a better financial situation.
“Our building fund nearly doubled,” Doebler said.
Previously, Open Arms Community Church had been meeting in the community room above the Howard Lake Library.
Blessed Hope Church met in the Howard Lake Middle School, which is where the conjoined church will continue to meet.
The youth group meets in the old Methodist church building in Howard Lake, which is now owned by the Lions Club.
“Before, having a building was just a dream,” Doebler said. “Now, we can actually talk about it.”
The Howard Lake Middle School has been a great place to have services, Doebler said, but it is still a challenge not to have an official church building.
“By state law, the school can’t give us a key,” he said.
A new church building won’t be considered for a while, yet, however.
First, the new church has to come up with a name.
“There are still some details we haven’t worked out yet,” Doebler said.
“It’s like starting a whole new church,” Basney added.
The church also has to decide which Christian association to join. Blessed Hope had been part of the Fellowship of Christian Assemblies, and Open Arms was affiliated with Kingsway Fellowship International.
“We might do a dual-fellowship,” Doebler said.
Both of the churches have the same values and beliefs, however, and many of the members already know each other.
People from both churches regularly attend community prayer meetings in Howard Lake and Winsted, Basney said.
About the churches
Open Arms Community Church began in 2004, after the closing of a small church called Good News World Outreach.
“Some of the members began to meet in my home,” Basney said.
After a while, they moved Sunday services to the Howard Lake community room.
Blessed Hope began in 1982, and Doebler became pastor of the church nearly two years ago.
“I didn’t even know Steve’s church existed before we came here,” Doebler said.
Doebler and Basney are both part-time pastors. Basney, who has a bachelor’s degree in theology, also works at Dura Supreme in Howard Lake.
Doebler, who has his undergraduate degree in computer science, is currently substitute teaching. He also recently authored a book, and hopes to get it published. Doebler started seminary school 15 years ago, and recently finished his degree. He has been involved in ministry for the past 10 years.
The new joint church has services Sundays at 10 a.m. in the Howard Lake Middle School auditorium. Sunday school is at 9 a.m.
The youth group meets at the Lions Club building in Howard Lake Wednesdays at 7 p.m.
To learn more about the church, contact Basney at (320) 286-5858, or Doebler at (763) 675-8111.