BY STARRLA CRAY
WINSTED, MN River of Life Christian Church isn’t a “regular” church, and that’s the way its founders like it.
“When I preach, I’ll be in shorts and a Hawaiian shirt everybody is very casual,” said Andy Brisley, who is one of the church’s current volunteer leaders.
Others who take turns preaching Sunday mornings include Mark Sundblad of Winsted, Dan Rumsey of Howard Lake, Scott Averill of Howard Lake, and Pastor Alan Nauman of Minneapolis.
The congregation met Pastor Nauman while he was officiating a funeral, and Brisley says “everybody just kind of fell in love with the guy.” Now, Nauman leads River of Life services the first and third Sundays of each month.
Worship starts at 10 a.m. in the former Dueber’s building in downtown Winsted, and people are encouraged to “come as they are.”
“We just want to be a place where people can get close to Christ,” Brisley said. “We don’t care who you are or what you’ve done.”
River of Life began about 1.5 years ago, with about five or six families who used to attend Orchard Christian Church in Howard Lake.
“When we fist started meeting, we were meting on top of the Howard Lake Library,” Brisley said, adding that the congregation later met in the Howard Lake Lions Club building.
When the opportunity arose to have a permanent home in the former Dueber’s location, the congregation was excited to make the move to Winsted. Classrooms were created, comfy chairs were purchased, audio/visual equipment was installed, and volunteers stepped up to lead various aspects of church operations.
“I think it’s been wonderful little miracles here and there,” member Rita Lilledahl said. “It’s been fun to watch.”
About 40 to 60 people typically attend worship, and open communion is offered every Sunday.
Lilledahl, who teaches Sunday school, said the church is currently trying to reach out to people who don’t have a church home.
River of Life doesn’t belong to a particular denomination, and has a simple statement of faith affirming the Bible as the revelation of God’s truth, and salvation by God’s grace through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
“We’re not big on legalistic types of operations,” Brisley said. “We just want to let God speak to us and through us.”
Music at River of Life ranges from contemporary songs to “old-school” hymns, and features rock, country, and gospel sounds. Members of the praise team are Brisley, Dana Hausladen, Sherry Sundblad, Stacy Jo Sundblad, Mark Sundblad, Jamie Porth, and Mark Cherry (who is also one of the church leaders).
River of Life attendees come from many different backgrounds and situations, and the church has an open and accepting atmosphere.
“We strive to be non-political,” Brisley said. “We all found Christ in different ways, and we want to share the refuge and peace we’ve found with other people.”
River of Life recently completed its second year of vacation Bible school, and also has a youth group.
In the future, the church hopes to hire a staff person to help with teaching, outreach, and small groups.
To learn more about River of Life, call (320) 485-9011, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or go to www.rolchurch.org.