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St. Paul's looking to the future--and the past

It is a time of both excitement and sorrow for St. Paul's Lutheran Church of Perham. On June 18 the church will bid goodbye to Rev. Terri Grzybowski, the church's pastor of 12 years. The following week the church will have commitment Sunday, to b...

It is a time of both excitement and sorrow for St. Paul's Lutheran Church of Perham. On June 18 the church will bid goodbye to Rev. Terri Grzybowski, the church's pastor of 12 years. The following week the church will have commitment Sunday, to begin fundraising for the new elementary school the church is getting set to build as soon as the funds are raised

The new school, or educational wing, will be added onto the west side of the church. The new education wing will increase the building to three or four times its current size. St. Paul's will need $1 million in hand before it can go ahead with the building process and $1.5 million to complete it. Once the new building is completed, the old school building will be sold to help pay for costs.

The grade levels offered will continue to be K-4, but the relocation will help assimilate the Precious Lambs preschool into the rest of the education program. Rev. Grzybowski and the congregation hope the closer proximity of the preschool to the elementary will help the younger children adjust into upper grade levels in the school system.

Rev. Grzybowski is excited for the church's new project, though he will no longer be part of the process. According to Rev. Grzybowski, the new education wing will serve several purposes, including doubling as Sunday school classrooms, personal rooms for wedding parties, or meeting rooms for families before a funeral. The gym will provide a more spacious option for larger funerals or gatherings as well.

Having the church and the school located on the same campus is something Rev. Grzybowski felt would be beneficial to the congregation. The current church building was built in the sixties, leaving a few blocks between the school and the church. The distance isn't a large one, but it is enough to make a difference, Rev. Grzybowski said.

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"The (new) building could really change the dynamic of the ministry here," Grzybowski said.

Longtime pastor to leave

The new wing is not the only alteration that will be reshaping St. Paul's new dynamic. Rev. Grzybowksi's decision to accept a call to Emmanuel Lutheran Church of Elk River will also be a big change for the congregation. Rev. Gryzbowski cannot say why he felt led to accept the call, but he believes it was the right decision.

"When the call comes, you open your heart up to what you can do," Rev. Grzybowski said.

The St. Paul's congregation, nearly 1200 baptized members, has been very supportive of Rev. Grzybowski's decision to accept the call in Elk River. Rev. Gryzbowski admits that the decision had brought him conflicting emotions. While excited for the new opportunity, Rev. Grzybowski will miss the congregation he has grown to love over the past twelve years here.

"That's the hard part of disengaging, because you can't stop loving people," admitted Rev. Grzybowski.

When Rev. Grzybowski answered the call to St. Paul's twelve years ago, he arrived to a congregation that was struggling, having lost their former minister to retirement and been calling for a new one for several years. Rev. Grzybowski said his role in coming to Perham was to hold things together. He does not take credit for any of the growth, only in helping redirect the church's focus to what would benefit the health of the church.

"If I played a role at all, it was just keeping things focused on what ministry is about," said Rev. Grzybowski, using the Great Commission as his main example of ministry.

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Rev. Grzybowski departs with legacy of "healthy" ministry

The congregation is healthier and more focused on ministry. Last year St. Paul's launched its Stephan Ministries program, and plans on sending an individual to leadership training this year. With a $1.5 million school project in the works, the congregation is also growing. Rev. Grzybowski believes that the church is in a much better place than it was twelve years ago, and while the congregation will miss him, they will continue to flourish.

For Rev. Grzybowski and his family, the change is causing mixed emotions. Rev. Grzybowski's family have lived, worked, and participated in the community for the past twelve years. Rev. Grzybowski served as a tennis coach for the public schools and a member of the local Rotary chapter, to name a few of his roles outside of St. Paul's.

"You become involved in people's lives as a pastor," Rev. Grzybowski said.

Since accepting his call, Rev. Grzybowski has become a less active personage, encouraging the congregation to continue in planning for the future.

Already, Rev. Grzybowski has been less involved with the future plans on St. Paul's, and that is the way he feels it should be. He said that the strength of the ministry is in the people.

School fundraising heats up

on Commitment Sunday

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The congregation will have their annual commitment Sunday at the end of the month, after Rev. Grzybowski's departure. They are hoping the day will be the beginning of the necessary fundraising for the new education wing.

The congregation is also already working on a list of pastors from the Missouri Synod that they would like to see called to the area. The list will be sent to the district, which will also add several names to St. Paul's list before they begin their decision process.

Area Missouri Synod pastors will be helping the St. Paul's with their services until a new pastor can be found.

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