New church in Lincoln Park hopes to pump up worshipCan a Southern-style, high-energy, pump-up-the-volume church thrive in the Land of Lutefisk?
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
Can a Southern-style, high-energy, pump-up-the-volume church thrive in the Land of Lutefisk?
The Rev. Gabe Green said he thinks some Northlanders are ready for a different worship experience, and said he believes — no pun intended — his Church of Restoration will provide it.
The church will have its first service at noon Sunday in the Venue, 2024 W. Superior St.
“A lot of people don’t go to church because they feel it’s just too political sometimes up here, and a little bit too proper,” Green said. “But you know I’m from down South. … And you know we don’t mind raising our hands and clapping and praising God and crying out to God and speaking in tongues and worshipping God. … We don’t mind doing it loud in church. That’s just what we do.”
Green, 34, said he has been trying to mix an exuberant Southern worship style in some Northland churches since moving to the area from Dallas five years ago, but hasn’t had much success. He also formed the Voices of Vision choir, a group of 15 singers who perform at community events in the area.
But in Duluth churches, Green said, he has never really felt at home.
“You know the church down South is completely different than it is up here, up North,” he said. “I kind of felt lost. I’ve not only visited multiple churches in the Twin Ports, but I’ve just really tried to find something that would allow the Holy Spirit to be ushered into their services up here. And they don’t do that much up here.”
Green lives in Superior and planned to start a church there, but ran into obstacles. Then he found out about the Venue, which is part of the Mohaupt Block in Lincoln Park. It’s owned by Martin Sawinski and managed by his father, Mike Sawinski.
Martin Sawinski didn’t wish to discuss financial arrangements, but he said he was happy to help the church get its start.
“It’s a community space and we like to see it occupied,” he said. “We like to see it used by organizations that are making a difference. It’s not easy getting started. We’re well aware of that.”
Green loves the location.
“You have the Seaway Hotel right there,” he said. “You have a lot that goes on. You have drug activity, different things going on in the community. I said, ‘You know what, God? You have a wonderful sense of humor. You put us here because you want us to do something in this community.’ ”
Brian Rapp, a member of the church’s board of directors who lives in the Chester Park neighborhood, said it could be effective anywhere.
“I would be excited wherever God planted us,” Rapp said. “And I love that we’re there (in Lincoln Park). Everywhere you go there’s people in need.”
The church is nondenominational, so Green appointed a seven-member board to provide accountability. The board includes his wife, Heather Green, who also will be the church’s praise and worship leader. She grew up on the Iron Range; the couple met when he was working as concessions manager for the University of Minnesota Duluth and sold her a jersey at a hockey game.
“She has helped me understand the culture up here a whole lot more,” he said.
Green knows of at least 28 people who intend to worship at the inaugural service, and at least 75 percent of them haven’t been to church in more than 20 years, he said.
Rapp, 50, compared the typical church to eating a diet of bread and chicken soup. A healthy but bland spiritual diet doesn’t satisfy everyone, he said.
“There are a lot of lost people that maybe don’t know what they’re looking for,” Rapp said. “We’re hoping that Church of Restoration can reach those people.”