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New church shows growth
Spirit of Truth meets at golf course
By By Alica P. Thiele
Challenger reporter

November 29. 2012 9:14AM
Sunday morning, sign up sheets at Spirit of Truth Lutheran Church invited members to help deliver Meals on Wheels in December, or to participate in a living nativity scene Dec. 22 and 23. Pastor Jerry Merkouris introduced visitors during the worship service, and he announced the first birth in the fledgling congregation.

Spirit of Truth held its first service on Mother’s Day this year with attendance of 136. On a recent Sunday, the congregation numbered 170 in padded banquet chairs at the Brandon Municipal Golf Course. In the parking lot, a wooden sign propped up in a pickup bed announced the church’s presence.

That sign, and word of mouth, has contributed to the congregation’s growth, charter member Derrick Flier said.

Most of the members of Spirit of Truth are former members of Beaver Valley Lutheran Church, which is part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. And although the people were happy with their local church, over the years they had become disillusioned with the ELCA Synod, Spirit of Truth board member Lynne Erickson said.
In recent years, disputes over ELCA doctrine and practices have resulted in members across the nation seeking membership in more traditional churches, or starting their own congregations. Spirit of Truth is one such group.

“We believe ours is more Biblically based,” congregation president Ron Meland said. “It’s based on the Bible.”

“This group is more traditional in its beliefs,” Erickson said. The church is affiliated with the North American Lutheran Church.

“One of the things we like about the NALC is that everything is ratified by the congregations. Nothing is dictated by the synod,” Meland said.

Erickson said that while people went through “a period of mourning” leaving their former congregation, they are excited about what the future holds for Spirit of Truth.

“This is a very close group,” she said. Among their focuses are youth and mission.
Earlier this month, a group of youth and adults went to Rosebud in western South Dakota to serve Thanksgiving dinner to people there. Spirit of Truth members have done chores for people in the Brandon Valley area who couldn’t do their own.

And the congregation supports Robin’s Nest Children’s Home in Montego Bay, Jamaica, a place for children ages birth to 18 who would otherwise not have a home.

Youth education was so important to the congregation that they invested in a youth pastor right away, Flier said. “We wanted to make sure we have the programs for them,” he said. Doyle Burnside is the youth director.

After Sunday morning services, curtains go up in the clubhouse banquet room to form separations for Sunday school classrooms. In other parts of the room, people gather for coffee fellowship and adult Bible study, making for a room teeming with energy.
“It’s a good noise,” Meland said.

Bryan Read, Brandon’s city administrator, said the city worked out a contract with Spirit of Truth for use of the banquet room. City employees set up and take down chairs and tables for the congregation each week. Read said the contract is mutually beneficial, because the city receives rent income for the clubhouse during times it otherwise wouldn’t be used.

Each Sunday, Spirit of Truth members box up the hymnals, put the cover on the piano and put everything into storage areas until the next time they are needed.

Services are held at 9 a.m. Sundays, with Sunday school and adult Bible study following. The services are aired on the local TV channel on Fridays at 6:30 p.m. Confirmation and high school youth group is held beginning at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesdays. A middle school youth group meets at 6:30 p.m. on Sundays. Small Bible study groups also meet at various times.

Flier said someday the congregation would like to have a permanent home, but it is not the highest priority.

“The church is the people,” he said.

“Moses had a tent,” Meland said.
To learn more about Spirit of Truth Lutheran Church, see the congregation’s Facebook page or email
WHAT: Spirit of Truth living nativity scene
WHEN: 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 22 and 23
WHERE: Arny Erickson property, 48494 260th St., Valley Springs
COST: Free

Caleb Flier (left) and Jacob Scherb pack hymnals into storage tubs after the Sunday morning service at Spirit of the Truth Lutheran Church. The congregation meets at the Brandon Municipal Golf Course. Photo by Alica P. Thiele

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