Parishioners of a Perham Church Fighting to Keep Their Faith Alive
The church has been around since 1882, operating just outside of downtown Perham
PERHAM, Minn. — When the small city of Perham was in its infancy, a congregation of worshipers opened the town’s first United Methodist Church in 1882.
Nearly fourteen decades and a couple new buildings later, the collective faith of its small band of parishioners still rings through the air.
When Betty Jean Robinson first came to the church fifty years ago, some prominent people in town filled the pews.
“The congregation of the Methodist church was made up of teachers, the school superintendent, and so forth, so that way, we got to know more people in the community,” said Robinson.
After teaching Sunday School at several other parishes in town, Terry Schroer decided to start her own chapter at the church in 1970.
“Once we started coming, we kind of had to come because I was the Sunday School teacher. There were four kids and I had two of them so I had to be there every week or then we would have had to cancel Sunday School,” Schroer said.
But once they entered the doors, they found their home.
“Well, it’s become our family as far as our family is concerned. We have no relatives in Minnesota, so our church family became our family,” Robinson said.
The active membership in the church has gotten smaller and smaller over the years.Currently, the congregation only has 25 members, and just six kids in the fold.
“Where we come up short is we don’t go out and advertise ourselves to everybody in Perham or the surrounding area. We’re very quiet in our faith,” said Jim Ebert, the Lay Leader of the church.
But with some masses featuring only rows of pews with hymnal and scriptures, some say active recruitment is the answer.
“We need to get more believers coming here, and if they don’t have a home church, we just need more people, and I think they would be happy here,” said Laura Drummond, who first started attending the church in 1958.
Three years ago, parishioners got together to discuss the future of the church, and instead of closing their doors, they decided to carry their faith forward.
One way the parishioners look to make their community more engaging is by having all the members take part in church affairs.
“After church on Sunday, everybody participates in the council meetings. Everybody has a voice,” said Ebert.
Having newcomers instantly feel like they’re part of a family is just one way the parishioners are looking to keep their church alive.
“We’ll invite you for coffee after church, and we like that so much, we sit there quite a while, and if you’re new, we hardly let you leave,” Robinson said.
As more and more young people skip church on Sundays, parishioners say their message can bring them back through the doors.
“In the world right now, the way things are going, people are so negative and divided. I think that can help if we try to help people rather than be divisive,” said Schroer.
At the end of the day, the church’s remaining members share the same motivation.
“I don’t want this church to diminish any further because we need to uphold it, not only for the Lord, but for all those people that went before us. We want to keep going and we want to thrive, and we’re really working at it,” said Drummond.
As long as they have each other, the flame of their faith in their church will never be extinguished.
Church leaders estimate 90% of all people in Perham belong to a church in town.
However, they say if they can recruit four to six new members each year, they should be able to keep the church up and running.
For more information on the Perham United Methodist Church, click here.