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Elk River Lutheran Church Takes Over Bank For Building Space

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(credit: CBS) Bill Hudson
Bill Hudson has been with WCCO-TV since 1989. The native of Elk Rive...
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ELK RIVER, Minn. (WCCO) —  In a shopping center parking lot situated between a Menards and Coborn’s seems an unusual place to find a church. But each week Pastor Cyndi Ganzkow-Wold delivers her Sunday sermons in a converted pool hall.

Now just two years after forming, Elk River Lutheran Church has grown beyond belief. Its 60 charter members quickly blossomed into a congregation of more than 450. The time was ripe for a permanent sanctuary.

That new home will be downtown, situated on the banks of the Mississippi River. The congregation has just been handed keys to a bank.

“We have to re-purpose what’s here,” said Pastor Ganzkow-Wold.

Envisioning the former First National Bank building as a place of worship isn’t very difficult. In fact, you could say that it’s tough to get any closer to God than with the incredible scenery of the Mississippi River.

The building became available when First National moved into a new building across Main Street. For the price of $1.2 million, the church will get 19,000 square feet of prime real estate for about the same amount as what it has been paying in monthly rent.

Walking into the building you can’t help but notice the office smell.

“Is that the smell of money? We wouldn’t know, we’re a church,” said Ganzkow-Wold.

The former bank lobby will become the sanctuary seating about 250 worshippers. The bank’s huge steel vault, complete with rows of safe deposit boxes, will be converted into a serving kitchen.

Bank offices were located on the upper floor with huge windows overlooking the river. The majority of that space will become Sunday school classrooms. The basement floor will serve as a large community meeting room as well as space for the choir and music programs.

While the church will undergo an immediate remodeling, it is also undertaking a capitol campaign to add an additional 3,000 square feet of space for a larger sanctuary.

“We need another five-hundred thousand to seven-hundred thousand to do what we need to do,” said Building Committee Member Lee Davies.

As for Pastor Cyndi, she’s got dibs on the corner office and its million dollar view. She doesn’t even try to hide all the excitement and anticipation.

“Don’t you think my sermons will get better? They better,” she said jokingly.

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