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Pastor Dwight Warden shows the new plans for the church's addition.

Blackduck Free Church marks growth

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The congregation has grown and after years of planning, the Evangelical Free Church in Blackduck is itself growing to meet its needs.

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Work on a 4,200 square foot expansion has progressed significantly since a ground-breaking ceremony in June followed the May 23 start of the current second phase of the project. Earlier the worship area had been refreshed and the phase following the current one will involve remodeling of the Christian Education wing.

The church in Blackduck had its roots in evangelistic meetings and Sunday schools in Moose Park Township in the 1920s. Pastor Dwight Warden says a church was organized in that area in 1926 with 27 charter members.

That church was divided in 1930, part of them forming the Alvwood Evangelical Free Church and with 18 members of that early group becoming part of the new Blackduck congregation. Those founders, Warden adds, are gone now but children and grandchildren are part of the Blackduck church today, with familiar family names including Swedberg, Beighley, Ferdig and Michalicek among the 73 members today.

The first church building, erected in 1945, was outgrown in a few decades and the current building completed in 1974. Average attendance at Sunday worship is 115.

About 10 years ago, Warden says, a strategic planning process highlighted a number of needs. Bathrooms were undersized and not handicapped accessible. The kitchen was too small to handle larger weddings and funerals. The building committee wrestled with those problems as well as other needs centered on adequate space for worship, Christian education and youth groups.

By the end of October, it's hoped that the current phase of construction will lead into the next part of the project. A nursery, cry room, library, larger church offices and an enlarged foyer are included in that phase.

B & F Construction is handling the major part of the construction with all contractors hired within the community. Church members Tom Nendick and Lonnie Wernberg are serving as supervisors. Warden says many volunteers from the church family have contributed their time and talent.

"We have appreciated the support of the community in our fund raising efforts," Pastor Warden says, "with our 'Walk to Be Free' our biggest event to date."

Having his head shaved last summer was another success. A five gallon water jug was filled with coins raising a total of some $1,300.

The suggestion that Warden seek pledges to support his walking from Bemidji to Blackduck morphed into a walk-a-thon for the entire church family. When the appointed date for the walk arrived along with 8 inches of snow that morning, there was some quick scrambling, the walk took place inside the school and the event raised more than $15,000.

There'll be a cookie walk Dec. 3, Warden says. "We've raised a lot of money for this project," he adds as he agrees with a reporter's question. "Yes, it's also been done with a lot of faith."

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