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Pictured, Jay Johnson (seated at left), chairman of the Solid Rock Board, and Ken Alexander (seated at right), president of the First Lutheran Church Council, sign off on the purchase agreement at the closing Friday morning. Also pictured (in back, left to right) are Nicholas Wilson, Applegate Properties; Win Olson, Solid Rock member; Carl Jurisch, Solid Rock board treasurer; Maury De Mers, Solid Rock member; Denny Nybakken, vice president of the First Lutheran Church Council; and Joe Fischer, WESTconsin...

What's old is new again

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When large envelopes filled with keys exchanged hands on Friday morning, Solid Rock Fellowship of New Richmond had finally found a home.

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That day, church officials signed the necessary papers and took official possession of the former First Lutheran Church building.

"It's a big day," said Pastor Ken Mettler.

Since its beginning in 2008, the local evangelical church has had a nomadic existence. The fledgling church first met in New Richmond's Mary Park, and then moved into someone's garage.

Then they rented the Town of Star Prairie Hall for a time, before renting the Star Prairie Community Center for services. After that, the congregation shifted to the New Richmond American Legion and then a converted office space in the city's Business & Technical Park.

But last fall, when First Lutheran Church of New Richmond put their facility up for sale, Solid Rock members saw it as an opportunity to have a permanent building.

"This is absolutely an answer to our congregation's prayers," Mettler said. "The people are all smiles. The excitement level is very high."

Prior to the building going on the market, Solid Rock had discussed the possibility of purchasing land and someday building a new facility.

But, Mettler said, he's been involved in building projects at many of his previous churches and wasn't thrilled with the idea of going through another construction process.

"This is nice for a fella who's been through building projects a few times," he said.

The 30,000-square-feet of First Lutheran space was much more than the congregation needed (they have between 35 and 80 people attending on any given Sunday). But Mettler said the facility came at such an agreeable price that the congregation couldn't pass it up.

"This is a place we're going to have to grow into," he said.

Mettler said church members have a number of ideas about how to utilize the extra space they now have, but nothing certain has been decided.

"We have a lot of options in front of us," he said.

Solid Rock is hoping its Sunday night Hispanic service, which caters to local migrant workers and full-time Spanish-speaking residents, will grow as a result of the new facility. Right now upwards of 40 people attend that service on a regular basis. The building is within walking distance of Lakeside Foods, where a number of migrant workers are employed in the summer and fall.

"This place makes it much more accessible to that part of our church family," Mettler said.

The building also has more than enough room to accommodate more members and Sunday school attendees, Mettler said.

Solid Rock Fellowship's Sunday services are at 10 a.m. Sunday School is held at 9 a.m. on Sundays. Mettler said the church also holds a prayer breakfast and Bible studies throughout the week.

Solid Rock's Hispanic service will kick off for the season later in the spring.

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