FARGO — The curious and searching who come to the new Rescue House Church in downtown Fargo won’t find bright lights and all eyes on them, the founders say. Rather, they’ll be welcomed into a warmly lit ambiance, and invited to sit for a while and hear some good news.
“Regardless of where you are at and what your past has looked like, you are always welcomed,” says Amanda Nack, who serves on the connections team. “We want you to know that no decision you’ve ever made is too much that you can’t reconnect or connect for the first time with God.”
The church, which had its first in-person worship service on Christmas Eve night, is nestled between Atomic Coffee and Dempsey’s — common gathering spots in the heart of the city — at 222 Broadway.
The location seems prime for this new church’s mission of welcoming anyone seeking connection, no matter where they’re at with God — including questioning if there is one.
Nack knows what it’s like to feel lost in the world and distanced from the spiritual. Though raised in a Christian home, she wandered away for a time during college. “My relationship with God had diminished,” she admits.
Her return started with feeling conflicted with worldly voices that, in her gut, didn’t feel right, she says. “I realized I needed to reconnect with that relationship (with God) — that that needed to be what is habit, and who I am, versus society turning me into what has become normalized.”
In short, “I knew I needed to be more like Jesus.” This led Nack to reconnect with a church family, and in time, desire inviting others into a relationship with God.
Her brother, Michael Slotten, also experienced a profound conversion back to the faith, he says. After pursuing his master’s degree, living in France and Texas, and working as a youth pastor for The Pursuit Church in Minot, N.D., for several years, he and his wife, Elisabeth, and their two young children have circled back to their grounding place.
“We both grew up in Fargo, going to Hope Lutheran — she went to the north campus, and I went to the south,” he shares.
The Slottens started Rescue House Church basically from scratch as a “church plant,” but not one without roots. Pursue Church, where Elisabeth did music worship ministry, was both a launching place for this endeavor and a continued source of support.
It was leadership there that saw something special in the couple and encouraged them to pray about possibly starting their own community elsewhere, to help spread the good things happening at Pursue — which, Michael says, aims to “plant” 15 campuses in rural North Dakota in the next decade.
Frequent visits home reminded them of their beginnings, and “the burden of this community grew on us,” Michael says, as they recognized a void in souls. “Our mission is to create a space where all people can find hope and healing in Jesus.”
Elisabeth, a teacher by trade, was reluctant to leave Minot behind initially.
“I was working in a low socioeconomic school, and creating relationships with the kids,” she says. But eventually, she was convinced, and they decided to head to Fargo, “just before the pandemic.”
“This year has been a good faith-builder for us,” she says. “As we look back on 2020, we see how we got to practice our faith in God. We were so comfortable, but there was nothing comfortable about this whole year. What an amazing experience to put everything we have at God’s feet, and really choose to follow him.”
Elisabeth says the downtown location has proven ideal for ministering to those seeking something more in life. One woman told her she loves the church’s simplicity. “Our relationship with Jesus is simple. And it’s based on the fact that he chose to die for us.”
In this time of pandemic, Mike says, it can be challenging to find ways to connect with others. “Elisabeth and I are ‘people-people,’ so we build relationships pretty organically,” he notes. “How do you do that when we’re forced, by necessity, to stay isolated?”
But it’s possible, and Nack says the pandemic has brought an urgency for such a ministry, rather than diminished its purpose.
“It seems as though now, more than ever, people are really looking for that hope and healing,” she says, adding, “Each one of us has areas where we feel lost and broken. Even if our life hasn’t totally crumbled, there’s still that feeling of brokenness and hopelessness at times.”
She invites “anyone who is emotionally, physically or spiritually hurting, and looking for something more to fill that void,” to reach out or attend a service.
“It’s about that church community, that family, that you can connect with in some way every day of the week — and grow with,” she says.
Along with virtual opportunities, she adds, “Face-to-face interactions are important, too, to be able to express to people that they are welcomed, and that we are here to pray with them and hear their story.”
Prior to the in-person service, following Gov. Doug Burgum’s guidelines on social distancing, they offered three pre-launch parties to start building the community, with the help of their team — other men and women walking with them in this startup journey.
The team, too, needs this conversion and growth, Mike says. “We’re all called to be disciples, and a lot of Christians are challenged by that. It requires a radical faith.”
Elisabeth says she’s passionate about working through any obstacles.
“With everything going on in the world, including the racial tension that America has been feeling, we as a church just want to invite everybody into a relationship with God. That includes our Black brothers and sisters.”
She envisions “a space where you walk in and someone looks like you, and you feel like you want to be there,” adding, “It’s a dream of mine to have a church where every tribe, tongue and nation is represented.”
The church’s next monthly in-person services will be at 9 and 11 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 21. Services also will be livestreamed on their Facebook page, Rescue House Church. Monthly services will continue until Easter, then change to weekly.
Elisabeth invites people to visit their website, rescuehouse.church, and to reach out through contact information there. They’d love to set up an in-person coffee date or Zoom call.
“We realize it’s hard for people to go on a ‘blind date’ in that sense, but we’re willing and available.”
“There have been days when it’s felt too hard,” Michael admits of the challenges. “But at the same time, when God breaks into your life and changes it… we just have to be obedient, and embrace the reality that God never said it would be an easy life.”
Instead, he says, “We bask in the joy with our kids, the beauty of life, and try to rest and care for ourselves, but at the same time, realizing our call and purpose is to know God and make him known. And then, we just have to rest in him.”
[For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns and articles, I reprint them here, with permission, a week after their run date. The preceding ran in The Forum newspaper on Jan. 22, 2021.]