Cross-border churches become joint parish
Sunday marked a historical day in the Lutheran Church as Rev. Jacob Quast, pastor of The Church of the Lutheran Hour here, formally was installed as pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church over in International Falls—making the two churches into a joint parish.
“There’s never been a joint parish internationally before between the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and the Lutheran Church Canada—not in a formal agreement like this,” noted Quast.
Quast, who has been ministering in Fort Frances for the past six years, also had been serving at St. Paul Lutheran on a part-time basis while it was without a pastor.
“They decided back in the spring to issue a call to me to serve them as pastor,” he recalled.
“And that kind of instigated this whole process of how can both of our congregations work together and join together to support ministry in both of our communities.”
While it took some time to lay all the groundwork, Quast said it’s been a very good process.
“We carefully prayed about and thought about it,” he remarked. “We had a lot of good people working on various aspects of it and it has all come together very well.”
Quast indicated the “international red tape” likely wasn’t too bad for him because he is a dual citizen, having been born near Chicago.
“I had to go through the process of getting a social security number because my mom had never applied for one for me,” he noted.
“But I don’t think it has been as difficult for me as it might be for someone else.”
Quast said he’s gotten to know the St. Paul congregation over the past year-and-a-half.
“We have a very good relationship with one another and both of the congregations have a very good relationship with one another, which is very neat to see,” he enthused.
He feels his biggest challenge in taking on a second congregation is just basic time management.
“Trying to juggle the needs and responsibilities of two congregations is always a challenge,” Quast conceded.
“But both congregations are very flexible in how things will work out, so it has been a joy to work with people who are so willing to give out of Christian love and care for one another.”
He noted the arrangement has required adjustments on both sides of the border.
“We’ve had to change our service times, which is always a big thing in any congregation,” Quast noted, citing the service at The Church of the Lutheran Hour here is at 9 a.m. while the one at St. Paul begins at 10:45 a.m.
“We’ve had to adjust our Bible study time on Sunday, as well,” he added.
“But we seem to have gotten into a good groove, a good schedule, and it’s working very well.”
The gap allows Quast enough time to travel across the border to conduct both services Sunday morning.
“Usually [the bridge line-up] is pretty good but you just never know,” he remarked, noting he always could be pulled in for a check at the border.
“I didn’t even have too much trouble this summer, which was actually kind of a surprise.
“But if there is too big of a line-up, I can just walk across and have someone from over there pick me up, which is nice,” he added.
“There is always ways around it.”
Quast said he tries to spend two days a week in Fort Frances and two days a week working in International Falls.
“It all depends on what comes up, of course, but just so I can get around to visit the shut-ins and people in the hospital, and anything else that needs to be done,” he explained.
Due to the new “joint parish” status, the two congregations have formed a Joint Parish Committee composed of members from both sides of the border.
“In our Joint Parish Agreement, we have stipulated that that committee will meet at least once a year to review how things are going and make any adjustments as are required,” Quast noted.
And because they are a joint parish, he said they also want to try to do as many things together as possible.
“So whenever there is a function at either congregation, we also make sure it is widely-known for our members across that they, too, are always welcome to attend those events so we can enjoy Christian fellowship with one another,” Quast reasoned.
“We’re even planning on having joint worship services when we have special mid-week services, like for Advent or Lent,” he added.
“We rotate back and forth, take turns, so people can come over and see how the members are doing at the other congregation and vice-versa.”
Quast stressed both congregations are committed to the truth of God’s word and holy scripture.
“We welcome all people to come to our services, to join together with us and learn God’s word, study God’s word, and receive his gifts,” he said.
“Sometimes people have a perception of the church as being a place where all those ‘good’ people go,” Quast noted.
“We recognize all people are sinners; all people need the message of Jesus Christ crucified for their sins.
“And that’s what we offer here and proclaim to everyone.”