Lighthouse Church moves into iconic Christian Science building
FARGO – A congregation that aims to help people renew their faith and rebuild lives is injecting new energy into the old Christian Science church building on the edge of downtown here.
The nondenominational Lighthouse Church conducted its first service in the 100-year-old Greek Revival church in late June.
“We’re pretty excited about it,” the Rev. Dale Wolf said.
The deal for the church, with its distinctive columned entrance and white dome, came together quickly, Wolf said.
It was purchased and donated to the Lighthouse by an individual who wishes to remain anonymous, Wolf said.
“It’s really a beautiful old building. The Christian Science church really took good care of this building,” he said.
The 5,632-square-foot First Church of Christ Scientist building is on an 11,000-square-foot lot at 21 9th St. S. It was designed and the cornerstone laid in 1914, according to the listing by Konrad Olson Commercial Real Estate.
The building was listed for $279,000. The sanctuary seats about 280 people in pews arrayed in theater style, with the dome – which can change color depending on lighting – centered overhead. The church also has a lower level fellowship hall, the property listing stated.
Debby Frederickson, a board member for the local Christian Science congregation, said the building was sold June 25.
That small congregation held its last service there June 15.
Until they find a new meeting place, they’ll gather in homes, just as the first Christian Scientists did when they began to meet in Fargo in the late 1890s, Frederickson said.
“It was obviously a bittersweet service. We had been there about 100 years. It was hard to say goodbye,” she said. “There were some tears shed. We were very grateful for our time there. I just loved being in it – so sublime and so restful.”
Frederickson said she considers herself a historic preservationist, and that the Christian Science congregation is pleased another church will use the building. The structure is a classic Christian Science design, she said.
“It’s so lovely. You always want to preserve such beautiful structures,” she said. “I believe it will be respected. And that would be just wonderful.”
Wolf is no stranger to getting a new start. The longtime Fargo church leader struggled with burnout, depression and alcoholism, officially resigning as head of Fargo’s Atonement Lutheran Church last July.
He began Lighthouse Church in September. The congregation met at the Scheels Arena in far south Fargo, sometimes in the upper lobby and sometimes in a nearby space that’s used as a bar during Fargo Force hockey games.
Wolf always hoped to bring his ministry to the ethnically, culturally and economically diverse neighborhoods surrounding the old city center.
“I had envisioned all along that ideally our ministry would be centered closer to downtown,” Wolf said. “When this became a possibility, it was like it was ordained by God.”
Assistant City Planner Dawn Mayo said the church is not in the Downtown Historic District. It’s also not listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
But, Mayo said, that’s just a matter of plowing through the considerable paperwork involved in that process.
The building is structurally sound and has always been a cultural and architectural asset to the city, she said. “It’s really kind of a cool building.”
On Wednesday, Wolf, and his wife, Beth, puttered about the church, dusting and sweeping.
He also considered some of the work that needs to be done to the exterior and basement of the church.
Wolf said he is glad his church of second chances is giving the building a second life.
“We’re a church that understands your past and present struggles and understands your doubts,” he said. “You can come as you are and we just welcome all people. Especially people … who might be looking for a second chance.
“We love the historical character of the building. We have a very traditional building – and love it.”