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Growing to meet a bigger congregation

Posted 4/19/16 (Tue)

By Amy Robinson
Farmer Staff Writer

Precipitated by unprecedented membership growth, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is preparing to construct a meetinghouse in Watford City. Church members and community members were invited to attend the groundbreaking ceremony held on Saturday, April 16. The event was held at the construction site, located in the Homestead subdivision.
“The relevance that McKenzie County has on the McKenzie County ward is that we encompass all of McKenzie County,” stated Bishop Lance Madsen, at the groundbreaking ceremony. “And it’s a great honor to see this come to fruition. It’s taken seven years of trying to work to bring something like this to being a reality. It’s nothing short of a miracle.”
The Watford City congregation has been led by Bishop Lance Madsen since it was re-organized in June of 2013. According to Timothy Cox, president of the Bismarck North Dakota Stake for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the church was first established back in the 1980s before it later dissolved.
“It’s been remarkable to see our congregation grow from just over 100 members to more than 450 in a few short years,” stated Madsen. “Meeting member needs has been challenging with limited meeting space and availability. It has been especially difficult for our children and youth leaders.”
The congregation has about 120 members under the age of 18. And the average attendance today is about 231 on any given Sunday, according to Madsen.
“We had friends here back in the ’80s when the church was first established,” remembered Cox. “Now today, everyone is new - that’s amazing. I’m amazed that there’s a ward this size. I think it’s the largest ward in the entire state. When we were reorganizing our Stakes, we wanted the ‘cream’ in our Stake. We’re grateful to have the Watford City ward as part of our Stake.”
“As we continue to form our identity, it’s a blessing and a privilege to be here in Watford City,” added Madsen. “Hope, truly, is the certainty of God that unifies us today.”
Meeting locations have included Bishop Madsen’s home, the school in Arnegard, and the Watford City Elementary School, where the congregation currently holds its Sunday meetings. Weekday meetings are being held in rented office space in Watford City.
“We are grateful for the many who have supported our temporary facility needs,” Madsen explained. “Especially appreciated are the efforts of Dr. Steve Holen and Nick Segneri, who were instrumental in securing and maintaining our current lease.”
Construction is expected to begin in late April or early May, with an anticipated completion date in the summer of 2017.
“We eagerly anticipate the completion of our new meetinghouse,” said Madsen. “It will help us better serve our members and also our community. Our completion is scheduled for July of 2017, but we are hoping for March or April of 2017. It’s a 12-month construction timeframe.”
The 16,000-square foot meetinghouse will be built on approximately five acres and will include a chapel, meeting rooms, classrooms, a cultural hall, and administrative offices. A Family History Center will also be established to support and assist anyone interested in genealogy work.
“This building is going to be beautiful!” exclaimed Cox. “This ward has struggled long enough for a building! I know the Lord guides the work and he’s conscious of what we need.”
The Watford City congregation is part of the Bismarck Stake, which includes congregations in Beulah, Bismarck, Dickinson, Fort Yates, and McLaughlin, S.D. In the past few years, church membership nearly doubled in western North Dakota. This growth precipitated reorganization of the church’s Stake boundaries in May of 2014, when the Minot Stake was created. The Bismarck Stake has about 3,500 members, while the Minot Stake has about 3,700 members.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently released its 2015 Statistical Report. According to the report, the church has 3,174 Stakes, 30,316 congregations (wards and branches), 4,600 family history centers, and 15.6 million members.