Cottage Grove church re-launch spurring hard feelings

Bill Gackstetter's grandfather and great grandfather started the Methodist church in what is now Inver Grove Heights.

A proud parishioner, he's stayed in the area and for the past 10 years has been a member of The Grove United Methodist Church in Cottage Grove. But lately he feels he's being pushed out for a younger crowd.

"I don't think God discriminates against ages, and he wouldn't turn people away that want to go to church," Gackstetter said.

The Grove in Cottage Grove has about 30 regular members. It's a small congregation that lost its pastor several years ago due to expense. Since then Sunday worship has been lay-led.

In 2008 it merged with The Grove United Methodist in Woodbury, becoming one church with two campuses. But membership has remained stagnant.

"For over a decade we've struggled to make that church grow, it's been a real challenge for us," said Dan Wetterstrom, the lead pastor at the Woodbury location.

Wetterstrom says the church is going through a re-launch and a new pastor was brought in to take over.

Later this year the Cottage Grove site will close for several months. Current parishioners say they were urged to go to the Woodbury and that they were told if they are interested in migrating back to the Cottage Grove site, they'd have to wait 15 to 18 months before doing so.

"Why they couldn't have had a couple of options, they could have had two services, one for the old people and one for the young," Gackstetter suggests.

The Gackstetters call it age discrimination, but Wetterstrom says that's not the case.

"No one was told to stay away — everyone is welcome," he said. "We are committed to honoring and helping every one of the members of our church to be active in ministry."

When asked if the church is looking for younger families, Wetterstrom said, "We're looking for persons of all ages."