BETA

Once withered branch is now vibrant again

Two years ago, key leaders moved out of the Hutchinson Minnesota Branch, attendance dwindled, the branch was discontinued, and the meetinghouse was put up for sale.

Today, the branch has been reorganized and is thriving again.The meetinghouse is once again for sale - but this time only because the branch has outgrown it. Leaders are looking for a location on which to build a larger meetinghouse.

Efforts to revitalize the Church in this area, located about 60 miles west of Minneapolis on Highway 7, began in July 1987.

"My two assistants received a self-referral from a lady and her 11-year-old boy living in the Hutchinson area," said Pres. Gerald L. Thompson of the Minnesota Minneapolis Mission. "Each time they went to Hutchinson to teach this family they would do some tracting in the area."

During their tracting the two elders encountered several less-active Church members in the area who said there had once been a branch in Hutchinson. The missionaries found the meetinghouse with a "for sale" sign in the front yard.

"We were able to locate an old directory and began contacting all of the members living in the area," Pres. Thompson said. "Most of the members were inactive or were attending another ward or branch 60 to 70 miles away."

By last September, 50 members had been located in the Hutchinson area. Pres. Thompson asked the Physical Facilities Department of the Church not to sell the meetinghouse. "We felt we could possibly get the branch going again."

Working with Pres. Lyle T Cottle of the Anoka Minnesota Stake and other stake members, the missionaries located even more Latter-day Saints in the Hutchinson area. In October, stake and full-time missionaries began conducting one-hour sacrament meetings on Sunday evenings.

"By February over 40 people were attending," Pres. Thompson said. "In the meantime we baptized three new members. We were able to activate over 30 members, ordain two brethren to the Melchizedek Priesthood and five to the Aaronic Priesthood. Also in February two active families moved into the area."

In April, a missionary couple, Elder Leo and Sister Donna Miner, were assigned to labor in Hutchinson.

"When we first came," Elder Miner related, "we were given a list of people in the area that covers about 90 square miles. Within three weeks we visited just about every members household in the area.

"During our visits, we explained to them about the importance of their membership in the Church, and that activity therein that brings blessings. They responded very well to it. We encouraged them by telling them if we had enough participation we could reorganize the branch and get the full Church program going."

The branch was reorganized May 1, with Elder Miner as branch president.

On that day, there were more than 80 members present, double the number that had been attending. Since then, an average of 60 people have been attending sacrament meeting each week.

The Miners and Pres. Thompson said they hope the branch membership will soon be increased, as seven investigators have committed themselves to baptism.