A sad, heated controversy is bubbling in Cottage Grove, Minnesota, where members of Grove United Methodist Church say their church, which is about to undertake a “hard reset” in an attempt to attract new members, has asked its elderly regulars to worship elsewhere. The church’s pastor Reverend Dan Wetterstrom disputes such claims.
The church, which has been suffering from low attendance and finances for a number of years, has a weekly attendance of about 25 people. Wetterstrom is taking big steps to change that, bringing in a 30-year-old church planting specialist named Jeremy Peters. They are closing the church over the summer and plan to re-open in November with a fresh mission for new members. And current, older members say that they are not part of the plan.
While they won’t be “physically barred” from attending, Wetterstrom told the Duluth News Tribune that members who weren’t interested in being a part of the new church’s “planting team” should consider going to the other Methodist branch in town during the transition, and could discuss returning to Grove United Methodist in the future if they choose.
“This is totally wrong,” said longtime member Cheryl Gackstetter. “They are discriminating against us because of our age.”
But Wetterstrom told the Washington Post that the strategy is being unfairly framed by critics. Several members provided memo notes of the meeting where the transition was announced, which made no mention of the elderly.
“No one is being asked to leave the church,” Wetterstrom said. “People are disappointed that the service is being canceled.”