From 66 to 356 in attendance: Keeping up with growth of the church in DickinsonThe new chapel addition to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) was barely completed when the church leaders realized it wasn’t large enough.
By: Linda Sailer, The Dickinson Press
The new chapel addition to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) was barely completed when the church leaders realized it wasn’t large enough.
“This last year was huge,” said Dickinson Bishop Michael Cartmill. “People looking for a place to work are coming. Companies are bringing workers from their home towns.”
Cartmill is an assistant professor of Spanish at Dickinson state University. His family arrived in Dickinson during 2009, and he became branch president in May 2011. The branch became a ward in February when the membership started to increase.
Cartmill said attendance was 66 during the second quarter of 2009. By the second quarter of 2011, the count rose to 130. They documented a Sunday attendance of 346 last month.
“It’s been growing like crazy,” Cartmill said. “We received a new addition to the building last year and moved in December.”
As the attendance grew, an overflow room was connected to the chapel by closed circuit television. The ward serves an area from Killdeer to Lemmon, S.D., and from Medora to Hebron.
“We have plans to add another addition, but the plans come from Salt Lake and approval for funding is a long process,” Cartmill said. “We probably won’t see another addition until next year. In our case, we obviously really need it.”
Besides the oil boom, Cartmill believes the growth has a spiritual element.
“Something is happening in this area — some people feel they are being led here,” he said. “It’s a good faith place to raise kids — it’s what the church focuses on.”
Cartmill also credits the young men of the LDS church who serve as missionaries to the area.
“They preach the gospel — we call it proselytizing,” Cartmill said. “They talk about our beliefs and basically answer questions people may have. They challenge people to follow Christ’s example.”
Cartmill also served as a missionary, starting in Columbia and ending up in Ecuador. That’s where he learned to speak fluent Spanish.
The Dickinson branch of the LDS Church was designated a ward because of the increase in growth.
Dickinson isn’t unique — Williston increased from one ward to two. By the end of the year, Minot should go from two to three wards, he said.
“It’s interesting because most wards are very well established and don’t have the new growth that’s we have here,” Cartmill said. “We see tons of new people every week — we ask new people to stand up and introduce themselves.”
The men arrive in Dickinson first. They bring their families to town after becoming settled with employment and housing, he said.
Reaching out to families
Cartmill works to integrate the new families into the congregation. For example, the church has programs for youth including a Boy Scout program and young women’s and young men’s nights.
“The young men help with the sacraments — it’s a major responsibility of the young men to prepare the sacraments to pass out to the congregation,” he said.
The addition also included several classrooms and a larger library/ family history center. The computers are linked to the Mormon Family History Library in Salt Lake City. The center is open to the public for genealogy research, Cartmill said.
To encourage people to be self-sufficient, the church offers classes. Reinae Bollschweiler is teaching a class on food storage at 10 a.m. on Saturday, which is open to the public.
“I’m going to show people how they can preserve cheese and eggs, and after the first 15 minutes, I’m going to teach a class on how to start food storage,” Bollschweiler said.
The food can be used during any emergency, such as unemployment, storms or illness.
“We needed it before when we lived in Idaho,” she said. “We went a whole year until my husband found work in North Dakota and now we’re able to build it up.”
Church as family
The Young Men’s president, Steven Colman moved his family to Dickinson from Boise, Idaho, three years ago.
“(The church) feels like family and of course, we’re big on family here,” he said. “The groups we associate with are like family — they become our real good friends.”
Kevin McBride is Scoutmaster for Troop 46. He has been planning a campout at Lake Tschida. The McBride family also came to Dickinson from Boise 2 1/2 years ago.
“In essence, everyone is kind of in a similar situation — all of us are coming from different places,” he said. “We have an instant common bond. When you move out here, you don’t have your families, so you kind of cling and bond.”
Cartmill said the challenges of the growth is getting to know the people.
“My two counselors help me an awful lot — we try to visit families and get to know them better,” he said. “Some are living in RVs and some in apartments.”
The church is at 510 Museum Drive. For more information about the church, call 701-264-7354.