Lutheran pastor explains what his new church will bring to Dickinson
Pastor Joel Prange will lead a new Evangelical Lutheran church in Dickinson called Amazing Grace, slated to open in the fall of 2023.
DICKINSON — Joel Prange, a fourth generation Lutheran pastor, will lead a new Lutheran church in Dickinson called Amazing Grace. The church will belong to the WELS denomination (Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod). Prange said he expects to be holding weekly services at a permanent location by the fall of 2023.
Prange said he originally had aspirations to become a civil or architectural engineer, but a high school mission trip to China in 2013, the summer before his senior year, helped him decide on a higher calling.
“It was really quite cool to see people hearing the gospel for the first time, how it changes their lives, how they feel the pressure and the burden of sin lifted off of them, the guilt of knowing that Jesus completely save them from their sins, and there's nothing that they need to do in order to be saved… I actually got to do that for the first time,” he said. “That made me want to do it for a full time job. I knew that no matter what I did, I could always share that message. But now I get to do it as a pastor.”
WELS no longer does mission trips to China, as the Chinese Communist Party has since cracked down harshly on such activities. He said it was still technically in 2013. They had to identify as tourists and couldn’t post about what they were doing on social media.
“It was illegal, but they kind of didn’t care at that point,” he said.
Now 27, Prange is married to his wife Lydia. They met while attending Martin Luther College in New Ulm, Minnesota, where she was studying to become a teacher. The couple is expecting their first child in late September.
Prange said some Lutheran sects have strayed from the original teachings of Martin Luther and other key leaders in the early days of Lutheran Protestantism.
“Our Lutheran church body, we'd like to think, stays pretty true to what they said. And part of my eight years of training is studying all of that,” he said. “Luther didn't want to get rid of the liturgy. He didn't want to get rid of the Catholic mass, except for the stuff that he saw that was wrong doctrinally with it.”
He went on to explain the importance of living a, “life of sanctification,” and being grateful to God.
“Ultimately, the works that we do are our thank you notes to God. It's us saying thank you for giving us eternal life. You've changed our heart. You've called us to live this new and holy life that we get to live now. And obviously, that's a lifelong struggle. We're never going to do it perfectly,” he said. “...God's grace is all that you need, no matter what you do.”
Prange said that about a decade ago, WELS church body leaders decided to expand into western North Dakota. Grace Lutheran Church in Minot held its first worship service at the Grand Hotel on Easter Sunday in 2016. They’ve more recently moved into their own building. He said a third congregation in Williston is a possibility in the years to come.
For information about Amazing Grace, contact Prange at 262-758-1831.