Thirty-four years to the day, the Open Door Baptist Church held its first service in the prairie-style church on Seventh Street. Now, the congregation that has grown in size sevenfold will gather for an inaugural sermon in a new location.
The church recently purchased the building that once housed Legacy United Methodist, 924 N. 11th St. Open Door members will meet there Sunday for the first time in the 21,000-square-foot facility.
That means the white building next to Bismarck High School — the one emblematic of churches built long ago on the open plains — is for sale.
It's a long time coming.
Sunday services at Open Door are often standing-room-only inside the 2,700-square-foot church. Regularly, 130 people come, though sometimes attendance surpasses 170.
"We have had some people turn around and leave because they couldn't find a seat," said Jane Bosch, the church's longest-standing member.
The Rev. Daniel Haveman said the building is "bursting at the seams." That's particularly true downstairs each weekend when 60 children learn about the Bible.
"In every nook and corner of this building — except the bathroom — we hold Sunday school," Haveman said.
The church tried once before to move. Open Door was building in a new location when the Great Recession hit. Money fell through, forcing the church to sell its new facility.
Century of worship
Open Door is only the most recent owner of the church on Seventh Street. It changed hands to various Christian denominations after Trinity Lutheran Church first occupied it in 1912.
Bosch recalls helping Haveman's father, Open Door's founding pastor, secure the building 34 years ago.
The first service drew 19 people, including the pastor plus his wife and two children.
"I remember the family kneeling up here and praying this would be good work for the Lord and that people would come," Bosch said.
A year later, the current pastor was born. Haveman attended his first church service the next Sunday after his birth.
"His dad stood up there and held him up like a football," Bosch said, recalling the pride on the first pastor's face.
Open Door has always been an independent church that follows the King James Bible.
Bosch describes the atmosphere inside as vibrant. When the congregation sings hymns, it really sings. Many young families come each week.
"We focus on preaching and teaching the Bible," Haveman said. "We let his word do the work."
Deacon Corey Muth grew up at Open Door. He called the move bittersweet but said the new space will better accommodate the Sunday school program, which he oversees.
He met his wife and two of his best friends at the church on Seventh Street.
"This building is basically walls," he said. "The memories will still be with us."
The church is listed through Bitz Realty with an asking price of $275,000 for the commercial property.
"We'd be happy if another church would buy it, and we'd still get some life out of this building," Haveman said.
But, he acknowledged, it's all right if someone else purchases it and opts to tear it down. Open Door will take pride in knowing it was the last group able to use the century-old space.