On a Sunday morning two years ago, members of the Crossroads Cowboy Church walked out of the Menoken-area arena where they had been holding services for the past few years, for what felt like the last time.
"We had been meeting in Beard Arena, and it just felt like that door had closed on us over there," said Marcella Johnson, a core member and organizer for the church.
But a week later, the city gave the congregation the century-old Menoken Community Church building.
"One Sunday it felt like we weren't going to go back (to the arena) for church, and the next Sunday this building was given to us, and we've been here ever since," Johnson said.
Now, a donation from rodeo stock contractor Chad Berger and local businesses is giving the church, and the congregation, new life.
It came as a surprise even to those who were there to accept it.
“They presented it to us at the PBR in Bismarck, and we had no idea beforehand,” Johnson said, referring to a Professional Bull Riders event. “We’re still in awe.”
Every Sunday morning, the Crossroads Church congregation meets in its white wooden building for prayers and a sermon given by local roper JD Johnson, followed by a potluck in the basement.
The $10,000 donation from Chad and Fred Berger, JC and Melanie Johnson, Dakota Community Bank and Trust, and Cooper Tires will be used to bring running water to the church, replace windows and siding and possibly rehang the church bell, which was salvaged when the rotting bell tower was torn down years ago.
“I’ve been out to the church a couple times; they’re great people, a great family and they do a wonderful job, so I just wanted to help them out,” Chad Berger said. “It’s an old church and it needed some renovations, so I figured what better way to help them out?”
An eclectic collection of cowboys, ranchers, Menoken locals, country folk and anyone else who wants to visit, the Crossroads Church has carved out its own bit of history in a historic building.
“The church building itself was built in 1904 by Scottish immigrants by way of Canada in a small settlement called Stewartsdale,” said Dave Ennen, the church’s resident handyman and historian. “In 1949, Menoken purchased it and moved it here, and in 1951 they started having services here. In 2005 they closed, and in 2017 the Cowboy Church came along.”
There are various Cowboy Churches across the U.S., and this one grew out of a lack of a church congregation for people in and around Menoken. The original congregation met at Beard Arena for multiple years before ultimately making the move to the Menoken church building.
Since then the congregation has met every Sunday and has slowly grown. The church also attracts a fair amount of visitors every week, and the donation will ensure it can continue to grow.
“It’s really a blessing to be here; I know I hate to miss church,” Johnson said. “It’s somewhere you want to be on Sunday. It’s a really good atmosphere, and we just want to get the message out that it’s not just for cowboys or cowgirls — everyone is welcome.”