Church: Elk River UMC
District: Big Waters
Submitted by: Carolyn Loeffler
As the community of Elk River welcomed hockey players from around the state for “Hockey Day Minnesota” in January, Elk River United Methodist Church transformed itself into the city’s largest warming house, welcoming visitors with hot food and a warm place to rest.
As the church closest to the “Handke Pit,” where hockey games were played throughout the day, Elk River UMC felt it was imperative to be part of the day’s activities. The parking lot was available for parking, and volunteers inside served up chili, hot dogs, coffee, cocoa, and desserts. Food was available for a free-will donation, and proceeds were shared with Great River Family Promise, a ministry of local churches that provides temporary shelter to homeless families. (A property owned by Elk River UMC serves as the “day center” for Great River Family Promise families throughout the year.)
The warm welcome extended beyond the doors of the church. Volunteers distributed 234 fleece scarves that had been made by church members. They also mixed with the crowd, extending 650 personal invitations to return to the church for warmth and rest. Flyers inviting people to worship were given to more than 150 people who came to the church building during the day.
“This outreach effort wasn’t about bringing people into the pews on Sunday morning; it was about being part of the community,” said one of the Elk River UMC participants. “We knew that many of the people in downtown Elk River for Hockey Day didn’t live in the area and wouldn’t be back on Main Street looking for a church. But if we could make a good impression as United Methodists, as Christians, then it would pay off down the road when those families need a church home in their own communities.”
Members of Elk River UMC saw payoffs within their own church community as well. Countless volunteers participated, donating food, fleece, and time for the event. Members noted that it brought together people of various ages, and individuals who attend different worship services. One Elk River UMC member volunteering in the kitchen welcomed a hockey day visitor—a former neighbor she hadn’t seen since the family moved away 15 years ago.
Hockey Day Minnesota is a day in Minnesota run in cooperation with the Minnesota Wild and Fox Sports North that features at least two Minnesota High School boys hockey games, a Minnesota Gopher men's hockey game, and a Minnesota Wild NHL game. Hockey Day 2014 is estimated to have attracted more than 5,700 players, family members, and spectators to Elk River on January 18. The games were broadcast on Fox Sports North.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church