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Paynesville Press - August 9, 2006

Crystal Hills to celebrate its 75 years

Addi Larson

After 75 years, Crystal Hills Assembly is celebrating its past, present, and future this weekend.

Former church building The church's "Diamond Jubilee" will commence on Saturday and end on Sunday.

Crystal Hills Assembly was formed in Paynesville in 1931 as the Paynesville Gospel Tabernacle. The congregation soon built this church in town and changed its name to the Paynesville Assembly of God Church.

The celebration will include a picnic at 5 p.m. and a worship service at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday and fellowship at 9 a.m., another worship service at 10:30 a.m., a potluck at 12:15 p.m., the homecoming concert at 2 p.m., and dessert at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday.

The church, located on 110 acres of land southeast of Paynesville, has been the home to 16 pastors and thousands of worshippers during its 75-year history.

In 1931, city hall hosted the first services of the Paynesville Gospel Tabernacle, as the church was originally called. Two months later, the church began the process of relocating to property purchased on the corner of Maple Street and Minnesota Avenue. After just one month, the building was completed and the church renamed Paynesville Assembly of God.

The church started with 66 charter members and held its first Sunday School classes on Jan. 1, 1932, which grew to 80 members in six months.

Growth is one of the greatest hopes for Crystal Hills Assembly, according to Pastor Lonnie Gleitz, who returned from a six-week sabbatical last week. Gleitz likened the legacy of a church to that of a tree seedling planted by a young man. He illustrated that a tree grows to outlive many people, including those who planted it. Yet, in the future, it may be enjoyed by children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. So, too, may a church, he said.

"When you remember the legacy of someone's life, you remember the contributions, the way they impacted people, the way they impacted the world," Gleitz said. He added that this anniversary celebration will recognize the influences of their church upon countless numbers of people, and the families they have raised with the ministry's influence. "It's this big wave effect," he said, adding that a legacy is what the church is all about.

"There have been so many people that have gone out from Crystal Hills Assembly into the mission field to minister or just minister in life," wrote Ardys Zimmerman, whose parents joined the church when she was four years old, in the Crystal Hills Assembly Diamond Jubilee publication. "Many are pastors in different churches. I would think the souls saved and lives changed are the biggest accomplishments in any church. When it makes people want to serve and want to live for God, that's got to be the biggest success."

"I am so thankful that I have a church where I could raise my children," said Deloris Hoekstra, whose dedication ceremony took place at Crystal Hills Assembly when she was an infant and who has been a member at the church for over 70 years.

In 1977, 29 years ago, the church members renovated an inactive supper club and ski resort called Crystal Hills Chalet, and the church was subsequently renamed Crystal Hills Assembly. A dedication service for the new church was held in conjunction with the 45th anniversary celebration.

When the church was planning to build on its current location, a number of members were upset and began mentioning that they might not attend, said Hoekstra. "We never lost a soul," she explained, adding that many who were skeptical were the first ones through the new doors.

The fellowship hall hosts several events, including the princess ball, a harvest celebration, potlucks, showers, weddings, suppers, and parties. The wild game feed, taking place this winter on Saturday, Dec. 2, was attended by about 400 people last year. And organizations such as Christian Women and Minnesota Citizens Concerned For Life also hold conferences at the church.

In 2003, the congregation embarked on a remodeling of the sanctuary and other areas of the church, and in 2004 the chalet roof was reshingled.

In the church's historical newspaper, congregation member Roger Schaumann wrote,"...Some of those people, what a legacy they left for us. What a hunger that must have been. How many people were just recognizing at that time there had to be more than what they were seeing or feeling at their own churches, and this gave them a desire to find a new church. You have to look at the step of obedience there had to have been in the founders, the charter members, to do what they did."

Crystal Hills "They had to do something different, not the status quo, and they did. Here we are, 75 years later, and it is still going. The best is yet to come."

In 1977, Crystal Hills Assembly dedicated their renovated church, located four miles southeast of Paynesville on Highway 55, and renamed the church as Crystal Hills Assembly. The congregation will cleebrate their Daimond Jubilee (75 years) on Saturday and Sunday this weekend.

Church members, while recognizing the anniversary, do not want to dwell on the past, but they look toward the future. Worshippers at Crystal Hills Assembly are often affected on many levels, by which the spirit moves them, according to Gleitz. "The Holy Spirit is a part of the Trinity," he said, "A comforter, one that's going to help you, lead you, guide you, encourage you. And I don't know about you, but I need that."

Music is a great part of the traditions of the church, which incorporates both hymns and contemporary choruses during services. Twice a year, Crystal Hills Assembly holds a music festival, involving the community. "This church stands out for music talent," said Gleitz. "Drums, congas, electric guitars; we rock out." Indeed, on Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m., a homecoming concert will be part of the Diamond Jubilee.

Outreach to the community and the world is another emphasis for Crystal Hills Assembly's growth. The church plans to continue their involvement in missions and outreaches. Other visions for the upcoming years include a cemetery and a senior housing development.

Gleitz, who has served at Crystal Hills since 1999, said the goal of the church is to equip people, helping them to have successful lives and happiness. "Because, let's face it. Life is tough."

Gleitz, who hopes for the youth ministry to grow, said the three attributes of Crystal Hills that draw members and attendees are the children's ministry, the youth ministry, and the adult ministry. Since the church offers guidance on how to be even better spouses and parents, he wants to continue offering life skills to adults seeking them.

Gleitz also said that in order to further develop ministry for families, a "children and family pastor" will be a likely addition to the church in the near future.

"A church with this much history, to take the leaders in and trust them, it's very humbling and a great responsibility. It's an honor," he said. Pastor Gleitz said that since his arrival to Crystal Hills Assembly, he has seen new life and new growth, viewing his experience as comparable to pruning a plant in need of attention and care.

The church is recognizable by its bright sign along Highway 55 and by the three tall hills, former ski slopes, which are adorned with crosses that spread the church's message visually in the Paynesville area.

When the church moved, there was discussion about putting something atop the hills to make a statement for the church, wrote longtime member Dennis Zimmerman in the church's history publication. Then a passerby got an idea and wrote a letter to the church.

"In it, she said that she thought it would be great to have crosses installed on the hill that would be reminiscent of the work done on Golgotha," wrote Zimmerman. "The writer of that letter and her family later became members at Crystal Hills. Their names? Kathleen and Jim Sogge. With that letter, a plan was formulated by the board and staff to make the suggestion a reality."

"The faithfulness of God and the faithfulness of His people" are what he is most thankful for at this 75-year milestone, said Gleitz. "There's so much rich heritage here."

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