Spirit Lake church communities celebrate the holidays

Staff Writer
Devils Lake Journal
Children at Dakota Baptist in Ft. Totten gather around the real Christmas tree given by a generous donor.

Churches from the Spirit Lake Nation plan to embody "peace on earth, goodwill to men" this holiday season.

Many of the churches plan Thanksgiving and Christmas events that combine celebration of God’s blessings with outreach to community members in need.

"People always appreciate events," said Pastor Larry Thiele of Dakota Oyate Lutheran Church in Tokio, "Especially around the holidays."

From community meals to programs and worship services, the churches of the Spirit Lake Nation share the love of Christ with their neighbors for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Many of the churches have traditions that community members look forward to each year. Others are instituting new celebrations this holiday season.

Dakota Oyate in the Woodlake District is hosting a service on Thanksgiving Day at 6 p.m.

"We’re trying something new this year," says Pastor Thiele, "After the worship service, we’ll serve dessert and coffee since most folks will have eaten their big family meals earlier in the day."

They also plan to host two different Christmas events. Typically, they hold a children’s Christmas celebration with a program, gifts, and treats on one of the Sundays prior to Christmas as well as a Christmas Eve service at 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

Father Chuck at Seven Dolors Catholic Church in Fort Totten celebrates the holidays by making himself available to anyone who may have an emergency on those days.

"It’s important for people to know where I’m at," says Fr. Chuck, "so I decline invites and I’m always at home for Thanksgiving and Christmas. In case of emergency, people can find me at home."

Seven Dolors plans to have a 10 a.m. Eucharist Service on Thanksgiving that will last approximately 45 minutes so that folks can get home to their family events afterward. For Christmas, Seven Dolors may have a midnight mass.

Dakota Baptist Church in Fort Totten celebrates Thanksgiving with a community potluck style meal at 12 noon on Thanksgiving Day.

"The church provides the meat, and everyone brings side dishes," explains Pastor Paul Young, "It’s a great place for anybody and everybody who may not have other places to go for the holiday."

Pastor Young reports that some years, the church has had only a handful of people for the Thanksgiving meal, while other years have seen as many as 70 attendees.

For Christmas, Dakota Baptist will have a Christmas worship service at 11am on December 14th where the children will share a few songs and families receive a small gift. On December 21st, they will host a breakfast for their Sunday School hour at 9:30 a.m.

"We always teach our Sunday school children that Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus," says Pastor Young, "so we like to keep worship as the focus of our events."

Joe Obermeyer, who serves as the youth and outreach coordinator at Bdecan Presbyterian Church in Tokio reports that they held their Thanksgiving worship service on Sunday November 23rd.

"Bdecan is a small family church, so family is very important to members at Bdecan. Because of this, the people of Bdecan love gathering together for special holiday services," says Joe, "The Christmas service is always very meaningful."

For Christmas, Bdecan plans to have their children put on a program. This will most likely be on December 21st at 11am. The service will be open to the public.

Lighthouse Assembly of God in Fort Totten held a special Halloween event this year in October. They called it a "Pumpkin Party" and approximately 40 people attended. Children from their Sunday school program recited Scripture verses in order to win the biggest pumpkin. All attendees went home with a pumpkin of some sort, and the donut eating contest, pie walk, and ball game were all good games at the event.

Lighthouse Assembly was not planning any special Thanksgiving services due to the Pastor and his wife welcoming a new baby to their family. However, the church plans to host a Christmas program and celebration that will probably take place on Dec. 21.

Mike and Libby Flowers of the Spirit Lake Ministry Center coordinate Christmas Shoebox gifts for the Spirit Lake Nation each year. This year, 812 shoeboxes have been donated and prepared by volunteers. The gifts are usually given out through the schools on the reservation.

For more information or to confirm the dates and times of these events, please contact the church or ministry individually.