Church embroiled in age discrimination claims after announcing relaunch

The Cottage Grove church is trying to attract younger worshippers.
Publish date:

A Cottage Grove church says that all are welcome despite reports it is asking its older members to stay away while it tries to attract younger worshippers.

The Grove United Methodist Church has been struggling with dwindling numbers at its services, with only around 30 attending regularly, prompting a move to embark on a "relaunch."

This relaunch would comprise of the church closing its doors in June, re-opening in December with a more youthful pastor, Jeremy Peters, who will be charged with attracting a younger demographic.

While relaunches are common in Methodist churches seeking to boost their congregations, it has sparked controversy within its current congregation that has now reached a wider audience because of a Pioneer Press article published Saturday.

The newspaper reported that current members of the church, many of whom are over 60 years old, are being asked to worship at The Grove's Woodbury church not just during the temporary closure, but for 15-18 months after the relaunch as it looks to boost its appeal to younger families.

The plan was revealed in a memo authored by Rev. Dan Wetterstrom, the leader of The Grove's two churches. Peters told the newspaper that while current members will not be physically barred from attending the Cottage Grove location, they are asking them to "let this happen."

The memo sparked outrage from some of the existing members, with one of them, Bill Backstetter, telling KARE 11 that even if they are still welcome at the church, it nonetheless feels like they are being driven out.

"I feel that's totally age discrimination, just wanting youth, the younger families," he told the TV station.

Sign up: Subscribe to our BREAKING NEWS newsletters

The church responds

But the church has taken issue with some of the reporting regarding its relaunch, issuing a letter to its congregation that was shared on its website on Tuesday.

It argues that the Pioneer Press article did not "accurately portray" what it's planning, though it didn't refute the claim that members had been asked to worship elsewhere for 15-18 months until they can "migrate back" to Cottage Grove.

"The worshippers at the Cottage Grove location are beloved members of our church family; their presence and contributions are part of our identity," it says.

"The Cottage Grove members have been invited to serve on a transition team to identify the traditions and values that are important to them and to explore options during and after the relaunch.

"We are working to connect them to the existing worship services at Woodbury or help them continue as a group at a different time and/or location after the building closes to prepare for the relaunch.

"We recognize that people may have a range of feelings about the Planting Project. We acknowledge and honor those feelings, and we seek a safe space where all these emotions are welcomed and affirmed."

Next Up

Kirill Kaprizov

Wild score 5 unanswered goals to sweep Sharks

The Sharks scored first but the Wild stormed back in a 5-2 victory.

Rocco Baldelli

Twins-Angels postponed Saturday and Sunday due to COVID

Outfielder Kyle Garlick and one other player tested positive on Saturday.


Curfew set at 11 p.m. in Brooklyn Center, Champlin Saturday

More protests are expected in Brooklyn Center.

Image from iOS (1)

Victim killed in multi-vehicle crash that closed Hwy. 62 ID'd as woman, 23

The four-vehicle crash closed the eastbound highway for several hours.

protest, Daunte Wright, Brooklyn Center

Photographer reports being maced and punched by police, other journalists detained

It came just hours after a court order prevented law enforcement from using force against the news media.


Police move in swiftly to make arrests on 6th night of Daunte Wright protests

What started out peaceful took a turn as the night drew in.


Minnesota church calls time on its lutefisk dinner after 70 years

Faith Lutheran in Forest Lake has struggled to find new volunteers to help out.

Bethlehem Lutheran

St. Paul church to temporarily close after volunteer tests positive for COVID-19

The church has been collecting donations of supplies for in-need families.

Church changes its name because it sounded like conspiracy cult

People kept mistaking the Illumination Church for the Illuminati.

TJ Maxx, HomeGoods to open Twin Cities "combo" store next week

The Cottage Grove store will be a mashup of both retailers.

Nick VanDenBroeke

CAIR-MN calls on church to repudiate MN priest's Muslim comments

The priest made controversial remarks during a service in Lonsdale, Minnesota.

First Covenant Church of Minneapolis

Minneapolis church facing eviction over its LGBTQ support

The national Evangelical Covenant Church is to decide on whether to remove the church from its roster.

Archbishop Bernard Hebda

Defying order, Catholic leaders say reopening for services is legal

The diocese will allow churches to resume in-person mass next week.

Screen Shot 2020-02-04 at 2.33.25 PM

Charges: School resource officer touched students' butts, asked for nude pics

The 40-year-old worked at Park High School in Cottage Grove.