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The Carillon - ONLINE EDITION

LDS congregation settles into new home

By: Jordan Ross

Posted: 11/10/2018 3:30 PM

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Josh Gruninger, president of the Manitoba stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is seen seated in the sanctuary of the Steinbach branch’s new meeting house.

JORDAN ROSS | THE CARILLON Enlarge Image

Josh Gruninger, president of the Manitoba stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is seen seated in the sanctuary of the Steinbach branch’s new meeting house.

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After two years of waiting, local members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have a place of worship to call their own.

The 60 to 70 members who comprise the church’s Steinbach branch held their first Sunday service in their new meeting house late last month, said Josh Gruninger, president of the LDS church’s Manitoba stake.

The 4,200-sq-ft. commercial space at 7-275 Main Street was renovated over the past few months.

"It’s a wonderful feeling," Gruninger said Tuesday, seated in the church’s white-walled sanctuary, which still smelled of fresh paint.

The decor is unflashy and practical, with simple furnishings and carpet. A wall-mounted shelf near the entrance holds two neat rows of green hymnals.

The building’s lobby will take on more colour when artworks depicting biblical scenes arrive, Gruninger said. Window signage is also planned.

Gruninger, who lives south of Steinbach, oversees a dozen LDS congregations in Manitoba. In Steinbach, he provides administrative assistance to the congregation’s local pastor, or branch president.

He said he was pleased to see the establishment of a Steinbach branch two years ago, when Winnipeg leaders noticed a critical mass of church attendees travelling in from the Southeast.

"It’s been a big benefit to have a local congregation here," he said. "We had been very close here for quite awhile."

Until last month, the branch was renting space once a week in the Steinbach Cultural Arts Centre, an interim arrangement Gruninger said worked well on Sundays but made midweek ministries a challenge.

The new meeting house, a stone’s throw from the city’s clock tower, gives the congregation access to a large shared parking lot that’s seldom used on Sundays, and is accessible for people of all ages.

Going the renovation route isn’t uncommon for LDS branches, but Gruninger said the construction of a standalone building remains a long-term goal.

Whether building new or renovating, LDS meeting houses are centrally funded through the church’s headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah. Standardized design elements and furnishings are used, but the church tries to hire local contractors.

According to the LDS website, the church has more than 4,600 members in Manitoba, spread among 13 congregations.

The Manitoba stake overseen by Gruninger stretches from Highway 59 to the Whiteshell, and from Highway 15 to the United States border, though some members in the far southeast corner of the province attend a branch in Warroad, Minn.

The LDS church supplements the King James translation of the Bible with a second sacred text, the Book of Mormon.

Members believe in living prophets and apostles, and young adults complete 18-24 months of missionary work, which Gruninger said includes proselytizing and community service.

He was quick to point out commonalities the branch shares with other area churches.

"Jesus Christ is central to our beliefs," he said.

LDS churches often thrive in "community-minded areas" like Steinbach, a city Gruninger said values the same things members do: close-knit families, pioneer heritage, and service-oriented living.

"Steinbach has a deep Christian heritage," he said.

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