Zac VanderLey—Staff Writer
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the Sioux Center News on April 20, 2022.
As the worship team sang “Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest,” children waved palm branches and walked through the Good Shepherd Church congregation. When they reached the front of the Kinsey Elementary School cafeteria turned sanctuary, they formed a line and sung the song to the jubilation of the congregation
This year’s Palm Sunday marked a week since Good Shepherd celebrated their one-year anniversary as a church. Since their first service, Sioux Center’s newest congregation, led by The Rev. Travis Else, has averaged 150 to 200 weekly attendants.
According to its website, “After a year of pandemic-related disruption, denominational upheaval and what we believed to be a Spirit-fueled holy discontent, Good Shepherd Church was born. Our hope was to create an intentional community of simple, Christ-centered, Holy Spirit-driven, and historically-rooted Christian worship, mission, and service committed to representing the kingdom of God and blessing our larger community.”
“[It] was like sending some invites to a party and not having a clue who would show up,” member Mark Hulsoff said about the church’s first service.
Hulsoff, assistant high school principal and activities director at Sioux Center High School, attends Good Shepherd with his wife, Jill, and two sons. While Jill serves as an elder on the church council, Mark worked on the church’s steering committee.
“We didn’t know where to worship. We just knew that we had a bunch of people who were looking for something different,” Hulsoff said.
Hulsoff and the steering committee settled on Kinsey Elementary. While the congregation’s 10:00 a.m. service occurs in the cafeteria, Sunday school programs utilize the school’s classrooms. Though the church has altered the location of its pulpit four times throughout the past year, its worship style has remained the same.
Good Shepherd Church is liturgical. The congregation participates in its services through a nearly 16-page pamphlet which includes call and response readings, prayers, music, scripture, and the Apostle’s Creed. In addition, communion is served every Sunday.
On this year’s Palm Sunday, the congregation prepared themselves to feast at the Lord’s Table by singing “Sanctus” and reciting the Apostle’s Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. Then, Else broke a loaf of bread:
“On the night that he was betrayed, our Lord Jesus Christ took bread. And after he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat. This is my body given for you.”’
Else took a cup and poured its contents into another cup.
‘“This cup is the new covenant in my blood: do this each time you drink it in remembrance of me.’” Else said.
As the elders and administered the elements, the worship team sang “Jesus, Strong and Kind.” During the song, attendants of the church took bits of bread, dipped it in juice, and ate them: “This is God’s body, broken for you. His blood, shed for you.”
The service at Good Shepherd ended with the doxology and a benediction.
“We are all participating,” John Baas, Dordt University’s vice president of advancement, said. “The more we do these things over and over again, we internalize them, such that we can go through the same liturgies throughout our week.”
Baas occasionally leads the church’s adult Sunday school, Right Paths. He also has attended and led a gathering where members of the church pray for the council during the council’s meeting times. The middle school and high school Sunday schools meet in the gym and library, respectively, while younger children and their parents attend Kingdom Families.
Recently, Good Shepherd formed a ministry team to seek out the possibility of hosting an Afghan or Ukranian refugee family. Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian humanitarian aid organization, approved Good Shepherd to resettle a family. Now, the church has entered a waiting phase.
“We are eager to go to church,” Baas said. “And when church is over, we are more glad we went than we were eager to go.”
Last Spring, Else, Hulsoff, and other members of the Good Shepherd steering committee met in the TePaske Theatre. They discussed Sioux Center and Sioux County’s interest in a new, liturgical, church. Nearly 150 others from the community—college students, professors, families, teachers, lawyers, CPAs, retirees, and others—attended the informal gathering as well. Shortly after, the first church service of Good Shepherd Church took place. Now, the church is celebrating their one-year anniversary.
“Tonight, we’ve got a group of people praying at Nancy’s house, we’ve got a church council going…We’ve got a young lady making profession of faith and a high school student is meeting with a youth leader to make his profession of faith,” Hulsoff said. “It’s exciting to see our small little dream bearing fruit, just on a normal night in Sioux Center.”