Will Purvis and his wife Paula have been members of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Vernon Center for over 40 years. But several years ago, the church did not have a full-time minister, and services only included a few dozen people.
âWe were sort of in hospice care,â Purvis joked.
A temporary pastor, Monte Meyer, gave some advice to the declining congregation.
âHe said we had to do community outreach and we took his word for it and did it,â Purvis said.
Awareness has worked wonders.
âWe worship in front of 90 to 110 people every Sunday now and have about 150 members. We are truly blessed, we have a lot of young families to come, âsaid Purvis.
The recently retired Purvis has spent over 45 years in public service, including 31 years as a deputy sheriff in Blue Earth County and parts of Iowa and most recently 14 years as a county commissioner. from Blue Earth. For most of his adult life, he was deeply involved in the church and community of Vernon Center.
âI loved my job as Deputy Sheriff and I also enjoyed my time on the board. And, of course, it was good that they didn’t shoot you when you’re county commissioner, âPurvis said.
âIt’s fun to be retired. I like having the time to do this stuff.
The evangelization of Saint Peter’s Lutheran Church encompasses the entire community.
âIt is important to support the city, especially in a small community. At Easter, we left a large egg on everyone’s doorstep full of goodies and inviting them to church.
âOne day the women in the church made cookie plates and we delivered a cookie plate to every house at Christmas. It’s easier to do when you have 120 houses in town, âPurvis said with a laugh that comes easily and often.
Earlier this month, the church hosted a community Christmas celebration.
âWe had a Christmas parade – the 12 floats – and a living nativity scene that our confirmation children made. They read the Christmas story and we had a dinner of soup and cookies for everyone in the basement.
This year, he and his wife made Advent wreath kits with Purvis chopping pieces of firewood and Paula preparing decorations for them.
“Paula affectionately refers to herself as one of the ladies in the basement of the church.”
The kits, containing assembly instructions and the written meaning of the Advent wreath, were given to each family in the church.
Reverend Adam Finney, who came to St. Peter’s in the spring of 2019, said he had served in three other churches and said Purvis was a blessed rarity.
âIf I ask, there’s very little he won’t say, ‘Oh, yeah, I can do that. He and Paula work as a team and may call on several people to help them. They will do just about anything to help show God’s love, âFinney said.
He said Purvis has a cheerful and kind personality that has undoubtedly served him well as a deputy and commissioner.
âEven if you don’t agree with him, he will talk to you. And if you need it, he will come and take care of you.
Finney said the church’s rebound has been spectacular in recent years. âYou bring in young families and our leadership here is not to say no. If anyone wants to try something, they will try it.
âIt’s really about bringing back joy (to church). We’re happy to see people even though we haven’t seen them for a while.
Save the fourth
Purvis and the church also helped save the annual July 4th fireworks display.
âIt was about to see the fireworks go out, so a group of us rallied around. It is a problem to find an authorized person to do this. Purvis and a few others got some training so they could help the local guy who was allowed to shoot the fireworks.
“But the main problem, of course, was the money.”
The church and residents have come together in recent years to raise enough money to keep the fireworks up, with the church recently having a bake sale that raised $ 2,300 for the fireworks fund. ‘artifice.
âWe have $ 9,500 in our fireworks fund, which is more than enough to put on a 25-minute show,â Purvis said.
While many small towns struggle, Vernon Center has maintained a fairly stable population of around 350.
âOne thing that motivates our population is that we have a lot of young families moving in because housing is cheaper, and we’re 25 or 30 minutes from Mankato,â Purvis said. âThe houses sell out quickly.
He is also active in the local sports club, giving firearms training courses for young people and supporting local trap leagues and bass fishing clubs for young people.
âWe are in favor of bringing the children out. I have had a lifetime of fun fishing and shooting sports. He still hunts deer on the land around his house.
âI am fortunate to live on the farm where I grew up. It was my playground when I was a kid and it’s still my playground.