New Life Community Church in Pine River prepares to rise from ashes

Former Faith Assembly of God Church renamed

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Pastor Tim Walker and the worship team lead the congregation during Sunday services in the new New Life Community Church sanctuary. Submitted Photo (May 2021)

With its reopening, the former Faith Assembly of God Church in Pine River gains a new name inspired by those who brought it back after fire destroyed the church building in Pine River on May 23, 2018.

"The community came together to say, 'We want this church to be rebuilt'," said Senior Pastor Tim Walker. "We received favor from every side. From the chamber to the city council, business communities, both for materials we needed to buy but also the contractors received incredibly favorable pricing for both labor and materials. We also received the free use of various pieces of equipment to help with our volunteer work as well."

" And that we recognize we've been given a tremendous blessing, but it's still for His glory. And unless we continue to remain dependent upon the Lord for His use, both of our lives and of this facility, then it's just a big box. "

— Tim Walker.

The new name - New Life Community Church - bears witness to its return. The church remains incorporated as Faith Assembly of God Church.


The church received support in many forms. Volunteers were involved in construction and the church served as a training ground for Pine River-Backus School students.

"The high school building trades class came from Pine River-Backus High School and learned basic Sheetrocking and carpentry skills," Walker said. "They walked here in the winter from the school to learn to hang Sheetrock and the foundations of taping Sheetrock as well."

The support helped the church to realize one of its goals - to rebuild the building debt free.

"We were able to leverage funds from the insurance company as well as private donations given towards the process as well," Walker said. "Between those two we are 98% done right now. There is some technology being added and some acoustical treatments being added. In essence we still have the cash reserves to complete everything except one dream.

"That one dream is the steeple. That's just beyond our financial capacity right now. As funds come in we intend to apply them toward a steeple on the top of the building as well," he said.

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The New Life Community Church was designed with service to the community in mind. Space was specifically designed to allow the church to be used for Ruby's Pantry as well as recreation. Submitted Photo (May 2021)

The initial goal was to dedicate the new building May 23, 2020, on the two-year anniversary of the fire; however, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed those plans.


"But in our situation, that actually gave us breathing room," Walker said. "Because when every other church in our community was told, 'You cannot gather together for worship,' while we couldn't gather for worship, we were a construction site. So we continue to be able to gather together as workers, and so those who were able to participate in that - it really became a tremendous place of camaraderie and community as we continue. Because at that point, we were almost a solely volunteer based construction project."

" "It was such a joy to be a place where people came together for the common good. "

— Tim Walker.

The building was designed specifically with change in mind. Walker said it had to be different from the former building and they had to design it for the future.

"What does ministry look like in the future?" Walker asked. "And by no means did we anticipate COVID, but the opportunity to introduce the latest technology of livestreaming all these pieces - I really don't know that we would have been able to incorporate any of those components in the facility we'd lost. I believe there's about seven miles of the communications cable in this building."

Walker said the change in the building and the change in name seem to have attracted others to the church for services, as well as for funerals and other events.

"We're here proclaiming the new life in Christ, but we're here for the community and just that turn to say we're here for them, not for us," Walker said. "Absent the fire, I'm not sure we would have had the motivation to make that dramatic change."


Photo by Travis Grimler / Echo-Journal.

The changes also offered the opportunity to design the building with specific opportunities in mind. The building has an activity room with a small basketball court, as well as a storage room, concrete floor and double doors to accommodate a forklift for Ruby's Pantry distribution.

The building has a kitchen designed to eventually be certified as a commercial kitchen, thus allowing the Pine River community meals to possibly be prepared in Pine River. Currently both the Pine River and Backus community meals are prepared in Backus.

Perhaps because there were so many surprising blessings to come out of the church reconstruction, Walker said in a way he is sad that it is coming to an end.

"It was such a joy to be a place where people came together for the common good," he said. "And there's been an energy and an excitement in that whole process. And seeing that come to an end means things have gotten more quiet here. Honestly, it made me sad. I have felt as though the skills and the giftings that I've been given personally were uniquely designed to be prepared (for this). That's probably what I sense God's speak to me just in the weeks following the fire was that, 'I've had you here for 18 years so you'd be prepared to carry this church through this journey.'"

Walker said he felt almost more prepared to deal with reconstruction than he does for continuing now after construction. It makes him feel humbled. His experience working the past 22 years in manufacturing made him feel suited to helping the church rise again, but that same experience doesn't as directly tie into what is to come.

The new building has new features. The sanctuary has seating for 100, the gathering room just inside the entryway has seating for another 50-80 so it can serve as overflow for the sanctuary. There are other rooms as well that can serve as overflow for the gathering room, and thanks to the technological upgrades, nobody will miss a thing.


New Life Community Church was rebuilt from the ashes of the Pine River Assembly of God church which burned down three years ago. Submitted Photo (May 2021)

The building has a small activity room/gymnasium and five classrooms designed to double as emergency temporary housing for the New Pathways program in Brainerd when it was still in operation.

The goal was not just to have a new building, but to have one specifically designed for community needs and worship.

"And that we recognize we've been given a tremendous blessing, but it's still for His glory," Walker said. "And unless we continue to remain dependent upon the Lord for His use, both of our lives and of this facility, then it's just a big box."

The building committee composed of Jim Anderson, Aaron Geinert, Bill Harris (chairman) and Walker, along with architect Jerry Peterson guided the planning and development process, with Peterson providing project leadership during construction.

The dedication of New Life Community Church in Pine River will be on the three-year anniversary of the fire, at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 23. Building tours will start at 1 p.m. The church's original founding pastor, Del Yetley, will speak at the dedication.

Travis Grimler may be reached at 218-855-5853 or Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at


Travis Grimler began work at the Echo Journal Jan. 2 of 2013 while the publication was still split in two as the Pine River Journal and Lake Country Echo. He is a full time reporter/photographer/videographer for the paper and operates primarily out of the northern stretch of the coverage area (Hackensack to Jenkins).
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