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First Covenant breaks ground on new worship space

This illustration shows what the outside of First Covenant Church should look like when the expansion is complete. The work is expected to be done by next fall. 1 / 2
Members of First Covenant Church of River Falls gathered Sunday, after their 10:45 a.m., service to break ground on an addition to their church building, which will give them a new worship area.(Submitted photos)2 / 2

After their 10:45 a.m. worship service Sunday, members of First Covenant Church put away the hymn books and broke out the shovels for a groundbreaking ceremony.

Since First Covenant Church of River Falls built its present church building in 1994, the congregation has been using a multi-purpose area for worship, moving the chairs in for worship and moving them out again for other activities.

However, the church hopes to be done with all that by next fall. First Covenant’s groundbreaking ceremony marked the beginning of an expansion that will include a new worship center for the church.

“It’s really an exciting time, and we’re just  looking forward to the new potential and opportunities that it will provide,” said lead pastor Todd Ertsgaard.

First Covenant had planned to expand the church since its building was built. However, First Covenant began planning the expansion in earnest about 5-6 years ago, according to Ertsgaard.

This expansion is the second phase of the church’s building plan. Ertsgaard said there are plans to continue to further expand the church in the future, as the church’s needs change.

Although the new worship center won’t have removable chairs, Ertsgaard said, it won’t have pews either. Rather, the church has opted for something closer to theater-style seating with comfortable, non-movable chairs.

Ertsgaard said, he is excited to have an area of the church set aside for worship, rather than the current multi-purpose setup.

“I think having the dedicated worship center will just open up a lot of opportunities for us,“ Ertsgaard said.

The expansion will also include a space that will be used for youth ministry activities for the time being, although Ertsgaard said it will eventually be converted into classroom space for Sunday School and other religious education.

The expansion will cost First Covenant approximately $2.1 million. Ertsgaard said it has taken the church roughly a year and a half to raise enough money to start the project.

Ertsgaard said the church sets up about 220 to 230 chairs on Sunday, which are used in 8:15 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. worship services. The new worship space will be able to seat 450. The First Covenant congregation has about 240 members.

For the most part, Ertsgaard said, construction should not impede the day-to-day functions of the church.

“We should be able to still continue to minister and worship while the... construction is going on,” Ertsgaard said.

“Through this facility expansion we hope to better serve our community and beyond,” Ertsgaard said, “by sharing the love of Christ to all.”

Ertsgaard has been lead pastor at First Covenant since 2006.

For more information on First Covenant Church, visit or

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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