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Faith on the highway

January 21, 2012
By Karin Elton , Marshall Independent

Where once people could tell their troubles to a bartender, they will soon be able to share their sorrows with a minister.

The former Silver Dollar Bar in Ghent will soon be a church called Iglesia Cristiana Rayo de Luz - or Ray of Light Christian Church, a nondenominational ministry.

The congregation bought the building the first part of December 2011 and aims to open its doors the second part of March, said the Rev. Jos M. Guerra, one of the pastors of Ray of Light Ministries along with Pedro Monterroso. "If possible - it might go toward the end of the month (of March)."

Article Photos

Photo by Karin Elton

The Rev. José M. Guerra, one of the pastors of Ray of Light Ministries, pauses while removing ceiling panels during work to transform the former Silver Dollar Bar to a church.

The longtime Minnesota Highway 68 fixture - the Silver Dollar bar was the first bar to open after the repeal of Prohibition - was closed last year and an auction took place last August of its iconic fixtures - including the signs and the bar.

The ink was barely dry on the bill of sale when volunteers started tearing down walls.

"We started remodeling right away," Guerra said.

Guerra has a background in home remodeling - it was his original occupation in his home state of California - so he is overseeing the changes.

"I drew up the plans," he said. "I drew the existing floor plan, the demolishing plan and drew the remodeling plan."

He then presented the plans to city of Marshall officials.

"The city has been helpful in facilitating the construction," he said. City inspectors come to the building each step of the way to make sure everything is being constructed according to code.

Where there was a bar and seating area for dining, will soon be the sanctuary. The dropped ceiling panels will be painted and new lighting will be inserted. Walls have been erected to form rooms for babies and small children.

"Children sit with their parents during services, but if the parents want to take them into a room for awhile, we will have that for them," Guerra said.

Workers have also set up a meeting room which will be used for youth groups. Another room will house the kitchen. The former Silver Dollar kitchen was removed except for the fire extinguishing and exhaust system.

For the most part, congregation members have been volunteering their services.

"I do whatever they need," said Irvin Monterroso.

Ray of Light Ministries has "between 70 to 80 adult members and the rest are kids," he said. The members come from as far as Montevideo, Hanley Falls, Minneota, Balaton, but the bulk - about 80 percent - are from Marshall and Ghent. Parishioners are from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador originally.

The church first started meeting at Bethel Fellowship church in Minneota in 2001 or 2002, Guerra said, and then rented space in Marshall on College Drive. Members are glad for the opportunity to have a permanent location.

"It feels good to have a place to call our own," Monterroso said. "It's a nice feeling."

Guerra said Ghent is a good central location for its members. He moved about seven months ago from Marshall to a half a block away from the new church.

Guerra said the Hispanic community is growing and the church is growing. The church recently bought the old Video building in Montevideo. Eventually the congregation would like to buy the empty lot to the west of the church building in Ghent and expand the church footprint. To raise money for that, the church will sponsor fundraisers about once a month that will include Mexican-style breakfasts.

"We'll have signs out," Guerra said.



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