Hands raised and loud cheers flooded out of The Edge Church Sunday evening, but instead of the usual cheers for the Lord, the cheers were for football. The church canceled its regular Sunday night service and substituted a community Super Bowl party for the third year in a row.
Two giant projection screens played in each room of the church. Pews and chairs filled with around 165 screaming football fans of all ages, including the youngest guest football onesie-wearing 6-week-old Aiden Owens.
The Edge’s motto—“Where church meets life”—was evident with its open door policy as community members walked off the street to watch the Packers defeat the Steelers, 31-25, and enjoy chicken wings, chili and a keg of root beer.
The church began in Winona three years ago by Minnesota Viking’s jersey-wearing pastors Chuck and Steph Peterson in an attempt to reach new people and minister to community members who no one else was ministering to. According to Steph, the church looks typical from the outside façade, but the stained-glass windows aren’t an accurate representation of the new, trendy coffeehouse feel inside.
Chuck said he follows the saying, “If you want to reach people that nobody is reaching, you have to do things that nobody is doing.”
Currently, the Sunday night congregation includes about 150 people, three quarters of which are college students.
The main college ministry includes Chi Alpha ministry on Thursday nights. Chi Alpha is a Christian campus ministry on universities throughout the United States and around the world. In the past few years, the ministry has continued to grow. The Edge went from one to two services, and has brought in community members outside of the college campus.
Jessica Staloch, 21, a senior at Winona State University, was first introduced to The Edge through the Super Bowl party two years ago. Since then, she has become involved with the church, helping with cooking, and attending gatherings regularly.
“The first time I stepped into The Edge, I was super excited for football,” Staloch said. “It was a very welcoming environment, but something was different about this church. It didn’t feel like any church I’d been to before. Everyone at The Edge felt like family once I walked through the door.”
The building is also open for anyone to use as a study space Monday through Thursdays from 3-9 p.m., just to get community members comfortable and familiar in the building.
Youth Director Levi Sampson helped organize the Super Bowl event this year and was pleased by the number of bodies that filled the space.
“Nothing is more rewarding then getting people to the walk through The Edge’s doors,” Sampson said.
Steph said Sunday night about a quarter of the people in the room were new visitors to the Edge.
The Petersons both said the canceled church service was a good decision because it allowed people to get together and build relationships on a day that many would have skipped service in the first place.
“There are two reasons why I am here tonight, Jesus and food,” said Kayla Brisbin, a freshman at Winona State University.