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Church hopes to bring its Bible-focused ministry to Rosemount

Cedarwood Church isn't a place for people who aren't sure they want to be in church. It never has been. It's a place for people who want to study the Bible, and who believe there is no room for interpretation in the way its teachings are applied today.

That's the way Rev. Michael Berg leads the non-denominational evangelical church, which is in the process of buying land in Rosemount. He describes himself as an expositional preacher. He goes through the Bible verse by verse, chapter by chapter.

"All the facts, all the surveys that have been done indicate, basically the American public is illiterate to what the Bible has to say," Berg said. "We're not illiterate to its concepts, but where it's said and why we believe what we believe. Everybody has this idea that the Bible can be interpreted in different ways."

Cedarwood has been around in its current form since 2001, but it got its earliest start in 1992, when Berg started a ministry supported by the Church of the Open Door in Robbinsdale. That ministry closed after six years and Berg took about 18 months off before a few families who had been members of that ministry encouraged him to start again. That discussion led to Cedarwood. Over the past nine years the church has rented space in District 196 schools.

Berg describes Sunday services as modern, but says he tries "to make it about worship, not just music."

The church is small, with about 35 families at present, but Berg likes it that way. He likes that church members are able to get to know the people they worship with. Berg would like the congregation to grow, but he's not in any hurry.

"Most churches, they're trying to focus on making people who are not churchgoers comfortable and want to come. Our focus is not on that. Our focus is on people who really want to grow in their faith," Berg said. "Our Sunday services are not Christianity lite. They're heavy duty."

And he wants to keep things small. If the church grows to much more than 200 members, he said, it will likely divide. The church he hopes to build in Rosemount will likely accommodate about 225.

"Our intent is not to grow large in terms of numbers. Our intent is to grow large in terms of extent," Berg said.

Cedarwood supports ministries in South Africa that are involved in AIDS awareness and other efforts and supports an underground ministry that operates in areas where people are not allowed to be openly Christian. The church also works with groups like Feed My Starving Children.

Now the church's members are working on creating a permanent home for themselves. Cedarwood has an agreement in place to buy property at the corner of Highway 3 and Biscayne Avenue, but building a church there will require a zoning text amendment that will allow a church in a residential neighborhood. That proposal drew some opposition at a planning commission meeting last week. Residents worried the church building would not fit in with the nearby homes, or that children from the church would wander onto adjacent properties.

Berg said none of that should be a problem. The church plans a small building, likely made of cedar. They also plan to add gardens in place of the piles of landscape rock that currently occupy much of the land.

"We want it to be cozy. We want it to fit the rural setting so it's like a little country church," Berg said. "There won't be any large crosses or spires."

Berg said he's sent letters to his potential new neighbors to address concerns. He hopes to have approval from the city by late June. Assuming everything goes according to plan church members would start worshiping on the property immediately and save to build a church building in two to five years.