Bake sales, bingo games, auctions, fish fries and fall festivals. They’re just some of the ways churches raise money to support themselves and pay for projects benefiting congregational life.
At St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church in Roseville, congregation leaders have come up with one of the more unusual — and fun — fundraising events out there: swing dancing.
As part of a renovation of the church’s sanctuary, pews were removed and the sanctuary floor stripped of its old tile. On Friday, the congregation celebrated by hosting its first swing dance, charging a small fee that will go toward paying for the nearly $150,000 renovation.
“We were looking at this big empty space and thought wouldn’t it be really fun to just have a dance in here while it’s empty?” said Karla Cole, music director of the church and organizer of the event.
The nearly yearlong renovation has updated the 1960s-era church, with congregation leaders bringing in a new organ and building a more modern-looking altar. New pew chairs will be added, too, once the porcelain tile floor is installed in the coming week, Cole said. The sanctuary space can hold as many as 300 worshipers.
Cole was inspired to hold the swing dance by her son Henry, 21, a member of the Winona State University ballroom club and an avid swing dancer.
“It’s amazing to see how may high schoolers and young 20-somethings there are out there [swing dancing],” Cole said. “You’d think music from the ’30s and ’40s, it would all be old fogies. But there’s lots of young kids.”
“There’s all the old stuff [music] you’d expect ... But also there’s modern, too ... Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga ... Maroon 5.”
With the renovation of the church sanctuary nearing completion, Cole says the church hopes to start work on its 1960s-era church hall and kitchen in the coming months.
Might another swing dance be in the cards to raise money? Cole hopes so.
“I’d love to do it again next year and maybe think about the possibility of having live music.”