Goodbye McNally Smith, hello megachurch

You're looking at the latest site of the River Valley Church.

You're looking at the latest site of the River Valley Church. Alex Uhrich

God, as you may have heard, helps those who help themselves.

In June, Exchange Street Partners, a group of local investors, bought the $4.5 million mortgage on McNally Smith College of Music’s downtown St. Paul campus from the defunct for-profit educator as part of a bankruptcy settlement.

Now River Valley Church, a quickly expanding megachurch based in Apple Valley, has signed a one-year lease on the prime location, according to the Pioneer Press. This will be River Valley's tenth location -- it already has eight Twin Cities churches and another in Swaziland.

Rob Ketterling, River Valley’s lead pastor, told the PiPress he’d already been scouting a spot in St. Paul before McNally Smith abruptly closed its doors last December. Though there are no immediate plans to build the property, River Valley says it’s in St. Paul to stay.

Founded in 1995, River Valley is among the fastest growing churches in the country. "It's not judgmental and hypocritical like you see at the old churches we used to go to when we were little kids," one of Ketterling's flock told the Star Tribune in 2005. 

McNally Smith’s shuttering was, to quote a certain headline, “swift and shameful,” leaving employees unpaid and students unsure of whether their credits would be able to transfer to other institutions.

River Valley’s first services will be this Sunday. If you go, be sure to say a prayer for the students and faculty of McNally Smith, who probably won’t recoup their losses when this all shakes out.