River of Life Church Ordered to Stop Hosting Wild Parties

River of Life Church

River of Life Church

Neighbors say River of Life church in north Minneapolis hosted wild parties almost every weekend since last spring, complete with thumping music, weed smoke, and drunken fights spilling into the street.

"It's like a nightclub, it's not like a church. They should be doing bible study, praying for the sick, but no, instead we hear loud music and fighting every weekend," said neighbor Connie Reine.

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Last week the city sent River of Life a notice requiring it to stop renting out space for parties after months of neighbors' complaints.

"It's a little step in the right direction, I suppose, although they've said they were going to stop [the parties] in the past and nothing happened, so we'll see," said Ingrid Woods, another neighbor.

Repeated efforts to get someone from the church's administration to comment on this story were ignored, but we were able to get in touch with the church's caretaker, Jeff Hammond, who lives onsite.

One neighbor took this picture of the church's overflowing dumpster filled with beer bottles and food after a party in October

One neighbor took this picture of the church's overflowing dumpster filled with beer bottles and food after a party in October

"I was very much aware of the problems and I tried to tell [church management] that things weren't coming out like they planned it. There were a lot of problems," he said.

"There was a lack of supervision. They [people who rented the church's event space] were telling us they weren't bringing alcohol and they were, and there were a few incidents with fighting and doing things they just had no business doing in the neighborhood."

Police records show arrests were made stemming from fighting at the church's address in two separate incidents since the parties started last spring.

The church also uses part of its building at the corner of 22nd Avenue and Fremont Avenue North as a homeless shelter run by St. Stephen's.

Neighbors protested the shelter when its license was renewed at a City Council meeting in 2012, but most say problems stemming from the shelter have declined since then.

"Now with the homeless shelter, the guys know they have to behave. They know they'll get in big trouble," said Connie Reine.

"Why don't they have a homeless shelter in a commercial area, though, instead of a residential area with a lot of kids? It's still not great," she added.

The four neighbors we talked to for this story, along with the caretaker, Hammond, painted the situation as a church that got in over its head after it tried to make some extra cash by renting out discounted space on the weekends.

"It was to increase the budget of the church. That was the initial plan, to help the church out financially, but it got real out of hand real fast," said Hammond.

Send story tips to Ben Johnson.