Faith before the feast

Retired pastors Jim Kramer, left, and Joel Kruggel are starting The Bridge of Saint Joe this summer at Schu’s Grill and Bar, which Kramer owns. The Bridge is hosting a concert by Witness, a South Haven band, at 9:30 a.m. Sunday. Weekly meetings on Sundays will start at 10 a.m. June 16. They hope to reach tourists and people who don’t normally go to church.

ST. JOSEPH — Local residents and tourists may notice something is a little different Sunday mornings this summer on the patio of Schu’s Grill and Bar in downtown St. Joseph.

Two retired pastors decided they weren’t quite done spreading the word of God. So this summer they will be holding worship gatherings at the restaurant. They’re calling their venture The Bridge of Saint Joe because they want to help people build bridges to God and to each other.

“There’s more to life than what we see,” said Jim Kramer, a retired pastor from Chicago who owns Schu’s. “There’s more to life than Schu’s. There’s more to life than coming to St. Joe. You’ve got to open yourself to see it and let God use you.”

He’s being joined by St. Joseph native Joel Kruggel, who moved back to the area last year to retire and help his daughter, Gretta Volkenstein, with her real estate business. Before moving to New Hampshire, he was the pastor of Harbert Community Church in Sawyer from 2001-2008. Between the two of them, they have 80 years of preaching experience.

He said they may just do the venture for the summer.

“We’re just going to see what God does in our limited time for the rest of our lives,” he said.

They are hosting a concert by Witness, a South Haven band, at 9:30 a.m. this Sunday. Weekly gatherings on Sundays will start June 16 at 10 a.m., before the restaurant’s usual 11 a.m. start time. They hope to reach tourists and people who don’t normally go to church.

Kramer said they purposefully avoided calling themselves a church because that leads some people to have lots of expectations, such as youth ministries and Bible studies.

“Neither one of us has the time or energy to create all the trappings people think of when they think of ‘church.’” he said.

And for other people, he said it’s a turn-off.

Kruggel said they are keeping it simple. Because the gathering will be on the patio, he said people can listen from a distance without committing themselves to joining in. 

“We’re taking the church to where the people are,” he said. “We’re making it accessible and friendly and inviting. We hope that we’re an easy first step for people who might have questions about God or spiritual curiosity.”

They said there will be free coffee and muffins Sunday. 

Contact:, 932-0361, Twitter: @HPWrege