Lutherans in the Twin Cities

Three NE Minneapolis congregations considering combining ministries

Members of a tro of ELCA parishes will take a binding vote this month

Three northeast Minneapolis ELCA congregations, all facing declining memberships and saddled with maintenance costs for aging buildings, are on the verge of joining forces. The three worship centers are within a dozen blocks of one another.

Members of Emanuel, St. Paul and Holy Triune Lutheran congregations have been in conversation for several months about the possibility of consolidating their ministries. They created a Joint Exploration Team (JET) to explore options and bring a recommendation to all three congregations.

The team proposed that a consolidation of memberships, leadership and facilities be set in motion, with a target launch date of Easter 2007. All three congregations voted on the proposal this fall, Emanuel on September 24 and the other two congregations on October 8. In aggregate, there were 131 votes in favor, 4 against and one abstention.
A second, binding vote is set for December 10. Should that referendum on the proposal be approved, there will be no turning back.

In anticipation of a positive result in this month’s voting, the congregations have begun to share worship. A series of three joint services were held last month — November 12 at St. Paul Church, November 19 at Holy Triune and November 26 at Emanuel.

Assuming the process moves forward, a number of issues remain to be considered.

* Who will serve in pastoral leadership? Currently Emanuel and St. Paul have pastors, while Holy Triune has an interim. JET recommended the two clergy serving Emanuel and St. Paul be called to serve the consolidated parish as co-pastors.

* Where would the consolidated congregation meet in the short term, and where would it eventually be located? What will the new ministry be named?

* What will become of the three existing worship structures? One possibility is that one of the three could be used by the consolidated parish; or, all three could be sold and a new facility might be built in the neighborhood.

According to the Rev. Evelyn Dahlke, who serves Emanuel Church, one focus in a consolidated parish will almost certainly be that of youth and family ministry. She told Metro Lutheran that the two organists now serving the three congregations might well be replaced with a director of music.

All three church structures are aging and in need of expensive maintenance and repair. Emanuel’s building, the largest of the three, incurs an enormous heating bill every winter.

The Rev. Craig Pederson, who serves St. Paul Lutheran, told Metro Lutheran, “It’s been a Spirit-led process. We are focused on mission and growth, not mere survival.”

* * *

Three ELCA congregations considering consolidation:

* Emanuel, 226 baptized members, 60 at worship,
5 in Sunday school. Pastor: Evelyn Dahlke.

* Holy Triune, 265 baptized, 70 at worship,
15 in Sunday school. Pastoral vacancy.

* St. Paul, 154 baptized, 62 at worship,
22 in Sunday school. Pastor: Craig Pederson.

[ELCA statistics for 2005]