Lutherans in the Twin Cities

Faith in the Cities is changing urban neighborhoods

Seven diverse ministries share in group’s projects

They threw a party at Augsburg College one evening in April. The room was overflowing with high profile ELCA Lutherans. There was also a lone Episcopalian — Minneapolis mayor J.T. Rybak.

The celebration was the five-year anniversary of the creation of an unlikely partnership. Six ELCA ministries in the Twin Cities (plus Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, which serves all Lutherans), and the two urban ELCA synods in Minnesota, decided in 2002 to try an experiment: collaboration for the common good in the nation’s most Lutheran metropolitan area.

In the early 1970s, then ALC presiding bishop Dr. Kent Knutson wondered out loud why Lutherans, with such a powerful presence in Minnesota, seemed so invisible in the public square.

“Faith in the City,” which began three decades after Knutson’s death, appears to be accomplishing what he had once championed.

The consortium brings together partners with seemingly wildly divergent missions (see below) — a publishing house, a social service agency, a financial products institution, a Lutheran-related health services provider, a college, a theological seminary, and a central city congregation. Could they work together?

Matthew Anderson-Stembridge, the current director for Faith in the City, told Metro Lutheran the seven partners (or nine, depending on how you count) have actually discovered commonality in the midst of their diversity.
Says Anderson-Stem-bridge, “The Lutheran heritage is the mortar that holds [Faith in the City] together. It’s about seeking the welfare of people with whom we share the public square.”

The consortium is governed by representatives from the seven partners — the CEOs meet quarterly; one additional member from each organization together make up a steering committee that meets monthly.

“Nothing happens without at least two partners,” says Anderson-Stembridge, who coordinates and helps execute what the partners decide to do together.

So far, three significant collaborations have taken root, with a fourth (see box) scheduled to launch next month.
Augsburg College and Fairview Hospital are jointly sponsoring an Academy that trains high school students pursuing health careers (60% currently are Somali).
Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, Fairview and Bethlehem Lutheran Church are providing healthcare for new immigrant populations.

Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota and Thrivent are helping qualifying individuals and families ready to save for a better future, by providing generous matching funds and financial management education.

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Faith in the City Partners

* Central Lutheran Church, downtown Minneapolis
* Augsburg College
* Augsburg Fortress Publishers
* Thrivent Financial for Lutherans
* Luther Seminary
* Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota
* Fairview Hospital
Advisory members: the two bishops of the ELCA’s Minneapolis and St. Paul Area Synods

Current Initiatives

* The Augsburg Fairview Academy, a high-school-level learning opportunity for students exploring careers in the health professions
* The Wellness Connection of Minnesota, a community healthcare model for serving new immigrant populations
* The Personal Finance Center, a program designed to give financially challenged individuals a head start and a leg up on the way to solvency and prosperity

Soon to be launched

* The Center for Changing Lives, a facility including LSS services, The Personal Finance Center, The Wellness Connection, a worship center for Messiah Lutheran Church, the Messiah “Kaleidoscope” program and several units of affordable housing (groundbreaking is set for July 20 at 2414 Park Avenue, Minneapolis).