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Northeast Minneapolis church finds new opportunities in old space

Members of Northeast Community Lutheran Church (ELCA), Minneapolis, have a new appreciation of the “trinity.” Part of a consolidation of congregations, the congregation owned three buildings in May 2007. With a recent move into a creative new space, the congregation hopes to soon be down to one. Three in one!

Little Kitchen Food Shelf volunteer and Northeast Community Lutheran Church council member Janis Jablonski wheels out fresh vegetables for distribution at the new site. Metro Lutheran photo: Ryan Cosgrove

Soon after the consolidation, the congregation sold one building. It has been using the former Immanuel Lutheran Church property at 13th and Monroe NE as its main site recently, and has rented the Lowry Avenue NE property to another congregation.

“We want to decrease the social service feel and have it be more like a ministry space,” -Jennifer Schultz

While considering reconstruction of the Immanuel building, major structural issues to the 1890 sanctuary due to deferred maintenance quelched that plan. Only a year after the 35W bridge collapse, “people were concerned about taking chances with serious disfunctions in construction,” explained Jennifer Schultz, congregational administrator for Northeast Community Lutheran and project manager for the building project.

At that time, members of the church became aware of the availability of the Holland School site. The Minneapolis School Board had put it on the market, but other school entities had the right of first refusal in purchasing the property at the point Northeast Community anticipated moving. But, as plans proceeded, the congregation was able to prepare a financial plan that would enable the move.

The church needed a partner for a construction loan or mortgage, however, since it lacked background credibility for such a large project. The Minneapolis Area Synod endorsed the project and recommended that a separate board be established. Thrivent then stepped in, suggesting a mortgage loan rather than a building loan.

With the pieces in place, Northeast Community Lutheran moved its Little Kitchen Food Shelf on June 30. The next day the Grace Center for Community Life was a reality.

Pastor Craig Pederson believes that a church should be a vital presence in a community, with on-the-ground ministries visibly present. The Grace Center brings into being that vision.

The congregation will have a sanctuary in the former school’s atrium area, including skylights. A small and growing year-round charter school, Fraser Academy, is already using the space.

A food shelf is also already operational. Schultz refers to it as “a chapel of food,” because it offers people an opportunity to rest and pray, in addition to meeting their nutritional needs. “We want to decrease the social service feel and have it be more like a ministry space,” she explained.

Plans are underway to make free computer lab space available. Community nurses will meet unaddressed health concerns. The gymnasium can be available for both play and an animal companion ministry.

With so many community ministries, it is easy to see why the name “Grace Center” was selected.

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