Lutherans in the Twin Cities

Congregations as vital neighborhood centers

Stained Glass Church Tour opens doors to members and non-members alike

Ever since she arrived as pastor of River of Life Lutheran Church (ELCA), Minneapolis, the Rev. Lee Ann Pomrenke has had the idea that she would like to show off the beauty of the building to neighbors who have never seen it and to people with historic or family ties to the congregation. She was just waiting for the right excuse.

“A church is more than just a place for worship,” said Pomrenke. “Churches play an integral role in the landscape and vitality of neighborhoods.”

A stained glass window in River of Life Lutheran Church (ELCA), Minneapolis

When the Loaves and Fishes program that operates out of the church, and which feeds 100-300 people daily, developed a desperate need for kitchen improvements, the added appeal of a fundraiser pushed Pomrenke to take action. She decided to gather a handful of interested congregations for a tour of buildings, hoping that visitors would see the beauty of the buildings and experience the vitality of the congregations. Then, perhaps, they would be excited to engage more deeply in the ministries of River of Life.

Throwing open the doors in order to see the windows

We have planned “The North Minneapolis Stained Glass Church Tour” for October 9 [from 11:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m], much like the St. Paul home tour,” the pastor explained. “We will provide maps of the five participating churches, and people can spend time wherever they want. Each congregation will provide tour guides who can explain the unique aspects of each building to visitors.

Participating congregations are Church of the Ascension Roman Catholic parish, 1723 Bryant Avenue North; River of Life (formerly Bethlehem Lutheran), 2200 Fremont Avenue North; St. Olaf Lutheran Church, 2901 Emerson Avenue North; St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 1832 James Avenue North; and Garden of Gethsemane Ministries Center (formerly Forest Heights Congregational Church), 2054 James Avenue North.

“Churches play an integral role in the landscape and vitality of neighborhoods.”

At noon a free lunch will be provided at River of Life by the Broadway Culinary Arts Program, a program of Broadway Community School, one of the congregation’s partner agencies that uses space in the church building.

“The beauty of this tour is that, confronted with the need to update the church kitchen for the Loaves and Fishes program, Pr. Lee Ann did not think of a fund-raiser; she thought of a program that would bring people back to see the vitality of north Minneapolis and its congregations,” explained the Rev. Patricia Lull, an affiliated pastor at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in St. Paul and a colleague of Pomrenke. “I think this is a fresh way for a young pastor to think about creative ways to meet community needs and demonstrate the vitality of the parish at the same time.”

For information, contact the River of Life church office at 612/521-7655. Brochures with a map highlighting each church will be available at each site on October 9; advance copies may be obtained at River of Life now.

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