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First Lutheran, Columbia Heights, welcomes 200 Hispanics

AGORA Ministries facilitated new venture for first-ring suburban ELCA congregation

Members of First Lutheran Church, Columbia Heights, Minnesota, opened their doors and their worship center to 200 Hispanic Pentecostal Christians on October 5. It was the launch of a new partnership through which members of First Lutheran hope the newcomers will become fully integrated into the Norwegian-heritage congregation.
According to the Rev. Cherian Puthiyottil, Director of AGORA Ministries, which facilitated the new partnership, “I asked members of First Lutheran if they wanted to be a club or a church. They chose the latter.”
Puthiyottil, whose multicultural outreach ministry is sponsored by the ELCA’s Minneapolis Area Synod, began the process of introducing the two faith communities to one another with a sermon preached in Columbia Heights last spring. When church council members asked for more conversation about how to become a mission-driven parish, Puthiyottil connected them with the leadership for Mount Horeb Hispanic worshiping community.
Puthiyottil told Metro Lutheran, “The Pentecostals were packing 200 people into a tiny dilapidated building at Franklin Avenue and 13th Avenue in the Phillips Neighborhood. They were desperate for more space.”
Following a model AGORA has used four times previously, members of an established, primarily white ELCA congregation has welcomed an ethnic Christian community into their ministry space. At first, the newcomers maintain their own worship time and even non-English service. The goal is to bring both groups together in an integrated congregation.
Previous successful combinations were enabled by AGORA in 2002 at Cross of Glory Lutheran in Brooklyn Center, and Prince of Peace Lutheran, Brooklyn Park (both congregations welcomed predominantly Liberian Christians); Zion, Anoka (mainly Sudanese); and, in 2003, House of Prayer, Richfield (mostly Ethiopian).