South Minneapolis parish gives away its church building
Our Savior’s Lutheran Church has built a link with a nearby congregation.
Some might liken it to a homeowner’s “reverse mortgage.” Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in south Minneapolis voted 40-1 at its annual meeting on February 13 to give its church building and contents to a nonprofit corporation affiliated with the Minneapolis Area Synod of the ELCA. (Our Redeemer is also participating in a shared ministry with Minnehaha Communion Lutheran Church, a partnership that cuts down on payroll and other operating costs.)
After the transfer of the property, Our Redeemer will have use of the building and certain facilities for five years without obligation to pay rent or utilities. The Minneapolis Area Service Corporation (MASC) will assume responsibility for a small mortgage on the property, security and insurance. It will also take responsibility for some deferred maintenance of Our Redeemer’s building.
With membership officially at 114 and declining (through about 15 deaths and transfers per year), the 90-year-old congregation was finding it increasingly difficult to cover the costs associated with the building.
Under the new arrangement, MASC will receive the gift of the church real estate and facilitate the continued existence of Our Redeemer congregation while providing space for Oromo Lutheran Church, an African American congregation. Oromo had been housed at nearby Bethel Lutheran Church but was running short on space for its growing congregation, and Bethel needed its facilities. The arrangement seems to fit the needs of both Our Redeemer and Oromo.
Pastor Harry Mueller, who had served Minnehaha Communion congregation (located about eight blocks away from Our Redeemer) for about six years, is now serving that congregation and Our Redeemer as “intentional” interim pastor. He said the two congregations now have a joint call committee seeking a permanent pastor for a shared ministry. The two congregations share staff, equipment and other resources while maintaining separate congregations and worship centers. Under the Minnehaha Communion/Our Redeemer alliance, the pastor’s salary responsibility will be split 60/40 by the two congregations.
For the Minneapolis Area Synod, the Our Redeemer location — across the street from Minneapolis Roosevelt High School — is considered “strategic.” Although a high percentage of the student body is currently Somali, Hispanics constitute a fast-growing segment of the area’s demographics.
The Our Redeemer facility includes numerous classrooms. Under the direction of Bob Speirs, intern from Luther Seminary, a tutoring program got underway in the fall of 2004. (Minnehaha Communion Lutheran and Roosevelt High School are partners.) Oromo Church, which will be sharing the Our Redeemer facilities over the next five years, has recruited three professionals with Ph.D. degrees from its membership to be tutors.
In his report for the February 13 Our Redeemer annual meeting, outgoing President Dean Anderson, said, “At our last annual meeting, we were considering dissolution. Rather than fold up, our congregation chose to form an alliance with Minnehaha Commun-ion Lutheran Church. One of the greatest benefits of this decision was some financial relief in our payroll. This allowed us to ensure, at least financially, our congregation could continue beyond the 20 or so months we expected our financial reserves to last.”
Pastor Mueller says the past year has been a remarkable one for Our Redeemer congregation. “I’ve known a number of people over the years who have honestly made great change in their lives when they had near-death experiences. Now, I think I’m coming to know a congregation like that too.”
Anderson said, “In view of what Our Redeemer Lutheran Church has accomplished in 2004, I can see that as long as Our Redeemer exists, it will find a way to serve our Lord.”
Both Pastor Mueller and Bob Speirs consider working on Our Re-deemer’s transition (including housing of the Oromo congregation) a refreshing experience. Pastor Mueller likened it to a mission attitude. “We’ve come full circle from the mid-20th century — sending missionaries to Africa — to today, where people from Africa are here in our midst.”
Mueller credits the start of the ground-breaking collaboration of Minnehaha Communion and Our Redeemer to the City South Cluster, an organization of six neighboring congregations. He said that, as pastors met weekly and became more comfortable with each other, the congregations were able to support each other in mission and assist each other with programs and prayer. Cluster congregations include Epiphany, Bethel, Lebanon and El Milagro, in addition to Our Redeemer and Minnehaha Communion.
Those interested in learning more about the shared ministry may contact Pastor Mueller at 612/729-7317 or via E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.